Why Chinese moms are superior mothers, and why their kids need serious therapy

Chinese and North American parents, upon discovering what passes for good parenting practices in the others’ countries, are usually mutually appalled — often with good reason. In the realm of parenting, or lack-thereof, there’s so much to criticize on either side of the Pacific that arguing about who does it better seems rather beside the point, much like arguing who’s the cleaner mud-wrestler.

But people do argue about this; Chinese-Americans and Chinese-Canadians can swing either way, as evidenced by a provocative article shared on Facebook recently by a Chinese-American friend, and two Chinese-American (very) negative responses to it.

This week, an articulate, hard-core Chinese-American mother and apologist for traditional Chinese parenting* is promoting her forthcoming memoir with an article in the WSJ in which she explains, among other things, why kids sometimes need to be told they’re “garbage.” I won’t comment on the article, other than to point out that much hinges on how one defines “success” and understands purpose in life, and that a mother flaunting her kid’s achievements in public in order to show off the mother’s superiority is a Chinese cliché. Yes, that’s a biased introduction, but, well, there it is. :)

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior
Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?
By Amy Chua

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.
[...]
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. … Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image…

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” 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.

And this is not the most shocking, or challenging, section of the article. I really suggest you read the whole thing.

TISadsmall Why Chinese moms are superior mothers, and why their kids need serious therapyAnother Chinese-American friend shared this response over Facebook:
Parents like Amy Chua are the reason why Asian-Americans like me are in therapy
By Betty Ming Liu

Chua is a narrow-minded, joyless bigot. Don’t waste your money on the book. [...]

The self-congratulatory essay goes on and on… Chua buys into the hardcore, traditional Chinese approach to tough love.

This is so sad because we’re talking about values that have nearly ruined so many of us.

Of course, what’s really sad is that Chua is perpetuating very dangerous ideas:

  • Haven’t we had enough of over-pressured, guilt-ridden Asian immigrant and Asian-American college students committing suicide and acting out???
  • Who gave her the right to define what is means to be “real” Chinese? Do all Chinese people have to behave like this to be authentic?

[...] Well, there’s a dirty little secret about these lunatic, prestige-whoring Chinese parents that Chua represents. For all their lusting after the elitism of Ivy League degrees, what they admire more than anything is financial success.

But getting back to Chua’s essay. In it, she writes: “I’m happy to be the one hated.”

Poor thing. It’s the only time the word “happy” appears in this excerpt from her book.

As for me, I’m happy to be the one…who is finally happy. I sucked at piano, which my mother made me study because she had been a child too poor for lessons… Screwing up academically was the only power I had over my dad, a tyrant who wouldn’t let me take art or English courses.

A second Chinese-American response, which I think is much more compelling and sobering, can be found here, along with many additional responses in the comment section:
Is Amy Chua right when she explains “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” in an op/ed in the Wall Street Journal?
The article puts forward a very strong view on behalf of Chinese/Chinese-American mothers who hold their children to rigorous and demanding standards even if that requires using abusive language as “motivation”.
By Christine Lu

There’s a culture clash you can’t overlook here. The “superior” Chinese mother in my life had a strictly results driven, merit based mindset and a heavy emphasis on test scores, achievements and report cards being able to show that her daughter was better than everyone else in the class — which in turn was a reflection on her success as a parent. However, the environment in which she raised us in was a different country. One that she has honestly never gotten used to or felt comfortable in living in. To her, the idea of having her children become “Americanized” was looked down upon as failure. The idea of allowing a more flexible stance, a softer tone or an expression of individualism was out of the question. This duality of living in a very “Chinese” household and going to school where our American teachers taught us to be free thinking and creative were constantly at odds with each other growing up.

Drawing from personal experience, the reason why I don’t feel this works is because I’ve seen an outcome that Amy Chua, the author fails to address or perhaps has yet to experience.

My big sister was what I used to jealously call “every Asian parents wet dream come true” (excuse the crassness, but it really does sum up the resentment I used to feel towards her). She got straight As. Skipped 5th grade. Perfect SAT score. Varsity swim team. Student council. Advanced level piano. Harvard early admission. An international post with the Boston Consulting Group in Hong Kong before returning to the U.S. for her Harvard MBA. Six figure salary. Oracle. Peoplesoft. Got engaged to a PhD. Bought a home. Got married.

Her life summed up in one paragraph above.

Her death summed up in one paragraph below.

Committed suicide a month after her wedding at the age of 30 after hiding her depression for 2 years. She ran a plastic tube from the tailpipe of her car into the window. Sat there and died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage of her new home in San Francisco. Her husband found her after coming home from work. A post-it note stuck on the dashboard as her suicide note saying sorry and that she loved everyone.

