Social Question

Charles's avatar

Are Chinese mothers superior?

Asked by Charles (4823points) May 25th, 2012

An interesting opinion piece… what do you think? It implies that using the Chinese mothering method guarantees that your child will achieve on average a higher level of success than not.

From the article:

“A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.”


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41 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

I would ask Sophia and Louisa in 10 years what they thought of their mother’s parenting methods.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I don’t think this makes any mother superior, quite the opposite. In my opinion that woman didn’t care too much about her children’s overall happiness.

JLeslie's avatar

I am curious to know the suicide rate among Chinese children. I tried to do some reseacrh. I found this article about three little girls who jumped off a building because they couldn’t stand all the homework being given to them.

I found this article for suicides around the world, but it didn’t include China.

It just seems to me with this parental pressure you can wind up with children who excel, or children who crack under the pressure.

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SavoirFaire's avatar

I think it’s worth pointing out that not even Amy Chua believes that Chinese mothers are superior (never trust headlines—they are written by editors to catch your attention, not by the authors to reflect their intentions). As she says several times in this interview with Steven Colbert, her original book was a memoir about what did and did not work about her mother’s parenting style. Chua is in the business of neutral analysis, and she is trying to explain what the effects of different actions are.

That said, Chua does have an underlying thesis that American parenting tends to be overly lenient (in contrast with her mother’s parenting, which was overly strict). She has a point, though she perhaps errs too far on the side of her mother’s style. I think that @KatawaGrey put it very well the last time we discussed this subject. Having to choose between being a tiger mom and a slacker mom is a false dilemma. There are other options, and even actual Chinese mothers are considering them.

King_Pariah's avatar

Yeah, because pressuring a child with family pride (what utter bullshit), academia, the illusion that financial success must be attained by them, the illusion that the child is bound to be a prodigy, and the threat of disownment and/or severe physical punishment to the point of suicide is soooooo superior.

GladysMensch's avatar

Know I know why I’m a failure. My parents did that exact list to me with one exception: I was forced to play the viola… not the violin. Damn you viola! Your non-standard sizing, thicker strings, and intense leaning bowing technique has shamed me once again. I am no longer fit for this world.

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monorob's avatar

The list is excellent but I think homeschooling is more efficient since you’ve more control over your kids lives and can keep a closer eye on them. Plus, the average homeschooled students outperformed their public school peers by 30–37 percentile points across all subjects. Forgot the % in comparison to private school though.

It makes perfect sense. You eliminate any forms of distraction and the only thing that remains are books. Although it has to be the right books, not some liberal art nonsense that has little value in the market place.

DominicX's avatar

@JLeslie The suicide rate in Japan is pretty high. I’d be curious if their attitudes are similar to these Chinese ones.

the100thmonkey's avatar

What a daft question.

I mean ALL Chinese mothers? ALL of them?

A more answerable question would be “Are Chinese mothers’ parenting styles more likely to lead to successful children?”

– what parenting styles in particular?
– how do you define “success”?
– does this mean my kids are going to be superstars?
– how does the role of the father relate to this question?
– how does SES (socio-economic status) relate to this issue?

Michael_Huntington's avatar

@the100thmonkey I agree. Apparently EVERY. SINGLE. ONE OF THEM have the same parenting style.

wundayatta's avatar

I take my son for piano lessons and damn! 75% asian, 24% white, 1% black. My son’s teacher is constantly telling us about her other (asian) students who are winning prizes in piano competitions, although she has a big complaint about one student who won. She can instantly imitate anything the teacher shows her, but she can’t do it herself. She has no artistry of her own.

Two (Asian) students moved from Australia to study with his teacher, and they had to beg to be accepted. She said the same thing to him last year, too, so I’m not so sure she is that booked up. It might be something she says to make the students feel special. It’s a common technique.

In any case, she accepted the students, and they are home schooled, so they come and practice five to seven hours a day. Ages 7 and 9. Supposedly they want to do this. But you know there’s a tiger mom behind it. No kid would sustain that kind of involvement for that long without the support of a parent.

In the US we do have helicopter parents and sports parents—parents who put enormous pressure on their kids. I sometimes wonder whether we are worthy of my son’t teacher, since I only make him practice half an hour to 45 minutes a day. I’d like to think we practice smart, and who knows how these other kids practice.

But I don’t want my son to be a performer unless he wants to. For me music is important for the soul, and I want him to have the skills he needs so he can be happy later in life. I believe music will play a big role in making him happy. But my wife sees this as my thing. She thinks I press too hard.

But she presses, too. On school work.

Blackberry's avatar

Nope, there are different parenting styles, but all should be used in moderation.

ucme's avatar

I don’t think many are nuns, no.

jca's avatar

I used to have a Chinese boss (female) and she had two daughters. She told me they were not allowed to watch TV at all during the week, except a few hours on a Saturday. They, too, had piano lessons. They were very studious and one went to Harvard and the other one, I’m not sure where she went. My boss told me one daughter wanted to be a doctor, and told her mother that she loved piano so much and the mom told her she could be a doctor and play piano for the patients. They also went to a Chinese school to learn Chinese culture and dance.

