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Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

 
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Wed 12 Jan, 2011 05:59 pm
@George,
George, I don't remember if I saw this posted on A2K or elsewhere but it seems relevant to what you said. It's an essay written by a mother on the insanity that started when her daughter got a perfect score on her SAT and the scholarships and early admission offers didn't start pouring in.

http://www.diablomag.com/Diablo-Magazine/September-2010/Section-i-bull-Feature-essay-bull-Multiple-Choice/

Interesting reading!
Smileyrius
 
  3  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 02:58 am
A superior mother is one who brings her child up not only to be happy, but to make others so.

Happy child > successful child.
0 Replies
 
Miller
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 08:05 am
A superior mother is one who brings her child up to know his/her rights and to stand up for them.
maxdancona
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 08:19 am
@Miller,
Quote:
A superior mother is one who brings her child up to know his/her rights and to stand up for them.


You don't know the history of the Chinese in America, do you?
0 Replies
 
George
 
  6  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 08:39 am
@ossobuco,
My children have a Chinese mother (born in Hong Kong, immigated here at
age ten). She is strict, demanding, and expects nothing less than
excellence. We have a special needs kid and she worked relentlessly to
assure that he was the best special needs student at Stoneham High. And
so he was.

But she is nowhere near Ms. Chua's description. Nowhere near.

Balance is difficult, but possible.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 11:55 am
@boomerang,
Jeepers that scares me. The one actual saving grace is my older daughter isn't a good test taker - in the sense of SAT type tests. She does very well in school and is usually one of the top two (now granted in a small class, but at a school where expectations in academics are high). So the SAT shouldn't set us off and running.

It really scares me about all the stress involved. She is in middle school and other than her voicing she wants to go to UCONN - due to basketball not academics (what girl that plays basketball wouldn't?); we've talked about college, but not any specifics.
0 Replies
 
FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:18 pm
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:

Quote:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it


BLECH.

(Still reading.)


That's exactly how I felt about it.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:19 pm
@boomerang,
Just reading this.

Maybe it's my own relatively humble college education (University of Wisconsin-Madison rocked but it's not ivy league), but I just don't really get the "prestige" college degree thing. Kind of like handbags.

So far sozlet says she wants to go to OSU. We say "let's see what you think when you're 18." I have to remember that she actually will need to start thinking about it seriously earlier than that.

But I can't quite imagine having that kind of "HYPSM" fever.

Honestly, I'm not sure I'd prefer that she go to one of those (Harvard-Yale-Princeton-Stanford-MIT) even if she got a full scholarship. Ultimately what I want for her is to a) go someplace she wants to go that b) is a good combination of quality and atmosphere. Someplace where she can broaden her horizons and learn stuff that will serve her throughout her life, without being a stress factory.


George, congrats to your wife (and to YOU) for being so balanced in your parenting. You seem to have done a really good job.
George
 
  2  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:37 pm
@sozobe,
sozobe wrote:
Honestly, I'm not sure I'd prefer that she go to one of those (Harvard-Yale-
Princeton-Stanford-MIT) even if she got a full scholarship. Ultimately
what I want for her is to a) go someplace she wants to go that b) is a good
combination of quality and atmosphere. Someplace where she can broaden
her horizons and learn stuff that will serve her throughout her life, without
being a stress factory. . .

Absolutely agree. There are so many factors to consider, so much
information to process, so much money . . .
JPB
 
  3  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:38 pm
At the age of 12, daughter M was invited to participate in Northwestern University's prep classes. The invitation said that her participation would help prepare her for admission to a top-tier school and, without it...., well, she'd probably have to settle for being average.

The prep classes take place over the summertime. She'd spend 6 weeks at Northwestern every summer "preparing" to be a college student. Like I said, she was 12. I considered it for about 5 minutes before throwing the letter away (I mentioned it to Mr B, but not to M). I was initially proud that she'd been invited, but I thought it would do her much more overall harm than good. The few folks here that I told about it thought I was insane not to "take advantage of such an opportunity".

Watching what she went through at the pressure cooker of a public high school here (where everyone is supposedly being trained to get into top tier schools), I'm more than glad I gave her her summers off to be a kid.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:40 pm
@George,
Me too.

Soz, you've got a few years yet, but the book "Colleges That Change Lives" describes 40 colleges/universities nationwide that may be of interest to you/her.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:47 pm
@George,
Oy, the money.

E.G. and I have talked about putting a concerted effort into remaining neutral re: money. Before any scholarships she already would get 1/2 off tuition at OSU because he's a prof there. So of course that's attractive. Hopefully she'd get scholarships but we absolutely can't count on that. So I don't want her to feel any pressure to go where it's most affordable.

But oy, the money.

JPB, good call. Yikes.

I don't think there's that kind of pressure here in HS but I don't know enough people at that level yet to be sure. Some of sozlet's friends' older siblings are nearing high school, so I should know more soon.

I really sidestepped the whole thing myself because it was right when I was going seriously deaf (the process started when I was 13 but had a lot of hearing for intervals until I was 16-17) and I alternated between doing great and doing terribly in school. Everyone knew I was smart and that the problems were because I was adjusting to losing my hearing but my GPA was eh enough that the really prestige schools were never on my radar. At that time, a good SAT score really did save me. Couldn't have gotten into even UW-Madison on grades alone.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:53 pm
@JPB,
Thanks!

