Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Are Chinese Mothers Superior?

There is a lot of buzz about the provocatively-titled Wall Street Journal article, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," written by Professor Amy Chua of Yale Law School. But despite the outrage expressed in the ever-growing comment section of the article, what the Korean found interesting is this: in a poll accompanying the article asking the readers to choose between "permissive Western" versus "demanding Eastern," nearly 60 percent of the readers chose "demanding Eastern." Of course the question in the poll is not a fair question. But it was still interesting to see where the majority was when the push came to shove, even after Prof. Chua made the "Eastern" method of parenting style harsh and borderline cruel.

If you are wondering what the Korean thought about that article, this post and this post should give you a hint. Just a few more fleeting thoughts after scanning the comment section of the article...

- Why do people assume that Asian children, raised in the mold of Asian-style parenting, are never ever happy? Have they ever been Asian children? Where do they get off telling children what to feel? And why do they stupidly insist that children should be happy at all moments, all the time?

- Why do people always bring up "lawyer at a big law firm" as a job that they do not want because people must be miserable? The Korean is a big law firm lawyer, and he can tell you -- the grapes are sweet, delicious, and only just a tiny bit sour (mostly when he has to work on a weekend.)

- The Korean will leave you with the words of Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of Dartmouth College:
I said, "Dad, I'm so excited about my studies at Brown. I think I'm going to major in philosophy." So my father slowly turned the car and put it off to the side of the road, he looked back at me and said: "Hey, when you finish your residency, you can study anything you want." He said: "Look, you are a Chinaman" -- that's how he used to talk -- "You're a Chinaman. And you are not going to make it in this world if you study philosophy. If you think this country owes you anything, you're crazy. You have to get a skill." I ended up doing Ph.D. in anthropology on top of doing my medical degree. But that advice I think was very important, and I find myself giving that advice to students today. You know, it's great to have all these great ideals. But when you go to Haiti, when you go to Africa, they don't ask you, "How much do you feel for my people? How much have you studied?" They say, "Have you brought anything?"
-EDIT 1/11/11- The Korean Wife's response after reading the article: "All I know is that if Mrs Chua was a mom of one of my students, I would love her. :)" Classical musicians are merciless.

-EDIT 1/12/11- Commenter Hasani brought up an excellent point:
[O]ne of the things about "Asian-style" parenting that I think is overlooked quite often by others is that it is an extraordinary tool for upward mobility from poorer backgrounds. Often people talk about how they're just as successful as someone else even though they didn't have as strict parents, but usually these people come from upper middle-class homes and had access to resources many of their Asian counter-parts didn't possess. The importance of a good job is multiplied a hundred-fold when you're familiar with what it is to be poor.
-EDIT 1/13/11- The Korean really wanted to not spend too much energy on this, but it appears that this will be the defining Asian American story of 2011. New York Times now has several stories dealing with this issue. Well then. The Korean's fuller and more formal response is coming soon.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. I think the Korean tends to miss the point when he counter-argues those who say that "Asian children can never ever be happy." He forgets about people who don't think that way but still don't agree with the strictness many Asian parents decide their children's paths either. My girlfriend's brother (who is Korean) decided to become a Magician (which, of course, his parents didn't like at first, but ended up accepting). He is doing great and can be very successul. Now, because that is not seen as useful in Haiti when an earthquake hit it, does it mean he should give up? Let's have a society full of lawyers, engineers and doctors then! No rock bands, poets or useless philosophers! How fun it will be!

  2. Just as an aside, what do you think the over/under on the number of comments for this thread will be? I'd be disappointed if it didn't go off for more than 50...

    With that said, one of the worst things you can say about someone's parenting skills in America is that "they're trying to live through their children." Really, outright abuse or neglect is the only thing most people would consider to be worse.

    I don't have any special insight about Asian cultures, but from my experiences living in Korea, I don't think that "living through your children" would be quite as much of a criticism here. The criticism would probably carry even less weight in an immigrant community. I mean, if you uproot yourself from everything that you know all so your kids can have better educational opportunities, don't you have some right to tell them how they should use those opportunities?

    With that said, the woman who wrote this article is a freakin' Yale law professor. I'm pretty sure she's never had to sacrifice a damn thing in terms of income or prestige for her kids. It sort of seems like her kids are just another status symbol she could throw out to impress the neighbors. Also, you probably shouldn't write an article about how great a parent you are until your kids have at least graduated from high school.

    Finally, I think the article does a disservice to Asian-Americans by associating her particular parenting style (which is bound to generate a lot of criticism) with a specific ethnic community. I'm pretty sure that the Asian-American community has as wide an array of parenting styles as any other group in American society. Her labeling will probably only serve to reinforce the unfair stereotype of Asians as non-creative drones in most of her readers.

  3. Certainly, strictness is useful as is rote memorization and repetitive practice. That lady, however, is a far poorer advocate for that model than Jim Yong Kim. For one, she is troll, dishing out as controversial an angle as she can in hopes of selling books, not unlike Tim Ferriss or any other huckster.

    Secondly, I am not a parent, but I doubt that being firm with your children needs to involve being petty and small with them. You do not need to call a kid garbage for not learning a piano piece. I grew up with Korean parents that did make me do many things I initially did not want to do, but they generally commanded respect by being earnest and serious, not petty and threatening.

    Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if this lady finds that her children hate and mock her in twenty years.

  4. You stole my post!


  5. Henrique, the most common objections to Asian-style parenting are: (1) your children will not be happy; (2) your children will be socially awkward; (3) your children will hate you; (4) your children will lack creativity and/or critical thinking skills. There is nothing wrong with addressing only one or two of them at a time.

    But let us still consider the magician. In the end, he became a magician, right? He had a true passion, which made him persevere. And once he did become a magician, the Korean is certain that the work habits that he picked up served him well also.

    J.B., since the Korean will actively participate in this thread, over-under 49.5 sounds reasonable. (The model minority post had more than 100, plus a few emails :))

    As to the article itself, the Korean did not agree with all the specifics that Prof. Chua did. But it is not her fault that people will think Asians are uncreative drones. That's people's own problem of stereotyping without seeing the clear evidence to the contrary.

  6. Dear AAK,

    I find most of your commentary to be quite insightful. In this instance, however, I must disagree with your point of view. Having grown up in a "non-Asian" household, nevertheless my parent's had an equally strict yet supportive parenting style. My siblings and I are all high achievers in whatever field we chose, whether that be the "lawyers doctors or engineers" or that list of careers deemed less useful according to some ridiculous idea of societal importance.

