The Chinese Mom Syndrome

Amy Chua is a law professor at Yale, but at the moment she is best known as an advocate of “Chinese mothering.”

Following the release of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, she wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal that has elicited the most comments of anything to ever appear in the publication. The thrust of her article is that her uncompromising demands for excellence from her two children including no sleepovers, mandatory piano practice, no school sports, and rote memorization of basic math principles combined with condemnation of any grade other an A (even an A-) is the best way to raise children.

She scoffs at the soft American approach of complimenting the weak tries of children in order to enhance their sense of self-esteem. She argues that kids see through the shallow self-esteem ploy because it is insincere, while by earning praise through hard work and outstanding achievement children build a solid foundation for future success in a tough world.

After reading Amy Chua’s story I remembered an old Jewish joke.

A mother is pushing her 30-year-old son through a store in a wheelchair. An acquaintance comes up to her and says, “Mrs. Goldberg, how sad. You’re son cannot walk.” She replies, “Oh, he can walk fine, but thank God he doesn’t have to.”

Two sides of the spectrum. Where do you stand?

Chua has taken a lot of heat for her ode to Chinese parenting. She has backtracked a little, saying the piece was partly satirical in its black and whiteness, but she stands by her approach. Her two daughters have brilliant academic and musical achievements and she claims to have a great relationship with them.

Do you agree with her style of parenting? Should that style of treatment be used with employees in the workplace?

Tiger mother, Amy Chua, with her two daughters. Photo: ERIN PATRICE O'BRIEN FOR WALL STREET JOURNAL

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15 thoughts on “The Chinese Mom Syndrome

  1. JOE

    Yes, I agree with Amy. I tried to raise my 2 boys that way, but I sometimes had to give in because my wife thought I was too strict. Now, it seems to me like they count us too much. They don’t figure things out on their own. That is the problem that occurs when parents cater too much to their kids when they are young. If I had a chance to redo the way I raised my kids who are in college I would raise them just like Amy.

  2. Dan Kuhns

    If we don’t change in general and start to expect the best form everyone including those in our shops, we will be dead and buried. One doesn’t have to look far to see the casualties. We do have to open our eyes.

  3. David Blackburn

    Kids are spoiled brats these days and it gets worse with every generation. I think Amy is only doing the bare minimum that needs to be done with our lazy kids. When Amy’s girls are grown up they will appriciate all that she did for them. It’s a tough world and we need to get tougher on our kids if we want them to survive.

  4. Jim Goerges

    Our entitlement society requires that we average everything, this is what sucks. There is nothing wrong with excellence, there is nothing wrong with “daring to be great”. Our new FrankinObamination socialistic society dictates everyone deserve’s what you got mentality is EVIL. I say BRAVO to this mom and hope we have MANY more choose the least traveled path. Sacrifice now for a better tomorrow!

  5. Miles Free

    Glad to see that ‘extreme parenting’ is now OK for public discussion. I too was an extreme parent. My family homeschooled our children and we were only slightly less fascist / demanding than Ms. Chua has been described. My oldest was 10 years old before she learned there were cartoons on TV. It was at her first sleepover. She thought the only stuff on TV was Bob Ross painting on the local Public TV station or Nature Shows.

    Never saw commercials, so never asked for the crap they hawk to kids on TV. Our attention to what was really important when our children were in our care has helped them achieve, now that they are no longer under our wing. Parenting needs to be done right. And that means making great decisions for your kids so that they can grow up and do the same.

    Most Americans think ‘sacrifice’ means to give up something. If they look into it, they will find it really is made up of two words that mean “to make holy.”

    No regrets for us or our kids and “Right On” Ms Chua.

  6. Lloyd


    I finally thought I did a blog that wasn’t about that fiend Obama but I guess I failed. I was probably raised way to leniently.

  7. Russ

    Let’s go ahead and ask a Chinese what car, or computer or other useful tool they’ve invented in the last 2000 years? All of this hard work does what? Makes good worker bees who have no dreams and are crushed by expectations of their parents. I know of no Chinese who is happy, either. So, go ahead and be harsh. The world needs more suicides.

  8. Deborah Rudy

    I’m with Russ, although not quite as vehemently. Strictness in parenting is essential in situations where the safety of our children is concerned. So is invading some of their “privacy”. But when it comes to learning, this approach dors nothing to encourage or develop critical thinking skills, which are essential to innovation.

    Look at Israel. Israelis raise their children to question authority, to the point of being downright mouthy. In their compulsory military service, they are trained to question their superiors if they think there is a better way. Read the book “Start-Up Nation”. Israel has more successful start-ups per capita than any other country on Earth. Take a look at any new technological, environmental, medical or scientific breakthroughs, and there’s a good chance they’re connected to Israeli innovation.

    Russ is right. Where are the exciting new breakthroughs from Asia? Obedience isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be, and fear is not synonymous with respect.

  9. Jerry Johnson

    That’s exactly the way our Mother raised us – “Spare the staff and spoil the Child”. No political correctness in our house. That thinking didn’t even exist then.

