Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

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January 16, 2011, 01:32 PM

I'm thinking a Chinese mother would have killed me, but at least now maybe I could play the piano and violin. But actually I've only personally come across a few Chinese families that sound like this. Who is this person to speak for all Chinese mothers? Tough love is very Chinese though I guess.

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I'm thinking a Chinese mother would have killed me also. I might have done the piano thing after awhile, but then I would have taken a hard turn toward jazz, and she would have killed me and herself :-)

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January 19, 2011, 07:33 AM

I was in China for the first time in 2010. I was amazed at all the young people walking around.  Hard to imagine them as studybugs given their sense of fashion (very fashionable), frequent use of cell phones, and the occasional girlfriend/boyfriend couple.

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January 16, 2011, 10:45 PM

 "But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up".

I think this is true, and I think we can learn much from the Chinese parenting style, but a little balance wouldnt hurt. One thing the Chinese dont seem to learn is independent thought. To be truly successful one must not just master a body of knowledge, but also learn to innovate, to predict, to plan ahead. The "authority is always right" model does not allow for this, and the results are apparent.

In the west we tend to think children are weak. I disagree. Children are strong, flexible, and very adaptable. This part the Chinese have right.

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Of course, there was plenty of disagreement with Amy Chua also. The journal published this article from a mother having her own disagreements with methods, if not results.


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January 16, 2011, 11:26 PM

Very interesting article, thank you for sharing: cannot stop wondering:

To what degree this article applies to Chinese mothers in China? I do not recognize the somewhat harsh / extreme mentality of this particular mother in average mothers here around me. I often encounter the complete opposite: overweight spoiled children who do NOT listen to their parents and lack the maturity of their "Western" counterparts (we are stereotyping right?) :-) 

What if you order your kid to get straight A's or whatever and he or she does not have the capabilities? 

After reading this, I agree with many things, but I still feel bad for the kids and where I come from, the kid in this situation might be taken away by social services....





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Funny you should ask. There was another WSJ article mentioning how Amy Chua's article is being received in China. Apparently it's a mix of "strictness is necessary" to "this mother has abandoned the teachings of her ancestors"...


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I spoke with one of my Chinese friends about the article this weekend (she also recently became a mother). She said her mother was very strict and hit her when she wouldn't practice piano (her piano teacher hit her too). The plus side is that she plays beautifully now. She also said she had health problems towards the end of high school (she was working so hard she wasn't eating much, was totally stressed about exams). She doesn't plan on using the same methods with her daughter.

Other people I have spoken to about this article say that while they may have resented being criticized and treated strictly as children, they now credit their success in adulthood to their mothers. I think it's hard to paint in such broad strokes. All western parents aren't the same and all Chinese parents aren't the same... Definitely an article that provoked a lot of discussion and reflection though.

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Front the link: Something I believe hardly ever gets said

- zhao wrote:

sometimes… oversea chinese are more “chinese” than chinese live in china. china is being corrupted by western values while oversea chinese holding on these values to remind themselves being “chinese”….


Amy Chua on traditional Chinese standards "failed" as a mother, giving her family not one son, but two daughters. (I disagree with this traditional view.)

Finally Amy Chua is from Hokka, one of the hardest working "tribes" in China.

China nowadays, is being corrupted by Western media without the benefit of a stable core. Overseas ethnic Chinese in many ways are have kept traditional values. I find this particularly galling given the way the Chinese language divides overseas ethnic Chinese into 华裔 and 华侨.

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January 17, 2011, 01:24 AM

I can't open the article for some reason. I can say, however, that thus far I highly approve of my Chinese wife's handling of our child. I would say that she has a tendency to fret over things that simply don't matter, but perhaps that is just typical mama bear mentality. I guess we should keep in mind my child is just barely 3 months old too.

EDIT: The page just loaded up. The author is a professor at Yale Law School. I don't know if she is the best person to express what goes on in the typical Chinese mother's mind. I will read later with interest, though.

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"The author is a professor at Yale Law School. I don't know if she is the best person to express what goes on in the typical Chinese mother's mind."