Mine is an extreme example of course. But 6 years since her passing, I can tell you that the notion of the “superior Chinese mother” that my mom carried with her also died with my sister on October 28, 2004. If you were to ask my mom today if this style of parenting worked for her, she’ll point to a few boxes of report cards, trophies, piano books, photo albums and Harvard degrees and gladly trade it all to have my sister back.

For every success story that has resulted from the “Chinese mothers” style of parenting, there are chapters that have yet to unfold. The author can speak to her example of how it’s worked for her but it’ll be interesting to see how long you can keep that gig up and pass it down until something gives.

As a responsibility to herself as a “superior Chinese mother”, I think Amy Chua should do a bit of research outside her comfort zone and help readers understand why Asian-American females have one of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S. — I bet many of you didn’t know that. I didn’t until after the fact. It’d make a good follow up book to this one she’s currently profiting from.

These remind me of two other articles, one about a Chinese book titled “100 Sentences Parents Shouldn’t Say to their Children” (父母不该对孩子说的100句话), and a Time Asia article that reflects our own experiences with Chinese cultures’ highly-pressured kids:

What Not to Say to Your Kid:
…Some of its content is easy to anticipate, but at times also offers tidbits of social insight or even some cultural humor. I’ll share a few of the ones I found interesting…
1. 你是从垃圾堆里捡的 (We found you in a trash heap.)
15. 那个人真不是东西 (That person is nothing.)
16. 没事,反正没人看见 (Don’t worry, no one saw us.)
20. 别问这些不要脸的事情 (Don’t ask about such shameful things.) Is he asking about the garbage heap, maybe?
22. 早知道这样,当初就不该生你 (If I had known you’d turn out like this, I never would have given birth to you.)

The future looks… dysfunctional?
…many [parents] also quietly fear the impact of the ferocious pressure imposed on their children in service of these aspirations — how could they not, when tales of emotionally broken prepubescents and student suicides are a media cliché? But however ambivalent they may feel, most parents conclude that the goals are worth the risks…

Honestly, the longer I live here the more I find to both appreciate (and possibly imitate), and despise in Chinese parenting. And critiquing typical North American notions of good parenting would be shooting fish in a barrel. Just thought I’d add this since everything else above taken together certainly leans to the pro-Western side. I would love to read a smart, thoughtful, non-nationalistic Chinese critique of North American parenting ideals.

*P.S. – As mentioned, the article is part of the author’s book promotion, and may have been deliberately written over-the-top just to drum up publicity. One commenter in the discussion thread on the third article explains:

The title of her WSJ column is tongue-in-cheek. This is evident in the (long) subtitle of her upcoming book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: “This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.” The column and the book are not meant to be dissertations on the empirically proven triumph of “Chinese” parenting over “Western” parenting; they’re personal narratives that attempt to humanize an alternative style of parenting that can be and has been easily misunderstood.

Update: For a thoughtful critique from a Chinese-American pursuing psychology with a focus on Asian-Americans, see Amy Chua’s Chinese “Tiger Mother” and the Myth of the Model Minority.

Update 2: This looks like it might be a Chinese translation: 華人父母有啥不同 by Amy Chua

16 thoughts on “Why Chinese moms are superior mothers, and why their kids need serious therapy

  1. Great piece! I also read that article this weekend and was seriously considering putting it on my blog so other expats can read it. Very provocative, as you mention but a great discussion-starter. I personally grew up the American way, with my parents letting me figure out my life path. Honestly, looking back, I would have appreciated a firmer hand/guidance to help me make better life/career decisions. So I think that author, although extreme, does have some good points…

  2. About parenting – from a teacher in Beijing.

    http://thediplomat.com/

    I enjoyed your blog entry on parenting, and the one in the Diplomat – I saw those attitudes in my students – the drive and the despair.

    The assuredness of their parent’s love, and the sadness that they could never bring themselves to actually say “I love you”.

  3. Glad you weighed in on this, and also cited some of the excellent blog posts I came across recently on this topic.

    My Chinese husband — who studies child psychology with a focus on parenting — shook his head, citing all of the potential psychological disasters from this type of parenting. But more importantly, he even brought up the biggest thing missing in her words: she doesn’t mention a thing about teaching her daughters to care for others, or the community.

  4. I was waiting for some response to this article, so thanks. And wondered about the absence of mentioning satisfaction or happiness. I appreciate the author’s boldness in her position. But oh my! I have tutored many of these Chinese American children (even sweat-shop workers paying with a meager salary) and my first thought was: Where does this end? I wouldn’t be surprised to her from her children’s perspective some day.