Is that superior? Maybe to some people. Maybe to people who are materialistic, and feel that “producing” a doctor or whatever is better. It’s a matter of opinion. Are the kids happy? Maybe if they know nothing different, they’re not unhappy. If they don’t hang around with kids who are playing video games or hanging out in malls they won’t know the difference.

tranquilsea's avatar

Chinese mothers are no better nor any worse than any other ethnic group. They may seem like they are better simply due to the sheer numbers of them that raise high achieving kids as opposed to a population of parents that is smaller doing the same thing.

I’m not a fan of pushing kids in a direction they don’t want to go. I look at myself as a facilitator and, when necessary, a disciplinarian. Seems to be working for us :-)

WestRiverrat's avatar

I met one Chinese Mother Superior when her Order came through our school. For the most part they are no better or worse than parents anywhere else in the world.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Not necessarily, and that list of “not allowed to do” is so anal and redonkulous that it’s not even remotely healthy, IMHO.

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thesparrow's avatar

What the hell? Asians don’t play video games? Ok, maybe not the girls..

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Coloma's avatar

I read an article of this mother and she is a whack job. A narcissistic, control freak tyrant that seems to be looking for vicarious glory via her daughters accomplishments. I think she’s a lousy mother.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Coloma I agree. She is epitome of what a control freak is.

whitenoise's avatar

The whole notion that “Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids” is prbably not true to begin with.

The 2011 income per capita in China was $8,400, placing it number 120 on the world ranking.

Maybe some immigrant Chinese in the US are successful. I see few people of Chinese descent in congress, though. Chinese mothers are likely like other mothers. Some are successful, while some are not.

Tiger mothers, from my view are scary. Like all parents that are extremely dogmatic in their approach to their children. Whether we can learn something from them that may help us, is somethig else. We probably can.

Sunny2's avatar

There is a theory that it doesn’t matter so much whether you’re a very controlling or a relaxed parent, as it does that you are consistent. Kids need to know what to expect from their parents. I’ve met a lot of Asian students and they are usually very well controlled, polite kids, who do their homework consistently. I’ve also talked at length with grown Chinese women about their upbringing. They often laugh about how strict their parents were, but they seem happy as adults.

rooeytoo's avatar

I don’t know about Chinese mothers inside China but the many I have known living in western countries are as different as any other group. Some were hard task masters, others were not demanding at all. I was most impressed by 2 little french boys, aged 5 and 8. I was working for their dad and would frequently have dinner with their family. They rarely had their dinner with us but always would come for desert. They were so well behaved and polite. They attended the lycee in NYC. But what totally flipped me out was one night we had chocolate cake for desert. It was rich and delicious and these 2 little boys sat on the palimino colored suede sofa and ate their cake. Hell I was a nervous wreck that I would spill something onto the sofa but the little boys didn’t blink an eye or drop a crumb. I wondered if all french kids were like that. Of course that was about 45 years ago, could be a very different story now.

whitenoise's avatar

Regarding your list of things that are not allowed:
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

How do these mothers handle their kids in a class with other Chinese mothers’ children? There can only be one No.1 student. This parenting style doesn’t seem very scalable.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

Apparently, after some reading I have done, French mothers are, by far, the best at parenting.

whitenoise's avatar

Then how do you explain for Dominique Strauss Kahn?

rooeytoo's avatar

Isn’t he just exercising his genetic male imperative to spread his seed?

whitenoise's avatar

Figure there would be a lot of better alternatives for him if that’s the case.
That would make for a nice question… What alternatives did DSK have for spreading his seed?

rooeytoo's avatar

@whitenoise but more importantly could he eat chocolate cake on the blond suede sofa without dropping a crumb when he was 7?

whitenoise's avatar

He must have… how else could he have ended up a financial hotshot and potential president?

thesparrow's avatar

As a general principle, most immigrant parents are strict about education.

the100thmonkey's avatar

@thesparrow – as a general principle about immigrant parents, I can tell you that your entire generalisation is bollocks.

mattbrowne's avatar

How many of last 500 Nobel Prize winners had Chinese mothers?

Forget the stereotype. Some Chinese mothers are good others are not. And this applies to practically all nationalities. Good or bad parenting is not tied to countries or countries of origin.

gailcalled's avatar

@mattbrowne: Now that you mention correlation, how many Nobelists had Jewish mothers?

I grew up with them and they certainly were not reticent or bashful about their kids’ achievements. (Although they were, in general, pushier with their sons.)

mattbrowne's avatar

@gailcalled – As far as I know, far above average when looking at percentages of the world population.

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