Archive for April, 2011

Comment 2 on “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”: Not Respecting Daughter and In Turn Allowing Daughter to Disrespect Mom

Saturday, April 23rd, 2011

(First, I must say to Amy Chua and her family members: I apologize for passing judgment and making comments on your family’s private affairs in public – outsiders should not pass judgment and comment on how others raise and teach their children in a manner that those children can hear or read about it. I feel bad, but it can’t be helped in your case, because the Mom in your family has published this book about your family’s private affairs, a book that has shaken the world and is affecting the whole of humanity. Therefore, many people in this world now have an obligation to take a position on many things in this book and that means publicly passing judgment and commenting on how the Mom in your family raises and teaches her children.)


In the book “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” written by Amy Chua, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, supposedly represents “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”, Amy Chua does not respect her daughter’s basic personal dignity, and in turn also allows the daughter to disrespect mother. This is completely opposite to what traditional Chinese thought advocates for bringing up children.


In Chapter 11 of the book, Amy Chua describes how, when her second daughter Lulu is seven and has been unable, despite practicing on the piano many hours a day for many days, to play a certain difficult tune well, Amy Chua condemns her daughter severely. Ms. Chua accuses her daughter of “purposely working herself into a frenzy”, and of being “lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent, and pathetic”, and threatens her with no meals, no Christmas presents or birthday parties for 3, 4 years, etc. This kind of insulting condemnation and threat with punishment shows complete disrespect for the daughter’s basic personal dignify: she is only a seven-year-old who temporarily cannot attain a certain level of skill in piano; she actually has practiced for hours every day; she has not committed any serious trespasses, nor has she committed any crimes against humanity!


In turn, having received treatment that disrespects her personal dignity over and over, the daughter gradually begins to hit back. It starts with contradicting mother, and then evolves into returning the insulting rebukes, into shows of complete disrespect for mother. Perversely, this kind of behavior, which is considered a severe trespass in Chinese culture, Amy Chua does not stop at all, but instead tolerates and allows to go on, and even seems to take pride in her daughter displaying such behavior.


In page 48 of the book, while describing how the second daughter resists the severe music practice schedule, Amy Chua says that she and her daughter form a pair who are “simultaneously incompatible and inextricably bound”. Then Ms. Chua rather proudly recounts how, in talking with her seven-year-old daughter, they conclude that they are “good buddies” in a “weird, terrible way”, and then daughter hugs mother. This lets us understand the real picture: Amy Chua, like so many parents who lack knowledge of the Chinese intellectual heritage, thinks that no matter how disrespectful of the offspring a parent is, as long as the parent lets the offspring also in turn show disrespect for the parent, then the parent has not mistreated the offspring!


Sigh! Respect for one’s parents is actually the most basic form of respect for others, and for Amy Chua to not infuse that most basic form of respect for others into her offspring is actually considered by Chinese culture to be one of the greatest mistreatments by parents of their offspring! It is “to raise but not teach”.


Of course, according to traditional Chinese culture, offspring may express differing opinions to their parents, since offspring should be able to discuss anything and everything with their parents, and also, after all, offspring have the duty to dissuade and dispute parents when they are morally wrong, but the opinions must be expressed in a respectful manner, with politeness and courtesy.


In the name of some kind of “achievement”, and in this case it is the playing of musical instruments, to both disrespect the children and then also allow the children in turn to disrespect their parents, even to the point of loud argument and throwing things in public, can such farces represent the fine Chinese tradition of bringing up children? Absolutely not. And not only for the Chinese tradition – such farces cannot represent the tradition of any civilization for bringing up children.


The Chinese tradition for bringing up children puts the greatest emphasis on respect, and first and foremost on respect for parents. Why is respect for parents so important? Long ago Confucius has answered this question: it is because those who respect their parents won’t disrespect others (see The Classic of Xiao, p. 5, Chapter 2, “The Son of Heaven”)! And in the Chinese intellectual tradition, respect for others is the guarantee of civil society. This is because traditional Chinese culture advocates using Li or courtesy and etiquette to bring harmony and order to society, and what is the essence of this Li or courtesy and etiquette? It is respect, nothing more. Confucius has said, “Li – it is nothing other than respect.” (See The Classic of Xiao, p. 25, Chapter 12, “A Broad and Crucial Doctrine”.) Therefore, in the Chinese intellectual heritage, respect for parents is the fundamental foundation of civil society.