    I find the quote you used to also be ridiculous. Just because someone with a Philosophy background might not be useful with bringing supplies to Haiti during the earthquake doesn't mean that they don't contribute to society. In fact, if we had more people in Arts and Social Sciences involved, the mess in Haiti with poor coordination and goals of the NGOs before and after the earthquake might have been prevented.

    Finally, I myself am a doctor, and my twin sister has a PhD in Anthropology. We both feel fortunate to have parents that supported us to excel in our career paths, whatever they be. While I might be able to bring direct medical aide to Haiti, my sister would be the one to ask about how to distribute the aide and be most effective based on the history and culture of Haiti. Just look at the cholera epidemic, anthropologists might have helped understanding cultural barriers to discuss water supply sources.

    Dr. Kim sounds to me like one of many many physicians that likely wishes he could just be an anthropologist, and that he didn't have to be a doctor. He had little choice due to parental pressure. I see it alllll the time and are these the people you really want as your doctor? Someone forced into it because of the pressure they got from their parents?

  7. The Korean is right, I don't really care what white people like myself say about "Asian parenting." I'm much more interested in what other Asian Americans say about, and to that end, this post is a good starting point. I'm sure there are various ways to dismiss her testimony, but it at least shows that it's not just whites/non-Asians who have some qualms about this particular ideal being held up as a model. I found this post interesting as well, as it depicts a mother who both was and wasn't the "Chinese mother" depicted in this book.

    Perhaps a more interesting discussion would have been to clarify how "Korean motherhood" is different?

  8. Robyn,

    One of the biggest mistakes people make about Asian-style parenting is that it inevitably drives children toward the "chosen professions" (e.g. medicine, etc.) and the children have "little choice," as you put it.

    That is just not true. If a child has a true, true passion, very few Asian parents will stop him/her. Really, if children were guided inevitably to chosen professions, how would Korea, for example, produce four of the last ten champions of World Breakdancing competition?

    This is not something that can be dismissed with a simple, "Every rule has an exception" wave of a hand. Asian-style parenting ultimately teaches the value of hard work and discipline over your own desires to quit. (Which is what Prof. Chua's article is getting at.) That attitude generates success no matter what field you are in. (Yes, even in breakdancing.)


    "Korean motherhood" is not all that different, and Prof. Chua does give that caveat in the beginning of her article.

    As to your links, well, the Korean is pretty sure he is in the minority even among Asian Americans.

  9. Awesome article.
    Being an Asian, I found this so familiar as these situations evolves around me. My mom would not allow me to go out even to the nearest mall with any of my friends until I was 18. Other than tuitions, I had never went out after 5.00 p.m. during my secondary school days. Now that I am allow hang out with my friends in the night, I still have to be home before midnight, because my mom said so.
    You might think that my mom is a little demanding, but I beg to differ. I do not deny the truth that I used to get angry whenever my mom denies my requests to go out with my friends, but as time goes by, I understand that why she did so.
    One of my friends, got her wallet and handphone robbed while on the way to the bus stop to the city's mall, eventhough she wasn't alone.
    See? every denial and purpose of a mother has a reason behind it.
    And most of the time when children are aware of the reasons, they'll appreciate their mother's efforts.
    But I consider myself a little luckier, because my mom allows me for toilet breaks during my piano practises.

  10. This response article was a very sobering counterpoint for me.

    I feel that overall there just needs to be a more balanced form of parenting than "east vs. west" . Strict discipline can be good sometimes, positive reinforcement can be good at other times, it doesn't have a to be an all or nothing proposition. The reason why this article is getting so much attention I think is simply the title stating a chinese mother's parenting style to be "Superior" to the style many americans are familiar with. "Superior" of course being such an impossible qualifier to describe a parenting style.. Everyone will have something to say to defend their mother's parenting because it is a reflection on ourselves as grown adults.

  11. brutus,

    Everyone will have something to say to defend their mother's parenting because it is a reflection on ourselves as grown adults.

    For the Korean, that's the interesting part. A significant portion of Asian Americans dedicate their lives shitting on their mothers' parenting, talking about how it caused depression and suicide.

  12. Well, by quoting Dr. Jim Yong Kim to end the post it looks like you agree with him. That is not an argument against the belief that Asian children are never happy. That's an argument to support the idea that parents should always have the last word on their children's career path and that there are professions Asian kids should never pursue, because they're useless or don't give you as much money.

    About the happiness, there's a difference between: (1) being happy after you've gone through all the ordeals and succeeded, then you make money and say it was worth it, and (2) being happy while studying hard to achieve a goal YOU want and therefore have a drive for it. In Korea I've met two kinds of university students (among others): the happy hard-workers and the unhappy hard-workers. The former know what they want and they have talent for it, but the latter hate what they do or have no talent for what they do and see no meaning in doing that, but still do because their parents want to.

    I believe the unhappy ones will also succeed (in terms of money) and eventually feel happier for being able to feed his/her own children. But in your argument it looks like happiness DURING the process doesn't matter at all, based on your own experience of making a lot of money working in a law firm and being happy.

    Also, this kind of parenting is cruel to those who are, say, "less smart". A Korean friend of mine (who was clearly not the most brilliant) studied 14 hours a day to pass an exam to transfer to a renowned university and failed terribly many times. Still his parents said he was a shame, because he was the first son and bla bla. How can someone be happy when he fails to do what he doesn't want (or has no talent) to do but has to keep trying?

    The fact that many Asian kids are (or will be) happy doesn't mean that Asian parenting style shouldn't be questioned.

    P.S.: I suggest you to install Disqus or Intense Debate on your blog. It's easier to see who's replying to whom.

  13. My brother and I are unequivocally better off because of my Chinese mother's interventionist and perfectionist parenting style. However, both of us grew up believing that we weren't capable of doing anything unless my mom cajoled us. Also, unless our efforts in something were perfect, she would yell at us and maybe even hit us. As a result, we are both very reluctant to extend ourselves or try new things.

    I certainly wish I had internalized more of the hard work and discipline thing. Instead, there's a lot of fear and anxiety. To be fair, there's a mile-wide streak of depression and alcohol abuse in my father and his family, who are white, and there's a good chance that my brother and I would have had depression no matter how we were raised. The difference is that we have good degrees that we can fall back on when times get dark.

  14. Henrique,

    That's an argument to support the idea that parents should always have the last word on their children's career path ...

    But the Korean's first reply said otherwise. If Dr. Kim really, really did not want to be a doctor, even his father would not have been able to stop him. But Dr. Kim did not object THAT much, so now he is a doctor, former director of World Health Organization's AIDS Initiative, and the president of Dartmouth College. He is a happier guy and the world is a better place for that.

    in your argument it looks like happiness DURING the process doesn't matter at all ...

