Are Chinese better parents?

by Emily on February 23, 2011

Amy Chua must have a really good publicist.  As the author of the much-hyped new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her story’s strewn all over the media, including The NY Times, TIME and Newsweek, she’s appeared on various talk shows and interviewed by NPR.

I thought her book would examine the question, Are Chinese better parents?  And maybe give some hints about what it takes to be a good parent.  However, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is really just a story of a mom raising her two girls (and 2 dogs, who get a surprising amount of coverage).  Sure, it outlines some cultural differences between how Chinese and Western families typically raise children, but everyone has a unique parenting style that is a combination of their history, experience and environment.  Not everyone spends 250 pages explaining, comparing, dissecting and defending theirs.

I’ve often wondered -and pondered here- what it takes to be a good parent, and was eager to hear Amy Chua’s perspective.  Here’s what she says kids should NOT be allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

Clearly, “be the No. # 1 student” is not a goal many parents can strive for, by definition, so her advice is a little far-fetched.  Then, after spending most of the book outlining and arguing for “Chinese parenting methods”, Ms. Chua concludes the “tough” approach only worked for one of her daughters and may not have been the best way after all.  Readers are left with her uncertainty.

So are Chinese moms really better?  I’m not sure, and reading this book -while interesting- didn’t help me decide.


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