  5. I added a picture from a local expat magazine (see above) — it’s an ad for one of the international schools in Tianjin. The contrast in values and goals is jarring, to say the least!

  6. Why is the art of music required to endure the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua? Her lust for fame as an old-fashioned stage mother of either a famous violinist (yet another mechanical Sarah Chang?) or a famous pianist (yet another mechanical Lang Lang?) shines through what she perceives as devotion to the cultivation of the cultural sensitivities of her two unfortunate daughters.

    Daughter Lulu at age 7 is unable to play compound rhythms from Jacques Ibert with both hands coordinated? Leonard Bernstein couldn’t conduct this at age 50! And he isn’t the only musician of achievement with this-or-that shortcoming. We all have our closets with doors that are not always fully opened.

    And why all this Chinese obsession unthinkingly dumped on violin and piano? What do the parents with such insistence know of violin and piano repertoire? Further, what do they know of the great body of literature for flute? For French horn? For organ? For trumpet? Usually, nothing!

    For pressure-driven (not professionally-driven!) parents like Amy Chua their children, with few exceptions, will remain little more than mechanical sidebars to the core of classical music as it’s practiced by musicians with a humanistic foundation.

    Professor Chua better be socking away a hefty psychoreserve fund in preparation for the care and feeding of her two little lambs once it becomes clear to them both just how empty and ill-defined with pseudo-thorough grounding their emphasis has been on so-called achievement.

    Read more about this widespread, continuing problem in Forbidden Childhood (N.Y., 1957) by Ruth Slenczynska.
    ______________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall), The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  7. Continuing to follow the saga of what may be one of the more outrageous examples – and there are similar examples aplenty! – of the child abuses of Amy Chua, I think it timely and prudent to provide a healthy, humane counterpoint by way of a much different kind of example of adult guidance to a young stranger. To wit:

    ADVICE TO A YOUNG PERSON INTERESTED IN A CAREER IN THE LAW

    In May 1954, M. Paul Claussen, Jr, a 12-year-old boy living in Alexandria, Virginia, sent a letter to Mr Justice Felix Frankfurter in which he wrote that he was interested in “going into the law as a career” and requested advice as to “some ways to start preparing myself while still in junior high school.” This is the reply he received:

    My Dear Paul:
    No one can be a truly competent lawyer unless he is a cultivated man. If I were you I would forget about any technical preparation for the law. The best way to prepare for the law is to be a well-read person. Thus alone can one acquire the capacity to use the English language on paper and in speech and with the habits of clear thinking which only a truly liberal education can give. No less important for a lawyer is the cultivation of the imaginative faculties by reading poetry, seeing great paintings, in the original or in easily available reproductions, and listening to great music. Stock your mind with the deposit of much good reading, and widen and deepen your feelings by experiencing vicariously as much as possible the wonderful mysteries of the universe, and forget about your future career.
    With good wishes,
    Sincerely yours,
    [signed] Felix Frankfurter

    From THE LAW AS LITERATURE, ed. by Ephraim London, Simon and Schuster, 1960.
    __________________

    I knew that a Paul Claussen had been a major figure (1972-2007) in the Office of the Historian of The United States Department of State in Washington, with an abiding interest in The Great Seal of The United States. http://diplomacy.state.gov/documents/organization/101044.pdf
    An obituary of Dr Claussen is on page 47 in http://2001-2009.state.gov/documents/organization/86414.pdf
    and ‘s+friend%3A+office+of+the+historian+suffers+a…-a0167843232

    So, wishing to determine whether or not the elder Claussen was, indeed, the boy writing to Justice Frankfurter in 1954 I wrote to his former colleague at State. The reply received today follows.

    —– Original Message —–
    From: PA History Mailbox
    To: ‘Andre M. Smith’
    Sent: Tuesday, January 10, 2012 10:11 AM
    Subject: RE: Chris Morrison

    Dear Mr. Smith,

    Copied below is the response I received from one of Paul Claussen’s long-time colleagues here in the Office of the Historian.

    Yes it is. The young Paul wanted to be a lawyer and so decided to write Felix Frankfurter and ask for his advice. Frankfurter evidently was taken with his letter and wrote back at length…Frankfurter of course kept a copy and the text of the letter has been published in collections of Frankfurter’s writings.

    Please contact us of you have any additional questions.