    That's exactly right. It is total stupidity to insist that people must be happy every single moment of their lives. Why not hook ourselves up to a medically induced coma with copious amounts of morphine injected into our system then? That way there will never be a moment of difficulty of our lives.

    Now, if you are not happy with the end result, you should be able to quit and change course. And plenty of Koreans do that. But if you are not THAT unhappy with the end result, what is wrong with keeping a job that earns well?

    Also, this kind of parenting is cruel to those who are, say, "less smart"

    Branding someone dumb and giving up hope on them is incredibly cruel. Your friend may not be brilliant, but at the end of the day he will still have a degree, which will serve him well.

    As to Disqus, the Korean is a total techno-retard so he has no idea how. But he will give it a test run.

  15. I am totally eavesdropping on a conversation my co-workers are having about their kids and I hear they are definitely leaning towards the Western Style of thinking that kids have too much responsibility at a young age and they should 'have fun and relax.'

    While I completely disagree with that mentality, I don't completely agree with this article's tone either. It seems like you have to chose between one extreme or another.

    However, there's some great gems in the article about parenting: nothing is fun until you're good at it; assume strength, not fragility; [parents] know what is best for their kids.

    I think some parents are no longer 'parenting' but believe in being friends with their kids. Really? Friends? That's great, have you met the kids that have no idea about boundaries or discipline? They are the people that are obese because they can't stop eating or can't exercise because it hurts. They can't finish college because its 'too hard' to study and can't buy a house because they don't know how to save and can't stop spending. The people who completely disagree with the 'Chinese Mother' approach can't seem to draw the parallel lines to life - which is to teach your kids perseverance, self-discipline and problem solving.

    As a kid my father made me spell Wednesday 20 times because I always spelled it wrong. I finally got it and continued to use the process for other studies after. It's a one of many techniques to get to your goals. I am a well-adjusted adult and am happy with my life. Actually I'm probably happier than most because I know if I want something I can get it- because I'm smart enough to figure it out and mentally strong enough to work through the problems.

    Don't hate the player, hate the game.

  16. I'm entering college soon and while I do wish I had better studying habits and discipline (I will work on these myself. They aren't solely a parent-instilled quality) I don't think trading a large portion of my childhood happiness for a good job is a fair trade. Not that I think at all that children who grow up under that parenting style are joyless. It just sounds like they miss out on a lot of things, somewhat unnecessarily.

    Then again I haven't truly entered the World of Work yet, so I may not be able to gauge the impact an extra thousand dollars or two will have on my life.

    Although Korean I think that your assertion that wanting to study an area that interests you, even though you might not have an unquenchable passion for it, is equal to wanting to be happy all the time ever with no miserable moments in your life.

  17. My contribution to pushing the comments over 50...

    I agree with Karen that there were some good points in the article. We Westerners probably should re-think our permissive attitude towards parenting and whether it is truly the best thing for the child.

    The unfortunate thing is that Dr. Chua's methods went so overboard (Not letting a kid go to the bathroom until she mastered a piano piece? Really?) that they were destined to draw condemnation and ridicule, and thus made it easier for readers to dismiss her argument.

    On the other hand, the piece has already drawn much more attention than a bland, reasonable argument for slightly stricter parenting would have...

  18. I dont know what to say after reading this article. On one hand, sure, this Yale law professor, which obviously will hold lots of weight in discussing success, resorting to strict discipline to excel academically certainly is a good approach to achieving success, it doesnt necessary mean they are happy. On the other, I truly believe, as a Korean American, that success doesnt lead to happiness, happiness leads to success. You can be both successful and happy at the same time, but it certainly hasnt happned for me that way. In other words, I am somewhat successful, but to say I am happy would be too far fetched.

    Plus, this article seemed too full of Chinese propaganda. If this Chinese lady parents were so successful raising her then why is China such a third-world country? Its much more complicated than discipline, mercilessness, etc... blah. Success comes in various ways, certainly not by stupid test scores.

  19. As for my stance on parenting styles, I do believe there are things that are very valid (ex. "nothing is fun until you are good at it", focus on hard work and rote memorization), however, Chua's methods do seem rather harsh.

    Rather than race or culture, I think the whole thing boils down to the parents' acuity and wisdom. I am Korean, and an English major (GASP), but my parents have fully supported me in pursuing my interests, as they know full well that this is what I enjoy and what I am good at, and they would not force me to do anything that I obviously had no talent in (such as - gasp - math.) However, this does not mean they did not care about academics; my parents always stressed the importance of academics and good grades, and we have discussed career paths I could pursue with an English degree that would be acceptable/profitable. I feel truly blessed to have parents that neither rule with an iron fist nor stupidly let their kids run wild, but respect the children's opinions while maintaining an authoritative stance. This, I believe, is what good parenting should be like.

    This does not have to be a debate over race and stereotypical parenting styles. It is possible to balance work and play together and come up with a compromise. If the parents are wise, and know what their children are good at, they will support that path, meanwhile encouraging them to work hard for it. Unwise parents will either focus too much on "being happy and comfortable" or force their children to take a path that only they deem acceptable, up to the point of psychological abuse. While cultural emphasis of education may be there, in the end it's just people being wise or stupid with bringing up children.

    I'm sure Ms. Chua has the best intentions, but just a bit misguided, and it's NOT because she is Asian or Chinese. It's because she, as a human, may not be the smartest person in parenting.

  20. @tK
    Well, my point really was that people will have a strong opinion about their mother's parenting good or bad. In general I would guess the majority of people like their moms and would defend them, but I suppose people with the opposite experience would be the ones that would make a big deal about it, wouldn't they? Regardless, I think when it comes to attacking or defending your upbringing, a lot of people will have an opinion, which is still the main reason why I think the article has gotten so much publicity.

    Also, according to that response article, Ms. Chua claims she did not come up with that "chinese mothers are superior" headline.. the WSJ did it to sensationalize her excerpt, which they obviously succeeded in doing. The book she also claims is much more nuanced and is not all about the super strict "chinese" mother being superior, so I would give her more credit than the piece suggests. In the end, people who hate their lives will blame their upbringing, and those who love their lives will say their upbringing was brilliant, regardless of the style. There are just too many other variables for anyone to ever really know definitively if one style is clearly "superior" to another. No 2 sets of parents follow some exact rulebook for every situation, I would like to believe that every one has their own style that ranges anywhere between the 2 extremes.

