Open Phones: Immigrant Parenting Styles

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has got lots of people talking about what it means to be a "Chinese mother." Immigrants from anywhere: call us up and tell us if you see "Chinese parenting" in your culture. Call in or comment here!

Comments [49]

sd from ct

will amy chua please apologize to us all for wasting our time with her awful book? enough of this undeserved attention. my five year old deserves it more for the absolutely gorgeous fingerprint he just made for me! signed, a neighbor in new haven.

Jan. 20 2011 03:17 PM
Karl Bernstein from Woodmere, NY

After I retired as a Supervisor (1991) in the NY City Public Schools, I worked to develop the computerized report card system used in Middle Schools. We thought that it was foolproof but a 7th grade child of Asian parents from Flushing was able to fool her parents by changing an 85% to 95% by cutting, pasting and copying. It didn't fool her school however. The pressure on her to achieve a 95% was enormous.

Jan. 19 2011 03:07 PM
Sally from Brooklyn

My child started Juilliard Pre-College six years ago, he was eleven. When we received his first report card he got a mix of A's and B's. My husband and I thought that was very good. We mentioned this to the head of the school and said most parents here would be disappointed with those grades. There is a huge asian population at pre-college. He is now in his sixth year, his grades are perfect and it came from within. You can't manufacture passion.

Jan. 19 2011 01:57 PM
Eugenia Renskoff from Brooklyn, NY

Hi, Brian, I heard that the woman who wrote this Chinese parenting book called her kids garbage and worthless. As an ex emotionally abused child, I would not call her method good at all. And no school plays, no sleepovers, nothing but schoolwork and drudgery--who wants that? Not kids, no body in their right mind. Eugenia Renskoff

Jan. 19 2011 01:55 PM
Patrick Leal from Los Gatos, CA

What is the metric for success? What does it mean to be successful? I heard the Polish woman saying that it's an "immigrant thing." I can debunk that theory by pointing out just one American-made exception; I know an American-raised person who was raised in a laissez-faire household, yet became a doctor.
Is that an anomaly? Is that the norm? Can we find a corollary in the immigrant community? If so, then this whole theory is bunk. Tell Amy Chua to come with statistics that back up her claim that her way of raising children is superior to any other. It's a stereotypical view, and it's unfortunate that she's making a killing selling books based on this myopic view on what she considers superior child rearing.

Jan. 19 2011 01:41 PM

Chua was pretty upset/unable to handle the kind and gentle Meredith Viera on NBC the other day.

I wonder if she's on the autism spectrum, like my father, who was her kind of parent but alas in a sea of children he could only partly overwhelm.

I donno - Danny Kwan was pretty hard on Michelle and Karen - and Michelle has two distinct personalities in the skating world - one you would rather not know - and the other is the TV one. Also some skaters say you need a "mean Russian" coach.

Jan. 19 2011 12:59 PM

I DETEST SEEING AMY CHUA EVERYWHERE!!! Why do you give this media whore a mike?

She a law professor and what she does is illegal!!

True self esteem? She doesn't know what it is! Clearly she's a narcissist, not a person with self esteem!

Jan. 19 2011 12:46 PM
AG from Manhattan

Amy Chua's story is a painful reminder of my own experiences with my ex-wife who is Russian. She adhered to many of Ms. Chua's parenting styles and admired the Chinese model. She would force my daughter to practice piano for 2 hours a day until her fingers were in pain, (she would not allow her to watch Obama's inauguration - at a time when she was studying US government in school - due to her piano practice); my daughter would be afraid to come home after school if she got less than 90 on her tests as she would be admonished; she never encouraged, often discouraging any visual artistic endeavors (except for ballet), saying it was a waste of time.

My ex-wife's rigidity didn't just stop at academics and music but encompassed diet and dress. She was vehemently anti-American, telling my child she would grow up to be an obese lazy American, restricting her diet to a limited variety of food, stating she had allergies when she had none, never allowing her to drink anything but water, etc. When I got my daughter a puppy, that had been promised to her for years by her mother, she returned it to the pet store resulting in a hysterical and heart broken child.

She claimed that childhood was over rated and a short period of time in ones life better not to be frittered away when one should be preparing for adulthood. Her parenting style was so abusive that my friends and family cringed and thought she should seek mental counseling.

Unlike Ms. Chua's husband, who apparently sat on the sidelines, when I intervened on behalf of my daughter's pleas (9 yrs old at the time), I was handed a divorce. She stated that "mothers are supposed to raise children and fathers must go to the office". Strangely enough the forensic psychologist that interviewed us (a Jewish New Yorker) stated the child would be better off with her mother concluding (blatantly falsely), that she was authoritative as opposed to the authoritarian she really is. Now that we are divorced the abuse continues when she is with her mother.