    Best regards,
    Chris

    Christopher A. Morrison, Ph.D.
    Historian, Policy Studies Division
    U.S. Department of State
    Office of the Historian (PA/HO)
    _________________________________

    Dr Claussen did follow the advice of Justice Frankfurter. And he came out of that advice none the worse for it. The world is much bigger, richer, more tolerant, and more laden with opportunities than the blinkered view of Amy Chua would have her daughters and fellow fear-laden mothers without Ivy League tenure believe.

    For a very well-balanced alternative to the mania – and it is nothing less – to which the many Chuas of the world subscribe, read the refreshingly informed reports on http://bowdoinorient.com/article/triplet/2009-12-04/3/2, http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/09/28/china, and http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2009/10/16/liberalarts
    ________________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  8. For all my focus on this subject I think the following text, written from the trenches on the other side of The Pacific, should be required reading everywhere else; perhaps even over there.

    Cordially,

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.
    __________________________

    Chinese Mom: American ‘Tiger Mother’ clueless about real Chinese parenting
    The “Chinese” parenting style advocated by Asian-American author Amy Chua is no longer popular among Chinese mothers
    By Helen He 20 January, 2011
    http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/life/helen-he-dont-demonize-chinese-mothers-545975

    As a post-1980s mother, I, like many other young moms in China, often seek parenting advice from various channels and never miss reading the latest popular books on parenting.

    Recently, a book titled “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” written by Yale university professor Amy Chua on the parenting experience of a Chinese mother, stirred up a controversy in the West after an excerpt from the book was printed in the Wall Street Journal.

    I’m a born-and-bred Shanghainese mother, not that proficient in English, so I wasn’t able to read Amy Chua’s entire work. But I did have friends translate a book excerpt printed in the Wall Street Journal for me.

    The author claims that mothers, by being strict and narrowminded and focusing only on results, are able to nurture child geniuses.

    This is clearly a utilitarian take on parenting and I was deeply astounded that Chua lauds this as a forte of Chinese mothers.

    I only want to say: Please don’t demonize Chinese mothers.

    Amy Chua’s claims are misleading because Chinese-American women cannot be said to represent mothers in mainland China, and thus are unable to objectively elaborate on the parenting attitudes and experiences of Chinese mothers.

    Amy Chua does not speak for all of us
    Environment has a big influence over a person’s values, and the role of a mother is not something that every woman takes to immediately.

    The Chinese parenting method Chua champions has no claims to authenticity.Every mother gradually devises her own parenting method, which is often shaped by her own experience growing up, as well as the environment around her.

    According to reports, Amy Chua is a Filipino of Chinese descent.

    Her parents emigrated to America and underwent an intense struggle to set their roots in a foreign land, which inevitably led them to adopt a more utilitarian outlook in raising their children: “We struggled to get you this new citizenship status, the best way to repay us as our children is to succeed in life.”

    Amy Chua brings up Confucius in her article to explain why Chinese parents feel that their children are indebted to them for life. But, she probably doesn’t know that there is another fundamental saying in the Confucian school of thought that “ethics matter more than results, harmony more than competition.”

    Simply put, one should not be overly aggressive in trying to outdo others nor adopt a mindset that every investment should get due returns.

    Confucius also believed that education should be something tailored according to an individual’s talents and capabilities, rather than a force-fed regime.

    In other words, the parenting that Amy Chua received while growing up already deviates from Chinese traditions, and despite her attempts to follow in the footsteps of her parents, the Chinese parenting method she champions has no claims to authenticity.

    This strict parenting style, if blindly — or even vengefully — repeated among successive generations, will only be a prolonged tragedy.

    The parenting styles of post-1980s mothers
    The bulk of parents in China today comprise children born in the 1970s and 1980s. I will raise two examples to illustrate how Amy Chua’s perception of Chinese parenting methods differs from current practices in modern China.

    Kaixin001, China’s Facebook that’s popular among the post-1980s generation in China, recently held two online polls.

    One was titled “If you had a girl, what would you teach her?” while the other was “What would you do if you discovered your teenage son was in love?” Each had a total of 97,470 and 28,915 respondents, respectively.

    a.. More on CNNGo: Another ‘Tiger Mother’ rebuttal from across the ocean
    In the first poll, piano and karate came out on top with 55 percent and 54 percent of the total votes. In third place was the response “How to deal with men,” which shows that young parents are also concerned about their child’s interpersonal skills and EQ.

    In the second poll, there were more than 15 different response options, but only 366 netizens (less than one percent of respondents) chose the most extreme option of sharply reprimanding the child.

