then why don’t I feel like I’m the best mother in the World?
A recent article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior in the Wall Street Journal has caused a lot of controversy and raised a lot of emotion amongst it readers and it’s certainly worth a read. Being an immigrant (Malaysian Chinese) to a Western culture (we now live in the UK), this article has certainly struck a chord for many reasons….not least because I too am, to a certain extent, trying to instill my child with ‘Asian values’ while being surrounded by Western Culture (I wrote about this when Georgia was little more than 1 here);
it also resonated with my thoughts on the responses of the UK’s Department of Education (supported by the PM and DPM) on the drop in the UK placing for the OECD, PISA rankings (but that’s probably for another blog!).
So as another Chinese mother, even with the same Hokkien heritage…do I agree with Prof Chua?
I must admit, that her methods were not a shock to me. While my mother was not quite as brutal, the expectation to achieve and over-achieve while never spoken were always implied and results were always demanded. I remember telling her the results to an English test one day, saying “I got 100%” and her response was “Is that all?”. I promptly burst in to tears.
This however was the norm amongst my peers. Everyone strove to achieve, success was measured by how many As you got; praise was something that was refuted by your parents when their friends commented one your achievements. Top students were exalted and god-forbid you failed any tests. Somehow though, the need to achieve became internalised, and certainly for me, I always felt the need to achieve…rightly or wrongly…to the extent that if I could not do something well, I would give it up!
Without a doubt, it has in very clear ways made me the person I am today (I have a PhD, play 3 instruments, swum competitively and was a competitve archer; I also learnt, Japanese, Mandarin and French (languanges are not my forte though!). I definitely attribute much of my success to my mothers mothering abilities.
However as a mother myself today, would I do the same? In one word No, BUT neither would I wholly subscribe to the ‘Western-style’ of raising children.
Being somewhat ‘in-between’, I have come to realise (as many in similar situations have) that the true value of being a happy, successful person lies somewhere in between the two extremes.
Happy being the key word here.
Our Asian heritage teaches us many wonderful traits, among them, hard work (which Prof, Chua very clearly instills in her daughters), respect (especially for parents and elders), humility, compassion for others but the bottom line in the Asian culture is always how successful you are, never how happy you are. Often success may be achieved at the cost personal happiness, as long as “my Parents are happy”.
My life experiences however have taught me that the most important thing in life is to be happy and at peace with yourself.
Perhaps here in the West, happiness and satisfaction are severely over-rated and we often tip-toe around people for fear of hurting their feelings. However, the freedom of children (to be children), the ability to ask questions and learn from asking questions, the immense value placed on creativity and individuality are all wonderful hallmarks of a Western upbringing. Unfortunately this is also often at the cost of striving to achieve more where academic success is not valued, over-achievers are taunted and successful people are football heros or pop idols.
So where does that leave us?
My personal philosophy to raising Georgia has been to instill the value and the pleasure of good, hard work; to know that it is important to respect people for who they are, to be humble and compassionate and yet equally we encourage her creativity and constantly praise her efforts in everything that she does; answer all her questions as honestly and as truthfully as we can.
Only time will tell if this is the right way…but for now, that and all our love will have to suffice.
Were you raised in the Asian or Western way? and if you have kids, what are your parenting philosophies?
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