    Today’s generation is soft, whiney, clueless, coddled, resulting in always looking for a free ride. This in great part has resulted from Government overly intervening in our lives, trying to regulate EVERYTHING..

    You get a Time Out, Lloyd, because you are a bad boy thinking that Obama wouldn’t be perpetuating this. Can’t call a terrorist a terrorist, can’t spank an incorrigible child to teach them respect, everybody has to be a winner, let’s not read the bill – just vote on it…………….just take the easy way.

    As Jim Georges said, this Sucks. And, it is dangerous to our Country’s current and future existence.

  10. Ross Wegryn-Jones

    This is timely. I just read about this in Newsweek. My wife Jamie has actually read the Tiger Mother book. As well she should: she talked me into having four daughters with her! The WSJ piece notwithstanding, Jamie said that Chua’s book was put forth more as a memoir than as a how-to parenting guide, but as with anything that a mother (or grandmother) has to say, there are a lot of things you can take away from Chua’s stories. At least one of her children tried the ‘I’m more stubborn than you are approach,’ and that child had to lose…

    I’m of the opinion that if your child can take it – and what children can take is all a spectrum – then you should absolutely ‘push’ them. But the ‘push’ is not with discipline, per se, but about the child making choices on their own and and experiencing the consequences that go with those choices.

    Chua is in the ballpark with this tricky thing we call child raising, but I’ve been around long enough to see the end result(s) of the pure type of child raising she espouses. There are a number of younger folks I’ve come across who have fantastic educational pedigrees, but were never allowed to play with screwdrivers, soldering irons or tinker toys. Let me tell you, this is not a pretty sight…

    I’m happy to report that there is a happy medium and Jamie and I think we are practicing it. We’ll let you know in a few more years…

  11. Lloyd Graff

    I think I found Amy Chua’s piece so interesting because it is contrary to my own style and view of the world. She makes her points well like a good law prof would but her rigidity just feels off to me.
    Whatis wrong with school sports? I learned more from playing high school basketball trying to master the pic and roll than from most of my courses at an elite high school. I had no talent for music so why would learning to play Mozart poorly have made me better.

    I look at my grandchildren now and wish them a joyful life. I hope for accomplishment but most of all I want them to be good people who are happy with themselves.
    I think parents must be true to themselves. They do not have to coach from Vince Lombardi’s or Amy Chua’s playbook just blecause they were successful people. We need to find want is true for us and then follow it with belief.
    I became a baseball lover which has given me enormous pleasure through the years.
    I cultivated friends which I Still believe was more important than knowing trig.

  12. fix the world

    The most important thing a parent can do is teach their child who Jesus Christ is, about God and the absolute truth found in the Bible. All the rest will work itself out whether the parent’s personality is to be strict or not, is not the most important issue.

  13. Larry A

    Lloyd, I have to say that I do enjoy many of the topics you bring up in your blog.

    Unfortunately, I usually don’t have the time to respond because I’m too busy trying to run a business and raise a good family. This article really hits home though.

    We’re not as strict as Ms Chua, but we do drive our kids to excellence in schooling. We don’t demand straight A’s but we do encourage them strongly. When we see anything less than a B, we are demanding to know why and work to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. As for sports, we feel it’s important for our kids to be involved in something physically active.

    On the flip side, we don’t prohibit our kids from watching TV or playing video games. However, we do monitor what they watch or play to ensure that it’s appropriate….and they must have their chores and homework finished before they can even think about it. In all, they probably get 3 hours per week on weekdays for their entertainment time and 4-6 hours in a weekend. Then again sometimes not. This month for instance, science fair projects are coming up due, so they won’t be seeing any TV or games until all is done. Science fair projects are a big event every year at this time.

    As for employees, I’ve found that about 1 in 50 can cut the mustard working for me. I expect plenty of the people that work for me. If they don’t like it, then they can go become someone else’s problem. On the flip side, I take good care of those who produce well.

    I’ll look forward to your next Obama blog, but I won’t reply. I’m pro Obama. I watched for 8 years as our industry tanked, one good job after another leaving for China. It’s good to have a president in office who is going to bat for us. The only good thing I have to say about Bush is, “That which does not kill you, makes you stronger.”

    Wouldn’t it be nice to see the value of your machinery up for a change?….I’ll bet brinkman would too, but I’m sure he’ll hate it if it happens during Obama’s term.

    Sorry about my political rant, but I remember all too well the political rant he made in your magazine in favor of the Republican Party back in 2004. Our nation almost did not survive 4 more years of that and I think he sold….what….1 machine a month during that period?

  14. jan carter

    I am a tiger Mom. Not always the fun place to be. Don’t care! Have always believed that you can’t raise a child with no rules then thrust them out to a world full of rules. Once my only child said Mom I want to pay you back for my college. I replied that the best way to pay me back was to not become a failure and move back home. We have a wonderful respect and love for each other. What will our world become if we don’t put pressure on each other to do our best accept nothing less.


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