    The reason why books such as “Fu Lei’s Letters Home” and “Education of Love,” as well as more recent titles such as “A Good Mother Is Better than a Good Teacher” and “An Average Student at Home,” are so well-received among Chinese parents is because they reflect a parenting mindset premised on mutual respect and communication between parent and child — an attitude that’s fast becoming the norm in China.

    The parenting method that Amy Chua encourages, one of forcing a child to discover his talents through disciplined and repeated practice, is contrary to the upbringing that many young Chinese mothers have received.

    The parent-child relationship depicted in “Growing Pains,” an American television series popular in China in the 1980s, is something that is finding favor with many mothers of my generation.

    When I was in university, the way the Seaver family openly communicated with each other was something I could identify with.

    This strict parenting style, if blindly — or even vengefully — repeated among successive generations, will only produce a prolonged tragedy.Along with the opening up of China, my parents’ generation had also opened up to other methods of parenting. They no longer held on to a “spare the rod and spoil the child” mindset, but instead saw their children as equals and hoped to build friendships with them.

    Nurturing healthy individuals rather than child prodigies who have no fun
    The desire for one’s child to be a straight-A student or a musical genius seems simple and naive to most Chinese mothers.

    A survey of 1,285 mothers of children up to six years old conducted by Babytree, China’s largest parenting website, found that health, happiness, self-confidence and kindness were the four most important traits that mothers hoped their children would have.

    About 77 percent of mothers did not expect their children to have particular talents and 65 percent of mothers said they would encourage children to pursue their hobbies, even if it was not an interest shared by the mother.

    The most important wish among mothers was for their children to have a happy, stress-free life.

    The point I wish to emphasize is this: a child is a gift, but the right to control him is not a given.

    The child that we nurture may subtly be influenced by our thoughts and values while under our care, but this does not mean that we should forcefully deprive them the independence to discover and grasp other opportunities that the world offers.

    Taiwanese author Lung Ying-tai wrote in her book “Seeing Off” that the role of a parent is merely to stand by one’s child and watch his back as he gradually ventures afar.

    This very appropriately describes the mindset of many young parents in China today.

    To raise a child is to give him the freedom to build a life of his own, rather than to force him to become a replica of your own successes or as compensation to make up for your regrets. As such, the right to decide what is good or bad for a child is not entirely up to the parents — the child should have a say, too.

    If life really is a race, instead of encouraging your child to tirelessly try to outdo others and come in first, why not let him run at an enjoyable pace so he can admire the sights along the way?

    I dare say that most Chinese mothers, especially those belonging to the post-1980s generation, do silently but lovingly encouraging their children to make the most of life in exactly this manner — a mindset contrary to that advocated by Amy Chua.

    Article translated by Debbie Yong. See the original Chinese version here.

    http://travel.cnn.com/shanghai/life/helen-he-dont-demonize-chinese-mothers-545975

  9. Some words penned in response to the thoughts of a student writing elsewhere . . .

    I would not normally lock horns and try to best a junior in high school; I’m hoping you do not read my words here as such, for they are meant for you only as a provocation to further thought to your ideas well-presented.

    You’ve written that you “used to get frustrated when I had to practice violin and I really didn’t want to . . .” Do I read correctly that you no longer “get frustrated?” If so, that’s a remarkable advancement. As a musician myself I want to ask you, Why do you practice violin and not another instrument of your choosing less frustrating, for examples, flute, harpsichord, tuba, or tabla. There is a vast – and I do mean vast! – repertoire for each of those, and many other, instruments that could challenge you unendingly for the remainder of your life. Instead of spending hours at your chosen instrument (whichever it may be) in the drudgery of isolated practice, why not spend more of your time in practice with music ensembles of various kinds. This can yield a discipline and advancement of a uniquely different kind. If you are studying formally with a violin teacher I’m quite sure he will confirm the well-founded idea that, as a performer, playing an instrument is one kind of challenge but playing an instrument WITH PEOPLE is significantly more so. A musician in isolation is a musician limited. And herein lays one, only one, of the transparent contradictions of the way Professor Chua has taught her two daughters to approach their instruments; opportunistically solely for unartistic purposes.

    A fundamental flaw in the approach to music of Amy Chua – an amusical hack with no known talent for an art of any kind! – is that she has decided it’s perfectly acceptable to pervert one of the greater of the fine arts for use in ulterior purposes. In the example of the Chua family, so-so slogging through masterpieces of music was used to impress others when applying for admission to university. (Would Professor Chua dare to advocate this openly with religion, physics, good grammar, or issues of national interest?) The whole idea that her elder daughter, Sophia, played a debut recital in Carnegie Hall is an early example of the pervasive blight of résumé bloat on which social climbers like Amy Chua have advanced themselves; a blight to which the Chua daughters were introduced early by two parents who know well how to tweak the system to gain unearned personal advantage.

