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Wednesday, 12 January 2011

"Chinese" Mothers

I read an article a couple o' days ago about "Chinese" parenting and "Western" parenting. It was written by a professor at Yale, Amy Chua, and after reading it, I was itching to write a blog response, so here it is.


To those of you who are interested, the link to the article is: HERE.

Needless to say, I disagreed with some of the things she said. 

I'm not saying she's a lousy parent, but don't you think her children had... well, no childhood?

Not allowed to be in school plays, not allowed to watch TV or play games, not allowed to choose their own extracurricular activities, etc.

What kind of parenting is that?? Not only you're being a control freak, you're immediately limiting your child's careers!

School plays = possible careers as stage actors/dancers/singers/producer/director?
Watch TV = (selective shows) err hello, something called general knowledge?
Play games = hey, I'm no gamer myself, but there Are computer games that seek to enrich the mind.
Extracurricular activities = they are EXTRAcurricular activities, hence it's something they are SUPPOSED to enjoy doing themselves, therefore it should be an activity they are allowed to CHOOSE to participate in.


Life's already too short to begin with. Playdates, sleepovers, sports, competing with classmates for roles in the school play, etc... aren't those very much a part of being a child?


My own parents were not pushovers. I got a severe beating whenever I got less than 90 marks for my exams in primary school. But at least my parents allowed (and encouraged) me to join the other activities in school that I showed an interest in. For example, I was a part of my school's MARCHING band, playing the SNARE DRUM (I bet Amy Chua would highly disapprove); in high school, I was an active performing member of a dance group (Entangled); in college, I took part in badminton competitions. Meanwhile, I still practiced the piano and violin diligently at home (of course, with much nagging from my mother).


As a teenager, my focus gradually shifted from academics to music. Admittedly, I've never really studied hard - call it being lazy or whatever - but to be honest, I've NEVER felt anxious about academic exams, as opposed to music exams. That's how I found out that what I cared about, and what I would strive to do well in, was music.


And I was fully supported by my family.


IMHO, every child responds differently to different types of parenting. Amy Chua's daughters responded well to "chinese" parenting, so congratulations to her! But, if what she says were true, if every child responded to "chinese" upbringing the same way Lulu and Sophia did, then we'd already have billions of brilliant "chinese" kids ruling the world by now wouldn't we?


And then there's all that crap about "studies shows".


Studies schmudies.


Whadda load of bull****.


I'm not saying that there's no difference between the mentality of the "westerners" versus the "chinese". Of course there is a difference, there's a MASSIVE difference. But it's because of these "chinese" mothers who, quote: believe their children can be "the best" students, that education in Asia is what it is today: all about rote memorization and regurgitating textbooks. Why the heck do you think "westerners" find their Asian counterparts less opinionated/creative/innovative than themselves?
Because most "chinese" parents (in Malaysia, anyways) want to wear their child like a trophy, to show off to their relatives and friends, and be able to say things like: my child got straight A's for his/her exam!


Err... so your child swallowed the textbook, big deal. *rolls eyes*


Amy Chua mentioned briefly about how her husband, Jed, viewed parenting duties differently from her, and that it sounded (to her) like a terrible deal for the Western parent.


Oh, so it's a good deal if your child is the one suffering for your own benefit? 


Yeah yeah yeah, work hard and play later... you can enjoy life when you're rich and old... bla bla bla... but you're only ever a child once.


Look at Michael Jackson. HE didn't have a childhood because his father insisted that he practiced singing and dancing instead; look where HE ended up.


Where I come from, "chinese" mothers are strewn everywhere. My mum used to tell me that my classmates' mothers back in primary school would ask how I did in my exams. This is how the conversation would go - my mum: A; classmates' mum: B.


B: Hi! How did Clarissa fare in her exams?
A: Not bad, she maintained 90 and above for everything.
B: Oh, that's good!
A: How did Aaron do?
B: Not good. He got 100 in everything except Science.

Like, double eww - tee - eff?


Is that all there is to education? Getting 100marks in every bloody subject? 


My sister recently obtained straight A's for her PMR, and we were all very happy for her. But my parents acknowledged that A's are not everything. Quote from my dad: A's don't make the man.


Let me tell you my personal experience with "chinese" upbringing.


My paternal grandmother and I never got along. Since a toddler, I'd always been closer to my maternal grandmother. For some reason, the other grandma didn't like that. I used to get beaten (by my dad) for nothing at all - for watching tv, for playing the piano when she was reading the newspaper - just because she ordered him to do so. Those were the days in my childhood where I was miserable at home (because she lived with us), and my relationship with my dad was pretty sour back then. I sought escape during the weekends, and my maternal grandparents would bring me to their home, where she couldn't touch me.


Did I mention she used to throw things at my siblings as well?


The above might sound completely unrelated, but I wasn't referring to my parents being "chinese" parents. My dad went through the "chinese" upbringing, where "parents are always right". Hence, he always did as his mother ordered, whether or not it made sense. 


Do you know when my dad and I finally managed to get along?
After she passed away.
Go figure.


Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Amy Chua's methods don't work. Her daughters are living proof that "chinese" parenting work on them. But MY view is that it's not the same for every child, and every individual responds differently to different approaches.


However, I DO maintain that her methods were just short of slave driving.




My mom called earlier (I told her to read the article) and also agreed that it was too much. Childhood is called childhood for a reason, and I think every child has a right to experience it as fully as they can. To me, a parent that takes away everything that one ought to experience as a child is not much of a parent.

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