Comment 1 on “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”: Tiger Mom does not Represent Chinese Mothers
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”.
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.
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.
Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明