    Carnegie Hall, http://www.carnegiehall.org/history/, includes three auditoria in its building: Stern Auditorium http://www.carnegiehall.org/information/stern-auditorium-perelman-stage/, Zankel Hall http://www.gotickets.com/venues/ny/zankel_hall_at_carnegie_hall.php, and Weill Recital Hall http://www.carnegiehall.org/Information/Weill-Recital-Hall/. It was in Weill that Sophia performed as only one among a cattle-call string of young pianists that day. Do you doubt what I write here? Compare the architectural design,
    http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/RV-AB160_chau_i_G_20110107132345.jpg, behind Sophia with that of the architectural design at the rear of the stage in http://www.carnegiehall.org/information/stern-auditorium-perelman-stage/. Having been a performer, myself, in both Stern and Weill over many years you have my assurance that Sophia performed her piece in Weill. Debut recital in Carnegie Hall! Indeed!

    You have written about your parents that they are “less extreme than Chua I’ll admit, but a lot of her memoir is satire and exaggeration.” Don’t be deceived by quick-change artist Professor Chua. She has spent more than one year trying to convince readers of her text that she is some kind of nouveau belles-lettrist who did no more than exercise a writer’s license to engage her readers. In truth she meant what she wrote until her hypocritical posturing as an authentic Chinese mother — born in Illinois to a Filipino father, neither speaks Chinese nor writes Chinese script — came back to haunt her with a ferocity that caused this self-styled Tiger Mother to recoil into improvised doublespeak. Amy Chua is a complete fake!

    All young musicians should be given only two music instrument choices to pursue in life, Violin or Piano. All else is useless waste. Any adult giving such advice is one woefully ill-informed. As a bass trombonist, my instrument has been my first class ticket from person-to-person, school-to-school, city-to-city, studio-to-studio, and stage-to-stage. With the kinds of preparations the Chua daughters were given will they ever perform, as I have, with Richard Tucker, Birgit Nilsson, Roberta Peters, Herbert von Karajan, Leopold Stokowski, and the two-thirds of The New York Philharmonic who were my schoolmates for five years in Juilliard? Forget it!

    Mercifully, I was never besieged with a Tiger Mother or Tiger Anything to motivate me. Yes, I too sometimes was bored with scales and chords. Yes, sometimes my imagined future seemed an unattainable fantasy. Yes, I did sometimes fall flat on my face in public performance (as did my teachers before me and also their teachers before them). Life went on and continues to do so.

    You’ve written that “At this point (as a Junior in high school) about 35% of the pressure to do well comes from my parents and the other 65% is complete self-motivation.” From the subtlety of your writing I suspect you’re cutting yourself short with that 65%. You appear to be much more highly motivated than your objective perspective about yourself can show you at this early time.

    The violin? I advise you to seriously reëvaluate what you believe is your relationship to any instrument of your choice; if, indeed, the violin has been your choice and not that of someone else. If the violin has been your choice, stay with it through all the coming stormy weather of doubt and seeming incompetence. If it is not, drop it in preference to another more to your liking and its fitness for your physicality. (If it’s the tuba, tell your parents that someone other than I recommended it!)

    Good Luck!

    Cordially,
    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  10. Amy Chua has never lived in China. Her understanding of its culture, that is, the culture as it’s truly lived by the indigenous people in their dailyness, then must be that of the tourist. Here perhaps is one view of a China she may or may not have seen.

    http://bbs.tiexue.net/post_5057209_1.html [Each of the four pictures can be enlarged for clearer viewings.] In what likely is Nanning, the capitol of Guang Xi region, the boy was caught stealing money to pursue his addiction in Internet gaming. (This is a common problem in China, especially among adolescent boys. As punishment his father has publicly stripped off the boy’s clothes, lathered him with some unstated brown caking (which I shall discretely hope is mere mud), bound his hands behind his back, and then pulled him on his back and buttocks by one foot for disgrace through a very-public area of the city.

    On contemporary corporal punishment in China:

    A third of them [child respondents] said corporal punishment negatively affected their personalities, causing them to become introverted and depressed.

    Legal experts cited by the paper said China should ban corporal punishment in its marriage laws to protect children from physical and psychological harm and to protect the rights of minors.

    They blamed the common occurrence of corporal punishment in China on the traditional belief that children were a part of their parents, not individuals. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-12/07/content_397964.htm

    The routine beatings allegedly given to child gymnasts in China are no different to the corporal punishment that was once part of daily life in English public schools, according to the head of the Olympic movement.