Yes, if you read Amy Chua's article, then read the two rebuttals, you notice that all three women (despite immigrant/low income upbringing), are likely well educated, well off people (that live in comfortably sized American houses). I've noticed that China has a broad spectrum of incomes (just like the US).

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January 17, 2011, 02:13 AM

With all that said, I did notice that Chinese parents generally let their kids walk around town by themselves.  I had never seen so many unattended children until I had gone to China. 

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January 16, 2011, 10:27 PM

The title was not chosen by the author Amy Chua.  I suspect she is laboring under a lifetime compensatory behavior.  Consider:

1)  She is the fourth of four daughters, no sons.

2)  Her name is 美儿 which seems to me too not much different from 亚男

3)  She married a nonChinese, (Jewish)

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My take was that she's trying to sell her own book, and this inflammatory title is going to be a great way to promote her own book. I suspect Yale Law professors are under the same amount of pressure to publish as their peers, so this firestorm of comments (good and bad) are going to do great for book sales. Sounds like it's been great for the Wall Street Journal.

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January 17, 2011, 03:40 AM


the only translation I can find for snob is 势利眼 which seems to translate as self interested. Is there not a better translation for snob?

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January 17, 2011, 04:04 AM

The book is more fun than the WSJ excerpt, according to Adam Minter:



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January 17, 2011, 04:37 AM

This Amy Chua excerpt is tailor-made for ChinesePod, thanks.  A tasty bit of controversy, sweeping statements, a bit of 'the Westerners have got it wrong'; it has all the ingredients. I was thinking of Zhenlijiang when I read Amy Chua's views on Western mothers.   

Amy Chua is a piece of work, granted (good for selling books), and I am sure that there are mothers in China that subscribe to her parenting philosophy, but the Chinese world is more nuanced.  [Aside: I wonder, has she ever been to China?] 

But in the spirit of generalisations: I have students generally in the early 20s age range and I observe the results of parenting in that generation, the 八零九零s.  Despite being in their early 20s most of them are still actively parented - and they continue to ask for their parent's permission on a wide range of matters. This is one difference between Chinese and Australian parenting. 

Maybe we (poddies) could note some of the differences/similarities in behaviour we have observed? I'll start:  

- babies are coddled in so many clothes and blankets they can hardly breathe! 

- babies/children are carried everywhere (particularly to the work place if there are no grandparents to babysit) and receive constant stimulation when they are awake. 

- children are raised in an extended family (they refer to 'weekend' parents - those that see their kids on the weekend) 


- when a bit older, they often hate going on holidays with the parents (a lot of 'consultation' in the early 20s is seeking permission to have holidays with their friends, far-flung family, or even just staying at school is increasingly popular!) 

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"children are raised in an extended family (they refer to 'weekend' parents - those that see their kids on the weekend)"

I also see this in Taiwan. A woman I work with has a baby, her parents take care of the baby during the week. My coworker lives in Taipei, her parents live in Taoyuan (about a 45 minute drive), so she only sees her newborn on Saturday and Sunday! That blows my mind. I've been told this is very common.

Also, when kids are in school, many go to live with the grandparents during summer break. So mommy and daddy get a nice 2 month break. Now that I think is good for the parents' sanity!

So in these cases, who is really rearing the child?

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January 17, 2011, 04:44 AM

On a related matter, a recent (apparent) child suicide has prompted a lot of debate here about the amount of homework given to school kids.  There are guidelines but there is a question mark over whether the teachers comply with the guidelines.  The recommended hours of homework would be no more than we see recommended by education departments in Australia.  The guidelines also specify that homework should not involve meaningless rote learning.  

But this is the new generation of kids - my 20 something students were brought up in the old rote learning tradition.  I heard of a teacher doing a novel with her students and one student came up and asked .. 'but how will I be able to memorise a whole novel?'  :)  

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January 17, 2011, 02:33 AM

Well, the WSJ article certainly hit a nerve in The States.  Amy Chua's publisher has certainly scored in the free publicity department.  Now it has made it to this board.

Perhaps this will inspire an interesting CPod lesson.