A Strict Chinese Mom Claims 'Chinese' Parents Are Better Than 'Western' Ones — Is This Not Crazy?

Amy Chua, a self-proclaimed 'Chinese' mother, sets up some ludicrous ground rules for her children, but she says her parenting technique is superior to any Westerners way. Read and be blown away. Amy Chua was raised by very strict Chinese parents who molded her into a one of those "stereotypically successful kids" who end up being "math whizzes" and "music prodigies," she writes in an essay titled "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." But instead of leaving that parenting model behind and following the "Western" way of raising kids, Amy decided to become another Chinese dragon mom! Could you ever be this strict?

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Amy, who lives in New Haven, CT, with her husband Jed and their two daughters Louisa and Sophia, has a set of ground rules that would make any mother gasp in horror — except if you were a crazed, oftentimes neurotic mother like Amy.  In her exact words, Louisa and Sophia were never allowed to:

• 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.

Is this crazy or what? Saying she uses the “Chinese mother” and “Western mother” identifiers “loosely,” Amy continues in the essay to try and prove that no matter what, the Chinese way of parenting is better. She says that Westerners believe that “stressing academic success is not good for children,” while Chinese believe that “academic excellence reflects successful parenting.”  Amy brings up other studies which indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents “spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.” What do you think about this? Do you agree with Amy so far?

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The one thing that sort of caught my eye was this line: “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.” She has a point, but I am pretty sure taht Western parents understand that, also. Usually kids give up on things way too fast because they get bored or they don’t like it. Apparently Chinese mothers NEVER lets their kids decide when to quit. No matter what, Chinese mothers won’t let their kids give up, but rather force them to do something — like play the piano or violin or ace a math test. “Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun,” Amy explains.

While I agree with her there, Amy goes on to further discuss how she calls her daughter “garbage,” when she is disrespectful or will even say “Hey fatty — lose some weight,” if her girls have packed on a few pounds. And I just can’t get behind her on that one.

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Instead of seeing any good qualities in the Western way of parenting, Amy criticizes every part of it, especially the stuff that involves academics. If a “Western” child got an A- or B on an exam, they’re parents would still give them praise and never call them “stupid” or “worthless.” A Chinese mother, Amy says, would scream at their child if they came home with a B — “which would never happen” — and would make them do practice tests for as long as it takes until they brought their grade to an A.

Hollymoms, how do you feel about Amy’s way of parenting? Do you think she has the right to throw the “Western” way under the bus?

–Leigh Blickley

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