    Mr Rogge said he believed that if physical punishment is being used to train young athletes in China, then it is likely to be confined to sports such as gymnastics and swimming, where the age of competitors is much younger than in the other Olympic sports. What is not known is how widespread the practice is. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/1504716/Chinas-abuse-of-its-athletes-is-no-different-to-Britains-public-schools-says-Olympics-chief.html

    “It was a pretty disturbing experience. I was really shocked by some of what was going on. I know it is gymnastics and that sport has to start its athletes young, but I have to say I was really shocked. I think it’s a brutal programme. They said this is what they needed to do to make them hard.

    “I do think those kids are being abused. The relationship between coach and child and parent and child is very different here. But I think it goes beyond the pale. It goes beyond what is normal behaviour. It was really chilling.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/2368416/Olympics-Pinsent-upset-at-Chinese-abuse.html

    Anyone who thinks the Chinese are a race of genteel pacifists who, collectively, design their lives to awaken every morning wiser than they went to bed the night before is a candidate for some serious awakening of his own. As a whole person Amy Chua is a type; she is not an aberration.

    Now, for one question I have not seen asked anywhere. . . Does Professor Chua play a music instrument? If so, let’s hear some of it. If not, from what sources has she gathered her standards about music technique and style and how they might be taught to a very young child who has shown no particular affinity for any instrument? Can she play any music from what she has demanded from either of her two daughters? Can she play simultaneously triptlets in the left hand and duolets in the right? Can she perform, even modestly, http://www.alfred.com/samplepages/00-16734_01~02.pdf, the composition she has demanded her post-toddler daughter play with assurance?

    There can be no doubt that Professor Chua likes violence, so long as it’s not directed at her, the core definition of a bully. She has said recently that there are parts of the world in which some of her parenting techniques might be considered child abuse. I do wish she could be persuaded to name (1) which some of those parts of the world are, (2) just which parenting techniques she is referring to, and (3) why she believes those same techinques should not be defined as child abuse in her home state of Connecticut.

    How did such a reprehensible woman obtain a position so high up on the feeding chain with so little prior experience in law education?

    HUSBAND, faculty of Yale Law School since 1990 : Jed Rubenfeld
    WIFE, faculty of Yale Law School since 2001 : Amy Chua

    As the lawyers may put it, Let the evidence speak for itself. The Tiger Mom has made it on her own claws.

    One last question: Who prevents Professor Chua from sitting on a toilet or eating a meal when, at any given moment, she is vexed beyond her capacity to complete an academic assignment or any other professional obligation within the proper time allocated for its completion?
    _______________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  11. Professor Chua is a woefully ill-informed parent, one ignorant of just what is happening in some parts of education in America. Fully confident in her presumed success as a writer with an editorial staff at Penguin shadow boxing for her and unapologetically wearing her signature plastic smile for public appearances, the Lawyer Chua is trying to persuade and convince; on both counts controversially, but with enough negative reactions to cause her subsequently to attempt a dilution of the intensity in her initial self-congratulatory tirade by latterly asserting that her writing is merely one person’s experiences of some trying times in motherhood. To gain working points among the Old-Boy network, the prime lubricant of Yale, Professor Chua initially claimed that she is a Tiger Mom as Chinese maternal type; Fierce! When that showpiece veneer didn’t sit well with mothers who are the real thing, i.e., mothers from China, this faux cat altered the validity of her claim to violence by stating that she is a Tiger Mom because she was born in 1962, a Year of the Tiger. That a tenured Professor of Yale can – must? – openly justify her self-classification with superstitious underpinning should provide anyone what is needed to draw a conclusion about the level of intellect afoot in Yale Law School. Professor? Indeed!

    Any of Chua’s public statements of the purposes of her work evolve to fit the tenor of the evolving criticisms directed at it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/10/amy-chua-tiger-mom-book-one-year-later_n_1197066.html It has passed, in her own words, from (1) practical handbook for parenting to (2) tongue-in-cheek (whatever that’s supposed to mean), to (3) memoir, (4) satire, (5) parody, (6) “a coming of age book for parents” (7) “the book is about a journey”; and who knows what else as she makes the rounds of the book circuit trying to snare yet more unsuspecting purchasers into her net. That she can, without blushing, class a single work with such a range causes me to wonder what kind of grade she got at Harvard for her command of the English language. She’s Trollope (the author), Pope (the author), The Wicked Witch in Hansel und Gretel and Gullible’s Travels all penned together into one oversized Pamper. Anyone who can’t read the monetary cynicism driving the kaleidoscope of this whole Tiger Mom scam and its spurious, unproven claimed insights into parenting, with variant latter-day reflections by the author herself, deserves to have paid full retail price for this book.

