A recent opinion piece in The Global Times got me thinking about cultural differences in parenting. The author was reacting to news of three 10-year old girls in Jiangxi jumping from a building together because they couldn’t bear to do homework anymore.
The writer, herself the mother of a teenaged son, argues that soft parents are to blame for stripping their “little emperors” of the ability to fend for themselves:
If a toddler falls, Chinese parents would most likely help and blame the ground, to pacify the crying baby. Instead parents should allow children to stand up by themselves, so that they could learn that “falling is no big deal, it’s my own problem and fixing it makes me happy.”
This view is a common one in China, but that’s not how Western media view Asian parents.
It’s impossible to talk about tough parenting these days without mentioning Amy Chua, the infamous Tiger Mom. Chua has been demonized in the Western press for her “Chinese-style” parenting tactics, like calling her eldest daughter “garbage” or forcing her youngest to practice piano without water or bathroom breaks.
The term “Tiger Mom” has become short hand for a brand of cruel, no-holds-barred parenting. But is that really the whole story?
Chua later pointed out that the frequent clashes with her youngest daughter actually forced her to reconsider her stance on “extreme parenting.”
“I’ve been forced to answer questions about a book I didn’t write,” she said. “It’s not saying what people should do, it’s saying, ‘Here’s what I did, and boy did I learn a lesson.’ ”
In addition, the book was always meant as “a memoir, not a parenting guide.” That’s an important point, and it shows that even Tiger Moms have to suck it up and put away their claws sometimes.
The topic is especially timely considering the upcoming screening of “Race to Nowhere” by Vicki Abeles and Jessica Congdon at BCIS (Beijing City International School). The controversial American documentary argues that the parental obsession with academic achievements is having an unbearable toll on kids.
Mamas Worldwide: “Cultural Differences in Parenting”
Adriana Barton on The Globe and Mail: “Are You Raising a Bratty Kid?”
Bao Phi on Racialicious: “My late and messy reaction to this whole ‘Chinese Mothers Are Superior’ Hubbub”