Pin It
Friday, February 11th, 2011

Maybe Amy Chua is Not so Bad

By

Having thought further about what intentional parenting entails, I sought counsel from my mother, Nina, about her parenting practices. She summed them up, patly, as “values based parenting.” I was instantly appreciative of her co-opting of the term “values,” as the right wing has cashed in on it for way too long.

 

“In parenting we transfer daily messages to our children about what is important,” she told me. “Intentional parenting is about looking at what those messages are and choosing what you want to transmit.”

 

I asked her for an example. “Well, if you are celebrating Christmas and decorating the tree, why are you doing that? What is the value in that activity?”

 

“Um…”

 

“Maybe it’s spending time together? In which case, the quality of the interactions should be more important than the product. I’ve seen so many people ruin holidays that way. The moment it ceases to be enjoyable, move on.”

 

“So partially, it’s keeping in mind why you are doing what you doing?” I asked.

 

“Yes, if it’s about transmitting traditions, the point would be to present them in a way that your children are likely to adopt as their own, engage and take ownership in,” she continued.

 

I have been following the brouhaha over Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and the accompanying excerpt in the Wall Street Journal. She presents a view of parenting in contrast to what she terms Western parenting with its indulgent, lax attitudes. It is one based in the long-standing traditions of her culture. Something about the way her parents raised her made her want to raise her children in a similar way, a sign that it is working. The Chinese and “immigrant” (Ms. Chua sets forth that Chinese mothers are part of a larger non-western bloc) strategy includes a large amount of discipline, high expectations coupled with shaming when they aren’t met and demands of progenitor filial piety. This is counter to the attachment parenting ideas of Dr. Sears. Reading about the dualistic strategies as outlined in her writing made me think about the challenges that would arise when the two parenting styles converge. Although Ms. Chua doesn’t emphasize that she is a part of a multicultural family, her husband’s name is Jed, which strikes me as a tip off. Having another person in the home, one who wasn’t raised in the same way as you, means that you have to let them examine your foundation as you move ahead in creating your own. Ms. Chua’s exploration of her parenting style is probably directly related to being married to someone who doesn’t share that background.

 

Blending parenting styles and cultural backgrounds hinges on the successful communication between parents and kids of what values they are transmitting through their approach. The non-Western parent might emphasize, like Ms. Chua, the competency presumed in the high expectations set forth and how believing your child is capable may be more important than constant praise. The Western parent may counter that the attention and dedication outlined in Ms. Chua’s approach could be coupled with positive reinforcement as opposed to shame and name calling. They might suggest that giving children choices helps to develop the strong character for which both cultures pride themselves.

 

The last sentence of the WSJ excerpt from Ms. Chua’s book stated, “Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

 

 

All of these are intentions based in the values of the cultures represented. The child who gets all of these things or the best of each will benefit greatly. The fact that this conversation is happening at all I think bodes well for the child involved because the discourse surrounding parenting is a sign of intentionality. It means thinking is going on, which makes me happy.

© 2011 – 2013, Kellen Kaiser. All rights reserved.

More Great Stuff You'll Love:


10 Best World Maps for Your Children’s Room

Because every little global citizen needs a map

Are French Kids Better Behaved Because They are Spanked?

Should spanking be part of your parenting toolkit to have well behaved kids?

Around the World in One Semester

Welcome to our newest blogger--a world traveling, homeschooling mom--to the InCultureParent family!

How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband

And why this is the number one fight in our household

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Kellen has watched other people parent for years. She has worked as a babysitter, infant teacher, nanny and in continuing education and quality improvement for childcare providers. She aspires to be a foster parent someday.

Leave us a comment!









Notify me of follow-up comments via e-mail.
Or leave your email address and click here to receive email notifications of new comments without leaving a comment yourself.

Get weekly updates right in your inbox so you don't miss out!



Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get

Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”

A Diverse Book for Preschoolers in Celebration of Multicultural Children's Book Day

A book that honestly and simply celebrates the every day diversity that children experience.

Why My African Feminist Mother Gave Me the Identity of My Father's Tribe

She gave me an identity so different from her own.

2 Children’s Books about Jamaica

Explore Jamaica with your child.

Costa Rica with Kids: Two Weeks of Family Travel

Two weeks of Pura Vida in a country with so much to offer families.

Should I Worry about My Child's Accent in Her Foreign Language?

See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from

How to raise trilingual kids when exposure to Dad's language is limited

My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day-help!

What Cultural Norms Around Bare Feet Taught This Mother in Guatemala

Her baby's bare feet ended up being a lesson on poverty and privilege.
Hi Kim! I am so glad that this article was useful for you and made you feel validated as a parent. It's not often in this judgmental world of parenting we get that, right?! That's the main reason...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
I love reading your work. I can olny imagine what it would be like to have such beautiful customs and true community. I understand why it is so very very important to keep these traditions alive. Be...
From No Kids Allowed: How Kenyan Weddings are Changing
Your mother in-law seems somewhat reasonable. Many Chinese Mother In-laws are not. In their scenario, they would be number 1 to the child and you would be number two. Many want to have a bond closer...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
I think Konstantina is actually responding to what is probably more familiar/praised/or preferred socially as well. I was an English teacher in Poland with a distinct accent. I struggled to get Engl...
From Should I Worry about My Child’s Accent in Her Foreign Language?
Noor Kids' title "First Time Fasting" is another great rea...
From 6 Favorite Children’s Books about Ramadan
This article was shared in a community I run to connect globetrotting parents and everyone LOVED it. You should join us! We all relate to your experience. Many of us, including me, are in the same b...
From Why I Travel 13 Hours Alone with My Kids Every Chance I Get
Please help: I Love my wife and my son. I am also EXTREMELY involved as a dad. I had to move to china ( in a tiny tiny town) where I am the only foreigner so that my wife can take over the family bu...
From How My Chinese Mother-in-Law Replaced my Husband
Thanks for writing this!! My baby is 7 months, and I love having her sleep in my room. I don't mention it too often to people who have had kids because they seem a little judgy on it. So tonight I...
From The West’s Strange Relationship to Babies and Sleep
Honestly, it looks like the author married into a very backward and old fashioned family. Not stimulating children's curiosity, differences between boys and girls, and women slaving in the house, wh...
From French versus Italian Parenting in One Multicultural Family

More Other People's Parenting