Jan. 19 2011 12:38 PM
Edward from NJ

@DarkSymbolist from NYC, having heard the whole interview with Leonard Lopate last week, I found her to be surprisingly self-deprecating. She doesn't claim that she has the only way to raise children. She is, herself, a smart woman, and any such assertion would challenge credulity. In a way, yes, she is giving advice: She has successful children, and people always ask her how she did it. Her answer falls into the you-can't-handle-the-truth category.

Jan. 19 2011 12:08 PM
Denise from Huntington

As a self-professed "mean mommy," I've been following this story with interest. I haven't read her book yet (it's on its way to me), so I'm reserving judgment as to whether she's pushing buttons on purpose to sell books (like THAT'S never happened!). That said, aside from the name-calling and the like, I agree with much of what I've heard her say. As she points out (this is true) the book is not a parenting how-to; it's a memoir. Anyway, here's my blog post on it -- good discussion going on there, too, in particular about how the so-called tough style is the flip side of the mushy helicoptering/cheerleadering style of parenting in vogue now: Both involve way more focused attention than I prefer!

Jan. 19 2011 11:57 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!


Actual if she is indeed stating that Chines mothers are "superior", she is actually presenting it as more than just a memoir. Also when she speaks she sets herself up as some kind of parenting guru...superior to everyone else.

Anyway...that was depressing. Worst segment I've heard in a while..

Jan. 19 2011 11:50 AM
LKS from Brooklyn all the time

Hold the phone. If Chinese and other immigrate parenting skills are so superior to we lazy 'Americans' then why are they raising their superior children here? Why are they not back in their own obviously advanced cultures amongst their obviously superior peers? Right. In brief this arguement relies on on the very stereotypes they oppose. etc etc etc. Good parenting skills are just that. Those skills also balanced with discipline and love. In a world where so many children are neglected and abused and just plain unwanted I personally am just happy to hear when people actually take the time and energy to raise any child to be a successful member of our society period.

Jan. 19 2011 11:50 AM
Mike E. Flood from Rockaway

The drive to do your best at does not require torture.

Jan. 19 2011 11:49 AM
Steve S. from Washington Heights

I find myself envying some of these kids. The severity sounds brutal, but my parents never pushed me to do anything, mostly because they didn't want to PAY for it! So, I admire these parents' willingness to invest in their children. My parents invested very little--it was always a struggle, even though they had the means--but still expected me to achieve. So it's not black and white.

Jan. 19 2011 11:48 AM
Mark from Manhattan from Manhattan

I am not a parent. What is it with forcing children to learn piano and/or violin? So all kids will grow up to be either a pianist or violinist? Don't we need other professions as well? I was one of eight children growing up. Our father was a music teacher. He told each of us, "If you want to learn any instrument, come to me and I will teach you." He wanted to make sure that we had the interest and desire, and he did not want to force it on us.

Jan. 19 2011 11:47 AM
Laura from CT

I listened to the interview with Leonard Lopate last week. During that conversation the author mentioned that she has a good marriage. She then told a story about how he forgot her birthday, took the family to a mediocre restaurant and when her four year old daughter presented her with a hastily made homemade card, Amy told the child that she knew she could do better and that when the child re-did the card she felt much better. I suggest the goal of self-esteem can be facilitated by balancing a parent's idea of what is correct with a respectful attitude toward one's children. Any card a four year old makes is a perfect gift.

Jan. 19 2011 11:46 AM
Tt from Brooklyn

I grew up in the states with a German mother and American father, and there was a definite struggle to resolve being Americans with a strict German upbringing. I had to take piano lessons. Played sports. Was in the school plays. Took art classes. Was encouraged to do it all. Very limited TV. No sugar - (Coke was only for when you were sick). Was told I was going to college whether I wanted to or not. Yet, I was not taught German because we were Americans, and Americans speak English. As an adult, I am very determined to still do it all. I never give up at any task I take on (even if it might be better if I had!)

Jan. 19 2011 11:45 AM
Edward from NJ

I'm sick of everyone being "outraged" about Amy Chua. It's a memoir -- not a parenting manual.

Jan. 19 2011 11:44 AM
Andrew C from Edison, NJ

Asian American here. One thing that strikes me is that for all the talk about this being a "Chinese" strategy for success is how few people who were raised this way are in leadership positions -- from CEOs all the way down to your smallest managers -- relative to other ethnicities. I can't help think that this is a downside to this type of child-rearing. This is a way to develop a good worker, but it'll seldom lead to the big prize.

