Did you read Amy Chua’s article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” in the Wall Street Journal? In the two weeks since it was published, Chua has received hundreds of emails, and even death threats because of her parenting style.
Ms. Chua insists that her daughters receive all A’s in school, not attend sleepovers or play dates, never watch television or play video games and that she choose all their extracurricular activities.
Ms. Chua claims that she herself was raised by these very methods and is now a wife, mother of two, and a successful professor of law at Yale (and now a bestselling author). If this is the definition of success, then Ms. Chua has achieved the American dream.
Chua says that Chinese mothers would never accept it if their child came home with a “B” on a test. My eldest daughter, Alexa, who gets “A’s” in school, received a “B” on her recent honors Biology exam. I know my daughter is capable of a higher grade and I am unsure where she faltered. I know she studied late into the night for the test and that she really did attempt to master the material. And so, my response was to tell Alexa that her grade was ok and that I was certain she did her best.
When I was Alexa’s age, I received A’s and B’s in school. My parents never pushed me to get all “A’s” and so, I never really felt any external or internal pressure to do so. There have been many times that I have wondered whether a nudge from mom and dad would have helped me to achieve my fullest potential. It has been convenient all along the way to place parental blame for my lack of competitive edge.
I can’t help but feel torn with my own daughter over whether I should be more like Chua or more like my own parents with regard to her academics. I want Alexa to have balance in her life between school and extracurriculars of her choosing. The stress of academics could compromise her social development which, in my estimation, is also of high import. But, if I don’t help her to realize her potential, will she resent me later? Is it my responsibility as her parent to push her when I know she is capable and can handle it?
Like Chua, and most parents, I want my daughters to be successful. I’m just not as certain what defines success. Perhaps, straight A’s and piano performances at Carnegie Hall (Chua’s oldest daughter achieved this after hours of practice and drilling by her “tiger” mother) will lead to Harvard or Yale. But, then again, maybe a few “B’s” and some sleepover parties with the dance team will lead to a well-balanced and socially confident young woman who will have an equally or exceedingly happy and fulfilling future.
I know I don’t have the answers. I certainly could not proclaim in any article to be “superior” as did Chua. Maybe some day, it will be convenient for me to be the scapegoat for my own daughter’s perceived shortcomings in life. Then again, Chua’s daughters may feel the same about her. They can write about it in their best-selling books, or on their blog page.