  21. Korean,

    Thanks for posting. Considering that this column was excerpted from Chua's memoir, here's an interesting profile to follow up:


    I need some time to process this column before commenting on it. However, off the top of my head two things come to mind.

    The first is that Chua reminds me of Park Mi-Hee (skater Kim Yuna's mother). Most of the articles I've read about Park have left me with the impression of an extremely obsessive parent. However, her daughter's success and athletic prowess (as well as English ability) may not have come about any other way. And by all appearances, Kim comes across as a happy, well-adjusted individual.

    The second is that two nights ago I was a cafe with some friends. One of my friends, a Korean-American English teacher, received a text message during our conversation and looked up at us, slightly distraught. One of his students had just committed suicide. Apparently that student's father had called her "a disgrace to the family" because she had fallen a few points short of the maximum score on some kind of exam score.

    I've had conversations with several Koreans (mostly in their 20s, but a few older people as well) about the whole "Asian parenting" thing. It's been interesting to hear them discuss the pros and cons...and they seem to be pretty evenly split on whether or not it's beneficial.

  22. Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club comes to mind:


    Hungarian parenting is somewhere halfway between American and Chinese (or Korean) in strictness. I was expected to bring home good grades, and I had to attend foreign language classes and sports practice after school. My parents let me choose what sport to practice. I will probably follow their example with my kids.

    I don't understand this obsession with music, though (perhaps because no one in my family plays any instrument). Why is this form of art superior to drama? Also, for someone without any musical talent, no amount of practice would bring real success, only mediocricity at best. Granted, that person would have a great knowledge of classical music, but at the cost of something else he could have learned, and maybe excelled in, had he been allowed to practice something he had a talent for. Like drama perhaps.

  23. Hasani,

    I think that your assertion that wanting to study an area that interests you, even though you might not have an unquenchable passion for it, is equal to wanting to be happy all the time ever with no miserable moments in your life.

    That sounds interesting. Can you elaborate?


    Happiness does not necessary lead to success -- in fact, temporary unhappiness is pretty much required for success.

    The Korean thinks that ultimately, people need to get away from trying to find happiness from what they do, and instead find it from what they are. Success -- particularly material success -- is necessary to ward off much of unhappiness. But the ultimate happiness is not so much about our jobs, but our family and particularly our children. Ah, the Asian way.


    That's a good observation. But at the same time, the Korean thinks people should not be afraid of discussing things only because it involves race. That is really the whole point of this blog.

    brutus, agreed.

    Marc, thanks for the SF Chronicle review. Chua's brother was a two-time Special Olympics gold medalist! Incredible.


    Yes, the drama thing was a bit head-scratching. The Korean was really, really untalented in music, and his piano lessons ended only after one year after showing that he had absolutely zero talent. But even that was beneficial, as the Korean could understand his wife's line of work better.

  24. Well basically I know that many, many children and teenagers are unsure about what career they want to pursue, but they might have a general interest in a certain field. Just because they don't have unshakable conviction for pursuing a certain career path doesn't mean it's completely fine for them to pressured into a field they have no interest in.

    And I know you said many Korean and other Asian parents will be supportive of their child if they really don't want to pursue that career, but how many teenagers know exactly what they want to do? Or would simply reject the wisdom of their parents out of hand even if they did?

    I'm not arguing for or against anything here, as I'm young myself and don't really have the clarity of mind to form valuable opinions on this.

    On another note, one of the things about "Asian-style" parenting that I think is overlooked quite often by others is that it is an extraordinary tool for upward mobility from poorer backgrounds. Often people talk about how they're just as successful as someone else even though they didn't have as strict parents, but usually these people come from upper middle-class homes and had access to resources many of their Asian counter-parts didn't possess. The importance of a good job is multiplied a hundred-fold when you're familiar with what it is to be poor.

  25. Although this isn't something exclusive to "Chinese Mothers" or Asian mothers.

    As is exemplified by Dr. Ben Carson, Direction of Pediatric Neurosurgery at John Hopkins Hospital and receiver of a Presidential Medal of Freedom.


  26. This article is chalk full of stereotypes and generalizations. I know a lot of Non Asian Parents who pressures their kids to do well academically.

    This is a cultural issue of conformity. In the East Asian cultures, EVERYONE is expected to do well academically and professionally. So the parents are doing what society expects them to do, teach their kids to succeed!

    In the West especially the USA, individually is more cherished than societal conformity. So a kid who wants to pursue a art career path their parents won't be so against it because it's the individual choice of that kid.

  27. Hasani, the Korean liked your comment so much it is now excerpted in the body. Also very much agreed that this is not really "Chinese" parenting in the literal meaning of the term. It is a loosely defined word, and Prof. Chua pretty says that from the get-go.

    As to your main comment -- the fact that the children end up pursuing a career path itself means that they have some degree of interest. If they truly, truly had no interest, they would get fired or quit. So when all other things are equal -- i.e. a child has lukewarm interest in all kinds of different things -- it is not a bad option to be pushed into being a doctor. Her life will be made more comfortable, for sure.

  28. I agree that Asian parents do not have total control of what their children want to do and there shouldn't be an underlying generalization that all Asian children are forced to live a secluded way. But from my experience (I'm Korean under strict Korean parents and I live in an area with a very high Korean population) a lot of friends and acquaintances I know get unnecessary stress because they're forced to practice for high rankings in county orchestras and pressure from choosing their own college and professions. Looking at your objections to the following statements:

    (1) your children will not be happy; (2) your children will be socially awkward; (3) your children will hate you; (4) your children will lack creativity and/or critical thinking skills.

    1 doesn't have to be true, there's people who suffer much worse than fighting with their parents, which doesn't happen in only one race. People choose to be happy,although some who are under very strict parents find it harder to be happy is quite true. 2 is definitely not true, though I find that some Asian parents do have a negative impact on their children's social life depending on how much they try to control them. 3 depends also, most of my Korean friends love their friends, but there is still an animosity towards them compared to some of my white friends because of this mentality Asian parents put on their children. 4 really depends, I remember looking at one of your posts on rote memorizing and learning>simply critical thinking and succes, and how you talked about how a strict educational structure like those in Korea has no real negative impact on creativity. But through many psychological tests and studies, our education system (and Korea's), it was shown to have an immense damage on children's level of creativity. But that's a different topic, I suggest "Break point & beyond" and "Unlocking Creativity" by Sir Ken Robinson.

    I would say that you are underestimating the problem that Asian American children face, I'm not sure about you're family background, but from my experience there is a big negative impact that many (not all) Asian Parents have on their children and I've worked with school counselors and many of these children talk about how this pressure effects them. But it depends on the person yes and the culturalism depicted in that article is unfair.