Jan. 19 2011 11:44 AM
Robert from NYC

I have known many Taiwanese who have come to the US to study and work, and their parents certainly practiced tough love with high expectations, making US society look coddling in comparison. They were not immigrants in the US, but raised their kids like that in Taiwan. It appears to be distinct from an immigrant experience, with deeper cultural roots.

Jan. 19 2011 11:43 AM
Amy from New Brunswick

A lot of this discussion has been about raising girls -- do "Chinese mothers" treat their sons differently, or are treatments/expectations the same regardless of gender?

Jan. 19 2011 11:43 AM
UnPC but since you asked

I have noticed nearly all immigrant parents (not just mothers), w the exception of mexican and central/south american, to be "chinese mothers."

When i see the african, s asian and arab families falling out of love with a high-immigrant school, or moving away, it's the canary in the coal mine for that school's future.

The spanish speaking parents seem to be so relieved to be in the us that they want their kids to enjoy the culture, ie food and tv. Perhaps it's a different education level among the immigrants? But aside from that group, immigrants behave almost desperately with regard to their childrens' level of achievement.

Jan. 19 2011 11:43 AM
Lauren from Brooklyn

Yes, more than one kind of intelligence -- similarly, more than one kind of excellence, right?

I like the emphasis on perseverance, and the idea that parents are there, with you, believing in you -- but why is "excellence" the goal?

Jan. 19 2011 11:43 AM
mary from Fort Greene

I think you're Frenchifying her name, Brian! I bet it is a hard CH sound, not an SH sound!

Jan. 19 2011 11:43 AM
Susan from Upper West Side

I am so tired of the mommy wars and Amy Chua promotes this idea by ridiculous stereotyping on both sides. Asians are very diverse and so are the Chinese. My parents NEVER helped me and I was able to get a PhD in an Ivy League school all on my own by working hard. I did it in rebellion because my parents were anti-intellectual. My son has succeeded in Martial Arts where he was expected to undergo very rigorous mental and physical training. His black belt was not the "give a trophy for anything" accomplishment. And he STILL loves Martial Arts and continues because he loves it. I encouraged him, but did not need to force him to do it. He also is good at social skills, having friends from all income levels and ethnicities. I am not a model parent by any means, but I think much of the negative reaction to Amy Chua is her narrow view that this type of parenting is necessary for success.

Jan. 19 2011 11:43 AM
Mike from Tribeca

The caller should know that "Asians" do not have a "different psychology." It's about culture.

Jan. 19 2011 11:41 AM
DIWB from Brooklyn

I know some gay guys who were raised by 'Chinese Mothers' and they have a pretty tortured relationship with their parents - I wonder how the author would comment on this.

Jan. 19 2011 11:41 AM
Don from East Village

As a 2nd generation Korean I think that one of the things that influenced my parents was the parable of Mencius' mother. To quote from wikipedia:

"His mother Zhang (仉) raised her son alone. They were very poor. At first they lived by a cemetery, where the mother found her son imitating the paid mourners in funeral processions. Therefore the mother decided to move. The next house was near a market in the town. There the boy began to imitate the cries of merchants (merchants were despised in early China). So the mother moved to a house next to a school. Inspired by the scholars and students, Mencius began to study. His mother decided to remain, and Mencius became a scholar."

The take away for my parents was along the lines of "If Mencius' mother was willing to move three times for her child what is there that we wouldn't be willing to do for ours."

Jan. 19 2011 11:41 AM
MP from Brooklyn

James, excellent point - I am trying to teach my son otherwise, but it isn't easy.

Jan. 19 2011 11:41 AM
Estela Lopez from White Plaints

This "chinese parenting", is not for immigrants to the U.S. this is applicable to every Country in the World, because parents want their kids be better than them.

I came to this Country 10 years ago, and my parents in Mexico fit the :chinise parenting"

Jan. 19 2011 11:41 AM
Alison from NYC

I am a middle class, NYC (Jewish) mother and am somewhat parenting a la Chinese but do let my kid go on sleepovers and try not to call her a "piece of garbage" or "fat" if I can help it - I guess I am parenting with the hopes of raising a well rounded, reasonable child who knows her limits but also realizes that she can perform at 110%!!! Don't want her committing suicide in college!!! And if she isn't a concert pianist - well that's ok too!

Jan. 19 2011 11:41 AM
shane from greenpoint

Are Chinese especially successful, or are Chinese immigrants successful? I think Ms. Chua is misattributing merits due to a drift of talent with those determined by parenting.