    “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.” http://bettymingliu.com/2011/01/parents-like-amy-chua-are-the-reason-why-asian-americans-like-me-are-in-therapy/
    Stamp collecting, fishing, lazing about on a summer day, science club, Brownie Scouting, baseball, birthday parties, church annual picnic, kite flying, visiting relatives, kissing, jumping rope, student council, insect classification . . . Away with this woman! “Fun” must be one of the more overused, misunderstood words in the American lexicon. Chinese parent = The Model Minority? In China?

    “I’m happy to be the one hated.” http://bettymingliu.com/2011/01/parents-like-amy-chua-are-the-reason-why-asian-americans-like-me-are-in-therapy/

    “If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second. http://amychua.com/

    That’s it perfectly stated in Tigerese: Either / Or; not both. Amy Chua is a chameleonic con artist. PT. Barnum certainly was right, one “. . . born every minute!”
    _______________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  12. There is a recurring theme without solid core that continues to recycle on the question of Amy Chua and her style as a mother. J.G. (unfortunately anonymous, as are most of the endorsements of Professor Chua) has written

    I think it’s easy to take cheap shots at Chua, but it’s hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others.
    It might seem amusing to mock her (her “cushy job” and “hottie husband”), but harder to actually consider the points being made in a non-defensive way, without trying to paint yourself as the “cool mom” who prefers three martini playdates?
    p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) would paint her parents as laissez-faire and herself as moderately motivated.
    Posted by: J.G. | January 18, 2011 at 02:31 PM http://thecareerist.typepad.com/thecareerist/2011/01/chinese-moms.html

    I, for one, have no interest whatsoever in her “cushy job” and “hottie husband.” Nor do I have any objection to her having become a millionaire from the sales of her book and that she will be well on her way to becoming a multimillionare once the planned translations of it into thirteen of the world’s languages have been completed. My uncompromising objections to Professor Chua are two-fold: her abuses of young children pursued to further her own narcissistic urgencies and her deep commitment of abuse of the art of music – of which she seemingly has no knowledge whatsoever – for reasons having nothing to do with that art. My shots at her are far from what J.G. calls “cheap shots.” They do in fact go to the heart of the problems with her that remain my chief concerns.

    J.G. and most of his fellow travelers in their tepid defenses of Professor Chua continue to focus on her inherited emphasis of the sorry state of public education in The United States. What else is new?

    As with most of the ringing endorsements of Amy Chua, those from J.G. are clearly from a mind not wholly engaged. He has written ” it’s hard to argue that the average American child needs less discipline, less direction or less respect for others. In his tangled syntax I’m quite sure he means – at least I’m hoping he means – it’s hard to argue that the average American child does not need more discipline, more direction or more respect for others.

    J.G. has written further, “p.s. It seems ironic that an Asian-American female who went to Williams (fulfilling a fantasy of Chinese parents everywhere) . . . “ Again, but this time TWO thoughts from nowhere! What has Williams College to do with Amy Chua (Harvard, A.B. ’84)? And since when has Williams even been on the “fantasy” palate “of Chinese parents everywhere?”

    Professor Chua usually receives the quality of defense she deserves.
    _______________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  13. I checked Asian. I had heard it was harder to apply as an Asian, so as a point of pride, I had to say I was Asian. http://jadeluckclub.com/true-picture-asian-americans/

    In almost every list, pride (Latin, superbia), or hubris (Greek), is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and the source of the others. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_deadly_sins#Pride

    1) Tiger Sophia, you may have checked Asian which does have a “tax,” however you also got big bonus points for being a legacy many times over. The upshot is that you had help getting in unlike these Asian Americans below who live at the poverty line and don’t have Ivy League parents with deep pockets.

    2) By checking Asian when, actually, you are of mixed race, you have taken a spot away from those who don’t have the benefit of applying to a less competitive race slot. Thanks to you, someone who[se] life could be completely changed did not get a spot. http://jadeluckclub.com/true-picture-asian-americans/

    For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Matthew 25:29

    Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, the daughter of a mother of mixed Asian ethnicity of no known religious involvement and a secular — whatever that means — American Jewish father has, ostensibly been raised as a Jewess in an atheistic family positing itself as . . . ? When she applied for admission to Harvard she descended into a pride of Asianness to avail herself of an ethnic quota advantage.

    This duplicitous young woman is, indeed, her mother’s daughter! http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=230907266920263&set=o.134679449938486&type=1&theater
    ________________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

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