  29. I think balance is the key. Of course success can be painful and one should work hard to get it. I kind of regret that my parents didn't make me study more although I was an excellent student. I think I could have achieved more and learned more. Well, they definitely weren't happy when my brother brought home poor marks.
    But on the other hand I have grown up as a free person. They gave me advice any time I needed it but never forced me into anything. That's why I'm grateful. I also think that childhood must be happy, children need to play and socialize. Teenagers also need friends. I know people who only studies and they never made any friends and communication with others is very difficult. I would never change my friends and the moments I had with them for more studying.
    Educational zeal is not an Asian priority. I live in Bulgaria and I know some children who get the same pressure. I've such children - they are sleepy all the time even during classes. They need more free time because there are too many things expected from them to do. I think health is the most important thing especially for a child.

  30. I'll start off by noting that we do need to be careful about intellectual arrogance and biases. When it comes to parenting there are many times when people will go into full defense mode, or say things like "strictness leads too..." or "laxness leads too...". Said methods do not exist in isolation. There are many things left unsaid in the article; more unsaid than said, and this may be very critical in the effectiveness in what is going on.

    Discipline is going to be very important to excellence. In many ways the difference between excelling and not is when you want to quit you keep doing it. I remember hearing something like in the Olympic Training Center in Australia there is a sign hanging that says 2x365x10, meaning 2 practices everyday for 10 years is what it takes to by an Olympian. The ones that are genetically blessed probably will be overtaken by those who actually do practice that.

    There is even something to enjoying something once you master it to some extent. One may not have to go to the extent the person did in the article. I would even say that doing it may not actually bring happiness. When I ran races, I always laughed when people said they enjoyed it. I hated running the race, it hurt. I loved finishing the race more.

    Some of the coaching advice I had gotten was that for girls first) you had to make sure they knew you loved them, then second) challenge them. For boys first) challenge them, and second) let them know you love them. In general kids are pretty resilient. They tend to like rules, granted one can go to excess. And they want to know you care about them. Not everyone can be reached best the same way.

  31. One thing I have to wonder if at some point this is a reaction against Westernization. To cut off social interactions, and I think even the choosing classical music over drama, maybe there is a desire to succeed in the other culture and at the same time avoid that culture. If your an immigrant I would think the stakes would be even higher to keep the family ties. Its one thing to have an empty nest, it is another thing to have an empty nest in a foreign place.

    Which to bring it back to the post about the line between creepiness vs curiosity of Korean culture, perhaps this is one thing TF saw in the difference between a Korean-Canadian vs a Korean. There isn't that same internal struggle in the Korean as there is in the Korean-Canadian. The differences are more upfront making the differences more tangible, granted it will bring other external struggles in the relationship.

    I just bring this up, because a good tangent can increase the post in the thread by a good 20.

  32. Very smooth, J Man -- very smooth.

    Also, the Korean loved this for some reason: "When I ran races, I always laughed when people said they enjoyed it. I hated running the race, it hurt. I loved finishing the race more."

  33. When it comes to things unsaid, there comes a thing that is more important than the false dichotomy of discipline vs. creativity or freedom vs. depression. I don't know about you, but eventually I'd put a book down by someone with the creativity of Steven King, but wrote like a third grader. There is a need to drill something with repetition, and a need for space to use those skills. We do know the mother did force her to do techniques until she could do them, we don't know if she gave her space.

    Another thing is the difference between external factors and internal factors to defining success. There can be problems when it comes to relying too much on external factors to success. For one who places success on getting into a school, getting a job, marrying the right person, eventually one may find that it doesn't lead to happiness. There is a place for them, but an overemphasis on them can cause problems. I liked passing people when I raced. I'd take the joy of it, but it never was my main aim.

    On the other hand internal factors tend breed longer term happiness. If the kids can break away from what the mom set up as goals, they then can really come to enjoy what she did. If one decides she enjoys being able to master a piece and put her style and emotion in it, she will really know joy.

    If strictness is only used to make them do what the mother wants them to do or on the other hand if laxidity that is more like laziness, it is not good. Strictness or allowing freedom along with emotional support and guidance are good. If anything parenting should be an art full of discipline to method with audibles allowing for space to allow creativity and experiments to take place. Come with your vision, but the needs of the person that is a child preparing to be an adult, may call for changes.

  34. I personally want to caution against a one-size fits all approach to parenting. Perhaps it did work for Chua, but that doesn't mean that every instance will work. I think some children need hard discipline and others need a more lassaiz faire approach. Treating every child identically is akin to a doctor approaching all patients as though they're all the same, but you know that each patient has different histories of hereditary diseases, different lifestlye issues, allergies to drugs, and so you know that a doctor will take all those factors into account when prescribing medicine. At least a good doctor will.

    Some kids really do well under the tough love approach advocated by Chua and one day become future world leaders. Others will commit suicide in high school because they can't handle the stress and expectation and feel it's the only way out. I think the truly successful parent will be the one that observes, comes to understand their children, and adapts accordingly. Furthermore, since children are constantly growing and changing, parenting should also constantly grow and change to bring the best out of the kid.

    Maybe I'm pointing out the obvious here, but most of the discussions around Chua's article seem to be either be blindly in support of her method or be railing against it altogether without acknowledging that it will sometimes work and other times fail horribly for a variety of reasons.