In America we see the best talent from everywhere, and that is due to the fact that, generally speaking, only the best make the journey. That's why immigration is so important to American society.

Though she may not be aware of it, Ms. Chua's kids were probably destined for success before she even had a parental impulse merely because of broader circumstances.

...or she is aware of this and knew that it would be far more profitable to market a parenting strategy than an abstract mathematics of drifting and coalescing talent.

Jan. 19 2011 11:40 AM
Mary from nyc

I knew a second gen Asian guy who was raised with high academic expectations. And he had accomplished much on that front.. degrees in business, jobs at well known companies etc.. he seemed to know how to do the things society deems as "accomplished", but he had no idea what really gave him happiness as well as lacking social skills.

Jan. 19 2011 11:39 AM
Jesse from Westchester

How are we measuring success....monetarily?

Jan. 19 2011 11:39 AM
Elizabeth from NY, NY

I had a Chinese mother and we are from East Africa. "American parenting" is generally seen as permissive and lax. Other cultures are much more about listening to authority without question, excelling academically (and I mean working to become a doctor, lawyer, engineer, not a photographer or a poet). Things like prom, sleepovers, school plays are just not part of other cultures. I was raised in very much the same way as the author describes. We all took piano, violin and guitar. I was not rewarded for gettting A's. That was my job. I was not overly praised lest I get a swelled head. My parents gave me work during vacations (book reports, math problems). I am no worse for the wear. There is nothing wrong with setting boundaries, demanding excellence and not giving in to the whims of our kids or pop culture.

Jan. 19 2011 11:38 AM

So sad. The definition of success in this conversation is only the amount of money you make and your job position. So sad. The real success in life is not measurable. It doesn't matter if you are a sanitation worker or a brain surgeon. It is doing good for others and love that is the true success in life.

Jan. 19 2011 11:38 AM

Even if all parents take this approach, in a given group of high-achieving kids only one child can be ranked number one at a time. This is setting up a lot of children for failure and neurosis

Jan. 19 2011 11:37 AM
Paula from Brooklyn, NY

If I had a time machine (my kids are in their 20's now), I would have let them fail and feel the consequences when they were much younger. There would have been less distance to fall and they would have felt it more keenly - having to answer to teachers and other authority figures apart from their parents and figuring out the solutions for themselves, may have encouraged a sence of self-responsibility early in the 'game'.

Jan. 19 2011 11:37 AM
Matthew Schwartz from Harlem

I was NOT raised by "Chinese Mothers"
do i regret not being forced to do better in school and to excel at music?
do i regret sleepovers and playdates? of course not.

the writer has some good points but goes way too far.

Jan. 19 2011 11:36 AM

The author is either guilty of sloppy thinking or being gratuitously provocative. "People should understand that when I said 'chinese' I really meant 'immigrant,' 'irish' etc."

What a laughable explanation.

Jan. 19 2011 11:35 AM
Alvin from Manhattan

Why not look at Jewish families? Jews have received one out of seven Nobel Prizes. Many, if not most of the great mathematicians of the 20th century were Jewish. Several of the world's greatest violinists and pianists are Jewish. And yet, Chinese outnumber Jews by almost 100 to 1 worldwide. Why do we want to emulate Chinese mothers?

Jan. 19 2011 11:35 AM

don't they have fathers in china?

Jan. 19 2011 11:34 AM

must read on this topic:

Jan. 19 2011 11:32 AM
RLewis from the bowery

Does every show on public radio have to bring on the same guests? I've now heard, or heard about, this woman on at least 5 npr shows. Are there that few issues of interest? Come on.

Jan. 19 2011 11:31 AM

sorta fun to hear her twisting in the wind on lopate, as the clip you just played demonstrates. brooks' retort sublime.

immigrants sometimes don't care if their kids to be healthy in the mind, being well paid engineers, doctors etc is enough, and studying math is largely what that takes.

while i do agree that there are many patsy parents out there, they are not the definition of "american." on that note, nobody accuses china of producing standalone success aside from some chinese.

Jan. 19 2011 11:31 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

I am also already sick of this woman.
What a stupid premise for a segment.

Jan. 19 2011 11:31 AM

How come this seems to only be about daughters?

Jan. 19 2011 11:29 AM
MP from Brooklyn

I'm sick of this woman already.

Jan. 19 2011 11:26 AM
Patricia from Millburn

As an Asian immigrant we understand how racial issue played on Asian. While we can not change how others view us, we can change what we do to improve our chance of success. The same is true when we can not repeat time. Therefore as a parent you try your best to help your kids to release your kid's full potential. If high pressure is what works for Amy so be it!!

Jan. 19 2011 11:22 AM

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