Tiger mothers

Many of you may already know about the stir that Yale law professor Amy Chua has created with her latest book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Amy Chua wrote an article that appeared in the WSJ this past week. It has garnered a record number of comments (6999 at last count), almost all of them are irate. The book sales and media coverage look promising.

Here’s just a sample of what readers responded so vehemently to:

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

She employed weeks and weeks of military style tactics to force  her daughter to perfect a difficult piano piece. The kid just wasn’t getting it, apparently.

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

This style of extreme parenting is not uncommon in Chinese mothers, yet their offspring experience pychosis no more and no less than the population at large. For those who claim that schizophrenia is due to mixed messages, Ms. Chua’s husband is Jewish American and by all accounts wanted her to lighten up. (Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn’t even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn’t think threatening Lulu was helpful.)

All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

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