  35. When I read this article, I wish I had a Chinese mother growing up. My parents always encouraged me to do well and were disappointed when I did not live up to their expectations, but they never demanded nor forced excellence upon me. Part of me wishes they had. I am and always have been a great student, but I still lack discipline and cannot fight the feeling that had my parents imposed more discipline on me as a child, I would have more self-control, more ability to focus now, and would have accomplished more by this point in my life. For example, I was always involved in numerous extra-curricular activities growing up, but I got to choose them. I set my practice schedules and I decided when I wanted to quit and try something new. At 6 years old, when I decided to quit the piano after only about 2 months of lessons; my parents did nothing to make me keep at it besides asking me if I was sure I that I wanted to quit. I was 6, what the hell did I know?!?!
    By American standards, especially by African-American standards, I seem like quite an accomplished person. I took tons of AP classes in high school, graduated university summa cum laude, and now have a full scholarship to a first tier law school. However, I think the difference between me being where I am now and, say, having a full scholarship to a top 3 law school, is discipline. If I had just worked harder when I was younger, I would be in a better position now and the work would not seem as challenging. How was I suppose to know this when I was a child? Such things were up to my parents.
    I love my parents and am in no way suggesting that I am angry or resentful towards them. They did what they thought was best at the time and followed the norms of the predominantly European-American, middle-class neighborhood we lived in; leaving me to make up the difference now.
    In between undergrad and law school, I taught English in South Korea for a year, which is where I finally began to learn discipline and how to study from my middle school students. My foreign colleagues, predominantly European-Americans, often said that I romanticized the Korean educational model as something that American schools could learn a thing or twenty from. So while they tried to make their classes as fun as possible to give their students a break from what they perceived ass the horrors of the Korean public school, I tried my best to comply with the cultural norms and standards. I was perhaps the hardest foreign teacher my students had ever had. At first, they hated me but by the end of my contract they were sad to see me go.
    I also won the hakwon's best teacher award 3 out of the 4 quarters that I was there and it was a fairly large hakwon- 23 foreign teachers and about 1,100 students.
    As I said before, I also learned a lot from my students as well. As middle school students, they had a better understanding of delayed gratification than I did at 22. They understood the importance and the value of sacrificing short-term hedonistic happiness for long-term achievement-based happiness. How did they learn this? Their parents taught them.
    Of course, there were times when my American sensibilities would lead me to feel sorry for my students over the amount of work that they had and how they were being deprived of the carefree childhood that I had. I also wondered if all the work was psychologically harmful. But then, similarly to what Prof. Chua suggests, I would remember that they would be psychologically stronger and better able to cope with real-life stressors later on.
    In no way am I suggesting that the Asian educational/parenting model is perfect. Nor am I saying that the American model completely flawed. But, if I had to choose one or the other, I would choose the Asian model.

  36. This comment has been removed by the author.

  37. I kept getting error messages when I tried to post, so I kept trying. Turns out there was no error at all :P

  38. Here's a parody of the original Chinese Mothers article entitled, "Why American Parents Are Inferior." Enjoy!

  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. Que263 said almost exactly what I wanted to say too: that I wish my parents had pushed me to achieve more when I was a kid. Not that I'm ungrateful for what was a terrific childhood with many educational opportunities and experiences, and not that I blame them either - as JK Rowling said, there is an expiry date on blaming your parents for your failings in life. But a bit of imposed discipline back then would have paid off for me later.

    On the other hand, there is something in Chua's article that I find a bit creepy. It's that there seems to be an underlying ideological premise that children are the parents' property, and therefore parents have an absolute right to do with them as they wish. Mould them into what you, the parent, have decided (in your wisdom) is the most desirable mould regardless not only of what they want but of what and who they are. Suppose you, the parent, with the best of intentions, don't know what's best? Or suppose you have 3 kids and push them all down the identical path, setting up a zero-sum competition between them? The Korean says if the child has a genuine passion it will manifest itself regardless of parental pressure, but that's circular: a passion that's suppressed becomes ipso facto a not-genuine passion. Parents like Chua need a little humility to realise that they are not gods; and that the narrowness of competing for grades solely imparts a lesson of a less salubrious kind, while diminishing time spent learning other things. Taken too far, you may starve the child of liberty so much that it will never enjoy the fruits of all these sacrifices.

    Reading the article, I also wonder how much of the child's joy at learning the difficult piano piece was due to sense of achievement, and how much was due to having gained her mother's praise and affection. Every lesson acquires a dreadful sameness, because every lesson becomes a performance to please the parent. Love of the subject for its own sake is lost. I believe this is how it can happen that a child acquire concert-pianist level technical skill, yet be unable to express emotion in music. And if that happens, what is it all for?

    No one can deny that it's good to have discipline, to have parents who push you to achieve all you can academically, and to acquire a professional skill or qualification. I just agree with everyone else who's said there must be balance. Taken too far, this 'superior Chinese-style parenting' can be a nightmare.

  41. 'it will never enjoy the fruits of all these sacrifices' should read 'it will not be capable of enjoying the fruits of all these sacrifices'.

  42. As an Asian (Korean) with a "tiger" mom, I was subjected to the same treatment. I have high self confidence and am a high achiever. My mom was not as strict as this one is, but I don't feel that I didn't have love or that my mom did all that she could for us.

    The fact that many that are subject to this type of parenting is that the feeling is that all the Tiger Mom is about control and that there is no love. It is not. My mother would have done anything for me to thrive and succeed and has given up alot to do so. Yes, she could be strict, but the values that's she instilled in me have made me the confident, successful person that I am.

    As for the author, the point of her book is misinterpreted. It is not a manual nor does it say that this is the way people should parent. It provides funny perspective into how many traditional Asian families (including our South Asians friends as well) grew up.

    I find the book to be very nostalgic and relevant to my upbringing. I do not parent this way, but I also refuse to be a helicopter parent as well. I do not try to be my kid's best friend. I am the authority in the household and the one that will guide my kid to a good life, but I am definitely one to allow him what most American kids experience.

  43. http://blog.angryasianman.com/2011/01/tiger-mother-speaks.html

    So it turns out the author is not actually an advocate of the parenting model described in her article in the WSJ.

    ",,,that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end -- that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model."

  44. TK: Just a minor trivia...

    According to Wikipedia:

    Amy Chua's parents were academics and members of the Chinese ethnic minority in the Philippines before emigrating to the United States. Amy's father, Leon O. Chua, is an Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences professor at the University of California, Berkeley and is known as the father of nonlinear circuit theory and cellular neural networks. Amy was born in 1962 in Champaign, Illinois and lived in West Lafayette, Indiana. When she was eight years old, her family moved to Berkeley, California. Chua graduated magna cum laude with an A.B. in Economics from Harvard College in 1984. She obtained her J.D. cum laude in 1987 from Harvard Law School, where she was an Executive Editor of the Harvard Law Review.

  45. mikelaza, the link does not seem to work.

    ZtraderX, that is also a good point. Once upon a time, "Asian parenting" was really "American parenting". There are still pockets of American parents who understand what it takes -- but their numbers are dwindling rapidly.


    Suppose you, the parent, with the best of intentions, don't know what's best?

    The Korean would be hard-pressed to find a situation in which working hard and not quitting are not the best attitude of dealing with something.

    that's circular: a passion that's suppressed becomes ipso facto a not-genuine passion.

    Not so -- Dr. Kim speaks of getting a Ph.D. in anthropology on top of his medical degree, then going so far as doing ethnographical field work before committing to become a doctor. For an opposite example, comedian Ken Jeong (of the Hangover fame) used to be a doctor, then decided that what he really wanted to do was comedy. The list of Korean celebrities who graduated from SNU is substantial (including several superstars like Kim Tae-Hee,) although one (AND one's parents) nearly have to push onself to the brink to get into SNU.