Therefore, to raise children according to the Chinese intellectual heritage, the parents must set an example by showing respect for the personal dignity of the children, and at the same time, must firmly uphold the requirement that the children show respect for, and courtesy and politeness to, their parents. Parents must strictly prohibit all words and acts that show disrespect and must absolutely not tolerate them.


Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明

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Comment 1 on “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”: Tiger Mom does not Represent Chinese Mothers

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Just read Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom” and watched the video of her interview with Charlie Rose: the Wall Street Journal has no right to brand her style of parenting as being representative of “Chinese mothers” (Wall Street Journal: “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”). While I agree with the general thrust that parents should one, make young children work hard at learning, two, demand and expect performance to the best of their ability from their kids, and three, make sure young children master basic intellectual skills, which can often only be achieved through repeated and tiresome “rote learning”, I find her parenting as recounted in the book overly obsessed with “achievement”, disrespectful of the child’s dignity, and yes, sometimes downright cruel and therefore absolutely wrong. Being proud of my heritage and considering myself to know a bit about that heritage, I object to that kind of excess being labeled “Chinese”.

刚刚看完蔡美儿“虎妈妈的战歌”一书和查理• 罗斯对她的访问,发觉了华尔街日报没权把她的子女教养方式说为是代表中华母亲的方式(见华尔街日报:“为什么中华母亲比较优越”)。的确,我同意,父母应该一、要求子女努力勤学,二、要求子女尽力做到能力所能做到的最好成绩,同时要把子女作出这种尽力看为是理所当然的,三、务必使子女掌握基本的知识技能,而很多时只有通过反复的、讨厌的“机械学习”才能掌握这些技能的。但是,书中所描绘的教养方式,一味痴迷于“成绩”、不尊重孩子的基本个人尊严、有时甚至残酷地(因而是绝对错误地)对待孩子。我身为华裔,把中华传统文化引以为荣,亦认为自己对中华文化传统略知一二,所以我反对把这种过分的做法标志为“中华的”。

Over-obsession with “achievement”, disrespect for the child’s dignity, and cruelty, can only be the parenting style of those modern Chinese parents who lack education in the traditional Chinese intellectual heritage.


Far from any obsession with “achievement”, what has been stressed in my experience of “Chinese parenting” (from my own parents) and in my research into what ideals the Chinese intellectual heritage has traditionally prescribed for Chinese parenting, is the supremacy of Chinese values, the Chinese values of relationship-defined obligations, wherein xiao or being good to parents and ancestors, and loyalty to country, have come first and foremost, the Chinese values of respect for all persons whether superior, equal, or inferior in station, the values of courage to stand by what is right even if the entire world is against you and you are threatened with dire consequences, the Chinese values of the obligation to dissuade and dispute authority when they are morally wrong, and the Chinese values of the importance of morals and principles over book learning and riches. These values had been drummed into me repeatedly by my parents, by school, and by the popular culture that I experienced as a child in Hong Kong during the early 1960s. My own research since I’ve grown up into traditional Chinese parenting and upbringing of children has confirmed what I had experienced as a child.


Charlie Rose hit it right on the head when he repeated pressed Amy Chua on the importance of values in bringing up children.

查理• 罗斯访问里曾多次追问蔡美儿教养子女价值是否重要,这的确是一针见血。

Yes, hard work and striving always to achieve to your potential is good and important, but that is only a part of the overall dedication to relationship-defined obligations, to morals and to principles. Those Chinese values are what real Chinese parenting should be all about.


As for Amy Chua’s repeated pleas in the interview with Charlie Rose about “unconditional love” being most important, I think that reveals that she is just another Westerner after all - see my essay The Traditional Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the Western Supremacy of Love.

至于蔡美儿在查理• 罗斯的访问中所屡次诉求的“无条件的爱才是最重要的”,证明了她不过只是个西方人罢了:请看我的文章“中华传统的人伦至上对西方的爱至上”

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明

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