I’m sure you’ve heard of Amy Chua by now. If you haven’t, you should have. That lady has been all over the news for the past week because of her book The Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother. I know… it sounds strange. Basically, she published an excerpt from the book titled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” in the Wall Street Journal in the first week of January. Slowly, people started catching wind of this article, and since then, they’ve been going crazy over it.
I found out about the article when I had to write an op-ed for my journalism class. I was talking to my friend about the assignment, she whipped up this webpage, and instantly, I had a topic. It doesn’t get much more controversial than this.
I started my article with:
“I’ve been staring at my blank computer screen for 45 minutes now, unable to start this article. If Amy Chua were my mother, she’d be hoarse from yelling by now. She would be threatening to give my most prized possessions to the Salvation Army. She would be telling me that I am not allowed get up from this spot until the article is complete – not for meals or a sip of water, not even to go to the bathroom. “
Read that and you think that I really hate this woman. I don’t. You’d think I’m purposely giving her a bad rap. I’m not.
I just think some of Chua’s ideas are a little extreme. I mean, who calls their child “garbage” loudly in the middle of another child’s birthday party? And that’s one of the less extreme examples of parenting that Chua proudly presents in her essay. You should really read it for the rest. It’s interesting.
But what really ticked me off was that this lady was telling other people how to raise their children. Who gives her that right? Her condescending outlook on the “western way” of parenting infuriates me. At one point she says, “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.” I know a lot of “Western parents,” and not only are they genuinely proud of their kids, but they have reason to be!
Now, I’m not saying I’ve been completely immune to everything that Amy Chua subjected her children to. I’ve been scolded for A-‘s and I played piano for years longer than I wanted to. I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers unless my parents felt extremely comfortable with the kids and their parents, and dating always felt like a taboo subject.
But as I grew older, my parents lightened up a little. Sleepovers were rare, but I went out. I hung out with friends and chose my own activities. I spent hours on YouTube and procrastinated on homework to my heart’s delight. As long as my grades showed results, they let me be.
I think the key to my parents’ method was that they didn’t force me to be someone that THEY envisioned… They made me create my own vision. They taught me to develop my own ambitions and follow them.
In high school, I did feel pressure to be in all the honors and AP classes I could get into, and I felt the need to get A’s in them, but a lot of the time, I put that pressure on myself. My parents do expect me to excel in whichever classes I take, but I also expect myself to excel – because of the values they instilled in me.
I’m not going to say my parents’ way is the only right way to parent a child… My problem with Chua is that she’s forcing her ideas down everyone else’s throats. It would be insanely hypocritical to say my way is the “right one.”
But my point is: I’m Asian. And I’m offended that Chua writes off all Asian parents as being the same, strict, demanding people. They aren’t all the same, and I’m proof of that because I’m an Indian journalism major. Other Indians judge me for that. Aunts, Uncles, even some Indian teachers I’ve had at Northwestern… They’ve said things like, “You DO know that print is dying, right?” and “Uh… What are you going to do about money?” and “Are your parents okay with that?”
Yes, my parents are okay with that. Because although I’m an Indian, my parents aren’t dictators or warlords. They have high hopes for me, but they’ve let me choose my own path.
There is no “Western way” and “Chinese way” of parenting. There is just parenting. Everyone has their own slightly adapted method, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t go around telling everyone what to do, Chua.
And here’s the real kicker: Now the producers of The Joy Luck Club are looking to Chua’s book as a possible movie… Fabulous.
(Honestly, I think that has a whole bunch of problems of its own… But that’s a whole different story, and I need to go. More later! Dun dun dunnnnnnnn cliff hanger)