  46. The music part is particularly interesting, not in the least because the Korean is married to a classical musician. (Actually, Prof. Chua's daughter's teacher is the Korean Wife's old teacher at Juilliard.) And often, people insultingly assume that the Korean Wife is this soulless machine that cranks out mechanical music without enjoying it.

    She is anything but. She would not be a professional musician otherwise. The Korean Mother-in-Law, by all accounts, was far more of a Tiger Mom than the Korean Mother ever was. (And that's SAYING something.) But the KMIL actually wanted the Korean Wife to quit violin as she entered college, because she was afraid that KW would not make a living. KW had to secretly apply for Juilliard, and was allowed to attend only because she promised to attend Columbia Univ. at the same time. (Where she met the Korean.) KW now has a B.A. in Econ from Columbia that she will never use for the rest of her life. So she ended up following her true passion.

    Now, here is the point: did KW love playing violin for every single moment since she was 5, when she first picked up a violin? Heck no. In fact, she talks about how much she wanted to quit, was beaten for playing poorly and complaining, and HATED vioin all the way until high school. But now she is a professional who practices violin 3 hours a day and then plays for another 2 hours. For TEN years she hated violin but was not allowed to quit. And then she developed a love for music that runs deeper than anyone who did not have her experience.

    It is not a coincidence that half of Juilliard is Asian. Playing an instrument well is incredibly hard. One cannot achieve that kind of level unless one is absolutely, constantly dedicated to it for a very long time. And then you had better love playing on top of that. You can't make it to Juilliard if you don't love playing. The Korean met a ton of musicians through his wife, and every last one of them -- Asian or not -- loves playing.

    It is also not a coincidence that KW is even more of a fan of Tiger Mom parenting than the Korean is, if you could believe that. At this rate, we will probably have to move to a state with a lax child protection laws to raise the Korean Child the way we want.

  47. I don't think it's fair to refer to less strict style as "liberal" parenting. It's just a different style. Obama's mother was very liberal, and she woke him up before school every morning for extra lessons.

    And again I think it's about balance. As a parent I hope to be demanding because I think you only get the best of people when you demand it. So working hard at your school work yes. I won't force them to play an instrument when they're young on the chance that they might love it in ten years after finding it to be a daily two hours of torture.

    But on the other hand if they're interested in something else, like boxing or dancing, I'll make sure they never slack on it and give up because they're lazy.

    The Korean you mentioned that there's a reason that half of Julliard is Asian. But what about the thousands more who never developed that love and simply abandoned it as soon as they could? I don't think that's fair to them. But hey, life isn't fair.

  48. The Korean is actually in favor of "balance" also, but in this sense: The Korean thinks it should be 3/4 parts "Asian" style, and 1/4 part "Western" style.

    For those who abandoned music, well, they still developed an appreciation for a very important part of Western cultural identity, and also learned to work hard for something.

  49. I think at the end of the day, we could probably all agree that some amount of discipline and force is required with parenting, as is supporting your children.

    If you only have control and force without warmth and love you've basically got an abusive situation; I think The Korean takes it for granted that parents will give warmth and love to their children as well as authority. (And by warmth and love I mean caring if they're wearing enough thermal underwear and if they're eating enough, not telling kids that they're loved every day or whatever.)

    I also think that Western parents might do well to remember that far more Asian parents pay for their children's college tuition, would gladly cook and clean after their children until they're married and let them live rent-free in their houses, economics permitting.

  50. @TheKorean

    It's circular because you're saying if you don't, say, go get your Phd in anthropology in spite of your parents pushing you into law school, then that means your passion for anthropology wasn't real. That way it can never be the parents' fault that a dream got suppressed because the very fact that the kid failed to pursue said dream must mean it wasn't real. Well, not necessarily. Suppose two kids both love anthropology but one pursues it and one doesn't. Maybe Kid #1's passion for anthropology was as great as Kid #2's but Kid #1 was pushed harder in a different direction.

    Also, re parents not always knowing what's best for their kids. They may push their kids in the wrong direction or too hard, or they may want to make their kids great students but simply not know how to go about it because they were never great students themselves. Not everyone is part of the educated elite like Amy Chua. Suppose you lock up your kids 4 hours a day to make them study something you have no interest in or knowledge of yourself? Kids aren't stupid and they pick up their parents' values. They'll know if the parent doesn't actually value knowledge. So I'm saying parents need to be aware of what their own limitations are before they embrace wholeheartedly this idea that pushing your children to study can never be bad.

  51. What I take issue with is the idea that children have to be so harshly pushed in order to have any motivation to study. Smart parents will not blindly push their children, but get to know them and understand their strengths and weaknesses, their interests and motivations and respond appropriately.

    What I dislike about Ms. Hua's style of parenting is that there is no unconditional love. I agree with a previous commenter that many children are motivated out of fear to study hard and get good grades.

    Fear is a VERY powerful motivator, but a damaging one as well. I think you can raise kids to see the value of learning and that can be an intrinsic motivator for their success. The failure of Chua's model is that it does not teach children that learning CAN be (does not have to be) fun and joyful. That there is an intrinsic reward to doing your best and reaching your goals, not because mother is screaming at you, but because they are inherently satisfying to the individual child. Many kids who have been raised in such a harsh manner are not exposed to this natural joy in learning and so when they get to college, it may be harder to foster a sense of enthusiasm about the material itself.

    Many times parents push not out of a desire for their children's future, but out of an egotistical need to impress others in their community. Having high achieving children is a status marker in the Asian community. And many parents base their self-esteem on how well their children do as they feel like it's a reflection on them, their own self-worth.

  52. You can push your kids to do their best without scarring them emotionally. Ms. Hua feels that as long as you get results, any means is justified. I know that there are wiser parents out there who will know how to motivate their kids in a way that is healthy without the unnecessary emotional damage. Actually, there is a book by a pair of Korean American sisters that relates to this topic called "Top of The Class". It's a Korean American perspective on raising kids to do well. But it seems that their parents were more healthy in the way they encouraged their kids to study. By showing them the joy of learning. It was a way that the family bonded.

  53. Maybe I might put it like this, I don't really believe that there is one sole dream for a person. If one is not realized, another maybe there. Just like I really don't think there any person is dystany dictates there is only one true person that a person is meant to marry. Perhaps one can believe that, I don't really have problem with that if a person is married to said person. If one is a person mature and ready for marriage there is a number of people in which it'd work, and each different.

    I may put it down to this, if parents push a kid general more in one field, and the kid eventually says this is what I want to do. Parents may push back, due to the other fields ability to bring more security or even bias. If the kid pushes back, it might be a good flag to turn a red light to a green light and say go for it.

