Things Chinese mothers are good at: Berating their children, playing the martyr, and drumming up interest in their books about parenting! At least, that's the conclusion we're drawing from the attention that Yale Law professor Amy Chua's essay in the Wall Street Journal has gotten. Chua excerpted part of her book, Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother, about her extreme, Chinese-based parenting style for the newspaper, and the WSJ's website now has 2000 comments—and her book is now #31 on Amazon.com, up from #49 yesterday. But her mother might say, "#31? Why aren't you #1?"
Chua's premise—that Chinese methods of parenting are superior to Western ones because the Chinese emphasize repetition, practice, and totally stripping down one's self-esteem while Western parents are too touchy-feely and concerned with their kids' emotions—has raised some suggestions that she's actually written a satire, a la Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal. But we're not sure if Chua gets irony—check out EW's favorite passages from her book:
After her young children presented her with handmade birthday cards:
I gave the card back to Lulu. “I don’t want this,” I said. “I want a better one — one that you’ve put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can’t go in there.”
“What?” said Lulu in disbelief. I saw beads of sweat start to form on Jed’s forehead.
I grabbed the card again and flipped it over. I pulled out a pen from my purse and scrawled ‘Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!’ I added a big sour face. “What if I gave you this for your birthday Lulu- would you like that? But I would never do that, Lulu. No — I get you magicians and giant slides that cost me hundreds of dollars. I get you huge ice cream cakes shaped like penguins, and I spend half my salary on stupid sticker and erase party favors that everyone just throws away. I work so hard to give you good birthdays! I deserve better than this. So I reject this.” I threw the card back.
After her daughter’s beloved paternal grandmother Popo died, Chua insisted the girls write a short speech to read at the funeral. Both girls refused (“No please, Mommy, don’t make,” Sophia said tearfully. “I really don’t feel like it.”). Chua insisted.
Sophia’s first draft was terrible, rambling and superficial. Lulu’s wasn’t so great either, but I held my elder daughter to a higher standard. Perhaps because I was so upset myself, I lashed out at her. “How could you, Sophia?” I said viciously. “This is awful. It has no insight. It has no depth. It’s like a Hallmark Card — which Popo hated. You are so selfish. Popo loved you so much — and you — produce-this!”
Some of you have offered up some Chinese parenting, but if you have any more, please leave them in the comments or email them to email@example.com—we're going to compile them for a future post.