Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"superior" motherhood

I read the most interesting article yesterday.

It was from The Wall Street Journal and it was called "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior."

The title alone was enough to suck me right in (thank you, Amy, for sending me the link!).

You can read the whole thing here, and you really should because it is pretty interesting. It led Dave and I to another discussion to re-evaluate how we parent. (We do this a lot, but I love things like this that spur new ideas and help me think in a different way.)

The article explains why the author, Amy Chua, (a Chinese-American mother) feels "Chinese" (an admittedly broad generalization) mothering is better than "Western" mothering (again, the terms are used loosely to incorporate two different schools of mothering).

Mrs Chua brags that her children were never allowed to "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, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin."

Sucks you in, right?

She goes on to explain how Chinese parents expect nothing but the very best from their children, and because of that, they excel. She labels "Western" mothers as being the ones who coddle their children too much, making sure there is an "award" for everything they do. She feels this does nothing but hinder their self-esteem.

She says, "Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, 'You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.' By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out."

Very interesting stuff.

There are thousands of comments. I only read a few ranging from horror to complete accord.

For me it just made me think about how I parent. Maybe I need to be more strict. Maybe I need to expect more of my children and not let them give up so easily on things. But even if I could use a little more "Chinese" mother in me, I'm so thankful for the love we exhibit openly to our children in this "Western" culture of ours.

I want my children to succeed and do well in life, but most of all I want them to be happy. And I believe happiness comes from having a lot expected of you as well as being adored. To help children find true happiness I think parents have to find a "happy medium" in how much to push or praise (which I wrote a blog post about back here).

As I mentioned, I had Dave read this article and it got us back on the topic of helping our kids learn independence. It reminded me of these stories as well as one that happened last week:

Max has been a little forgetful lately and hasn't been as responsible as Dave would like (me too, but remember I'm the "praise-er" not the "push-er"...more like the "push-over"). Max had forgotten some jobs he was supposed to do and some assignments at school, etc. Dont' get me wrong, Max is such a good kid. It's just normal teenager stuff and he was slacking a little. Dave was frustrated. We got a message that Max was supposed to be at a relatively early meeting for church the next day. It was set to be in a neighboring neighborhood from us. Max (and I) just expected we'd drive him over. But Dave told him he needed to be sure he was up on time and ride his bike over.

Wow. I am such a coddle-er in my mind I thought, "no way, it'll still be dark and there's a busy street and it'll be way too cold" (yeah, we live in the desert, it wasn't really too cold). But I zipped my lips and it was amazing to see how Max's attitude changed. He was totally fine with riding his bike. He turned into responsibility mode and quickly looked up the address, asked me to show him where it was on a map, and set his alarm. The next morning he was up an hour early and ready to go.

Yes, Amy Chau was right in some regards. Expecting more out of our kids can be a good thing.

But not forcing them to conform into the same mold and loving them for who they are individually is so important too. We just have to find the right balance. And oh man, sometimes that's enough to throw me for a loop with five such different children.
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