    Regarding the dream life focus, perhaps I would say, one really shouldn't be too worried about finding it or not. You will end up paralyzed. If you do think you find it follow it. Don't forget we are in the US, you can plan ahead and change careers.

  54. The Korean is right. My use of the word "smart" is not appropriate here. Maybe it seems like concepts of "learning disabilities" (at lower levels) or different learning capabilities are seen as irrelevant. Haven't you ever met a person who, no matter how hard they try, they just can't learn something fully? I'm not saying we should try to identify those kids and be easier on them before they try, because you're right, we have to believe that overcoming obstacles is possible. But parents should be sensitive to this. My friend had serious learning problems in certain areas, but for being the oldest son he had no excuse: he had to be number 1.

    Asian-style parenting is good to get the most of children's capabilities, but sensitiveness to know the intensity and the direction to push them varies from parent to parent. The reason why I insist in using the word "cruel" is because the education system in Korea insists in equally comparing unequals, considering only grades. In my level 1 Korean classes, for example, there were Westerners and Chinese students, and the teacher always highlighted how much faster the Chinese learned the vocabulary, and even ranked students: "you're number 1, but you're number 15". Although this is a case of different language backgrounds (not learning disability) I could understand why my Korean friends worried so much about rankings.

    In a classroom of 30 students, all of them are supposed to be "number 1", and my friend, first son, whose parents are as strict as Prof. Chua, was never number 1, not even among the 10 first (despite his 14 hours of daily study), and had to hear he was a shame in his family. Is that really the best way to make a child successful?

  55. When a soccer coach gets a job at a new club and has a bunch of players to work with that he had no part in signing, the dilemma becomes thus: does he drill the players and shuffle them around to suit his style of play? Or does he re-think his own tactics to best complement the players he already has?

    I bring this up because I think parenting isn't too dissimilar. Mrs. Chua, at least in the article, seems to believe in a 'one-size-fits-all' parenting model; i.e. she must not waver or compromise with her children, because ultimately her method is the correct one and will serve her children well. This is also true of parents who believe that the best method of parenting is gently coaxing them towards positive outcomes, and avoiding actions or language that might somehow damage their child's self-esteem.

    But while either of these approaches to parenting could easily breed successful children, I also think parenting ought to take into account the personality of the individual child. I'm one of three siblings and we have very distinct personalities, strengths and weaknesses (as I'm sure many siblings do.) My brother is very intelligent and has a quiet social life but can be very lazy and prone to procrastination - my parents encouraged him to spend time with friends but pushed him hard when it came to study. My sister has a good work ethic but loves to party a bit too much - again, my parents weren't too bothered if she got less-than-spectacular grades (because they knew she was putting the work in at least) but kept a careful eye on her social activities. They weren't perfect parents, but I think that each of us is at a good place in our lives, which we might not otherwise have been able to reach.

    Generally I think it is better for parents to be too involved with their kids rather than not involved enough, and I don't even have a problem with parents using harsh language or - heaven forbid - the occasional light smack, if it is warranted. But I think the problem with Mrs. Chua's approach is that it could be detrimental to a child with low self-esteem or learning issues. In Western countries, those who put in the work are almost guaranteed to succeed, because they can coast over the top of most kids who are happy enough to just cruise along. In Korea or other Asian countries, EVERYONE is working their little butts off, and they are often graded directly against each other, so for every kid that's top of the class there's a good 39 others who have to go home and tell their parents that they failed, regardless of how well they did otherwise.

    Giving a kid a good foot up the bum can sometimes be the best motivation for slackers, but for the kid who has already given it everything he or she has, I doubt they could experience anything more painful. This is when kids can think about suicide, because they start to believe that their life has no worth.

  56. Looks like I got beaten to the point by Henrique. :P

  57. Well said, baekgom84. In addition, if a parent is their child's coach, there are various assistant coaches -- school teachers, music instructors, tutors -- who usually have expertise the parent usually lacks. A good coach consults the assistant coaches about player problems.

    With regard to career paths like Dr Kim's, keep in mind the time cost of retooling. It's fine to have a "safe" degree (MD/engineering/JD/DDS) to fall back on, but that means spending a much larger portion of one's youth getting going.

    About Asian-American children who are critical of the Tiger Mom style of parenting, I wonder if something similar goes on in other groups with great histories of immigrant success.

  58. An approach very similar to Prof. Chua's was taken by László Polgár to bring up three chess champion daughters. Here is the rather brief Wikipedia article about him:


    His theory was that "geniuses are made, not born". Accordingly, he homeschooled his daughters, brought them up very strictly, training them from a very early age to become champions. When someone commented that his daughters were not even allowed to play with dolls, he answered "chess pieces were their dolls". His method was severely criticized and called inhumane by many, but today Judit Polgár "is by far the strongest female chess player in history", also according to Wikipedia, and his other two daughters are grandmasters as well.

  59. Related to the topic at hand:


  60. eirein,

    I think The Korean takes it for granted that parents will give warmth and love to their children as well as authority.

    Fair point. But the Korean cannot understand why other people think Asian parents won't give warmth and love. What kind of monster do they think our parents are? Geez.


    Suppose two kids both love anthropology but one pursues it and one doesn't. Maybe Kid #1's passion for anthropology was as great as Kid #2's but Kid #1 was pushed harder in a different direction.

    But there is an upper limit as to how far a parent will push against anthro. They might nag and yell and scream, but it is not like they will tie their children to a chair and torture them. (They might threaten to disown, but the Korean has never seen anyone following through with the threat.)

    At the end of the day, if a child really really wants something, there is no parent -- not even Tiger Moms -- who will stand in the way. There is even a Korean proverb that says 자식 이기는 부모 없다 -- "There is no parent who prevails over the child."


    The failure of Chua's model is that it does not teach children that learning CAN be (does not have to be) fun and joyful.

    Actually, Prof. Chua describes how her daughter ended up loving to play the difficult music piece.

  61. Henrique, agreed.


    In Korea or other Asian countries, EVERYONE is working their little butts off, and they are often graded directly against each other, so for every kid that's top of the class there's a good 39 others who have to go home and tell their parents that they failed, regardless of how well they did otherwise.

    Here is something that never comes into parenting discussion (at least in America) -- what is good for the country. As a country, isn't it better to have a population that will give their all and make themselves better?

  62. Relevant rage comic :

  63. Have you read the "Amy Chua Is a Wimp" rebuke?


  64. Yes. The Korean was unimpressed. David Brooks is better than that.


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