So how many years do I have? I had thought she didn't have to think about this 'til junior year. The article boomer linked to seems to say sophomore year. I don't think I'll want her to take classes just for getting into college (maybe my mind will change, but at this point I think she should take classes 'cause they're interesting and not bother with colleges that would require her to go to extraordinary lengths).
George
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:56 pm
@sozobe,
Speaking of scholarships, Hermione was offered some grant money, but any
scholarship she earned would be deducted from the grant money. Kind of a
disincentive, wouldn't you say?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 12:59 pm
@George,
I would say! That ain't right.

Just looked up resident undergraduate tuition at OSU, around $9,000/ year, so if we only had to pay $4,500 of that before any scholarships... yeah. That'd be nice.

We'll see.
George
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 01:24 pm
@sozobe,
. . . and she would get to say "THE Ohio State University".
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 01:24 pm
@George,
Ha! Yeah. They're just a wee bit obsessive about that.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  5  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 01:34 pm
This article is full of generalizations that are couched in deliberately sweeping overstatements, but I do think there are some basic truths about cultural differences worth thinking about:

- Immigrants (which is the culture referred to more than Chinese) tend to place a greater emphasis on survival and success. Thus they are less interested in their child's success in activities such as sports, than in academic activities because they view academic success as the means to the lifestyle they came to America to enjoy. They just brought their family to America to try to improve the quality of their lives and they didn't bring their kids to a new country for the sports and play infrastructure. They put an emphasis (deserved or not) on the things they think will best help their kid climb this ladder.

- Americans are very individualistic, with a greater emphasis on personal freedom and expression than conformity, this results in very different patterns of discipline and both misbehavior and academic sloth is tolerated to a much greater degree. The flip side is that Asian cultures put conformity first and tend to produce better learners (of what academia teaches) at the expense of some innovative creativity (and learning that academia does not teach). It's true that the pressure to conform produces attrition, things like suicide over grades, but at the same time the individualistic cultures can produce attrition with things like suicide over bullying. In some ways it can end up being a difference between a culture of internalizing pain and externalizing it as well. I really don't think either extreme is ideal, it is like a choice between hurting yourself or hurting others.

- Americans are also much less involved in each other's lives than in other cultures. Americans don't take care of their parents or their kids nearly as much as almost any other culture. It's not as common to see family businesses run by Westerners as it is by Asians. In Western culture, and America specifically, your parents are on their own, they have social security and they go to the old-folks-home and stay out of your hair. Kids leave the nest nearly as soon as they are legally able in America in other cultures it's common to only do so if you marry, and even then you may build your house next to mom and dad's. On a fundamental level, American families are structured far more individually, with much more freedom and much less cooperation and overlap between each other's lives. There is more space, both literal and metaphorical in the American culture than on average.

- Americans do not engage in as much personal sacrifice as other cultures do. In America denying a child the spoils of American youth can be seen as harsh where in many other countries American lifestyles are seen as over-indulgent. On a fundamental level, Americans are far more hedonistic than most of their immigrants. For better or worse this is a huge fundamental difference and yes it can be evidenced in overbearing parents whose kids are miserable but it's also evidenced in fat, lazy and spoiled kids who have been over-indulged. Neither extreme makes any sense. It doesn't make sense to force conformity and emphasize academic success as exclusively as some cultures do, but it also doesn't make sense to live as hedonistically as many Americans do, with little thought for the future (don't save) or health (eat what you want), or any real personal sacrifice.

Simply put, there certainly is such thing as too much sacrifice, but the flip side of this spectrum is not enough. This article's language is polarizing and gets people to set about comparing the extremes of the stereotypes but the in reality the stereotypes are not binary, and this is just a spectrum of sacrifice vs. indulgence where neither end is ideal. The prototypical stereotype of either culture is certainly not the right one but life is a lot more nuanced than those stereotypes while most conversations about them are far less so.


But ultimately there is a fundmental truth to something that is being said here, there are subcultures in America who come with a lot less to the table and succeed at a far greater rate. Without getting caught up in the specific cultural stereotypes too much we should be able to recognize a simple spectrum in which short-term happiness and long-term happiness compete and how indulgence is short-term and sacrifice is long-term. We should also be able to see how living at either end of the spectrum is likely to produce different academic and social results. The article title sets the discussion off on very poor footing by making a binary comparison and claiming superiority, I'd say balance is superior to either stereotypical extreme. It doesn't make sense to live a life of all-sacrifice and it doesn't make sense to indulge all your short-term desires. It doesn't make sense to conform to the point where you are embarrassed to hold hands in public, and it doesn't make sense to be individualistic to the point where it infringes on the rights of others to peacefully coexist.

It's a pity that the article has couched it all exclusively in the language of cultural stereotypes, if take all that away it's a much easier conversation to have. Imagine it as being within a single culture, but merely parents who indulge and under-discipline vs. parents who are too stern and over-discipline. Put that way it's easier to see that neither stereotype is good and that they are ends of a spectrum that is not binary. Put as "why Chinese mothers are superior" is mind-numbingly stupid reductionism. But I do agree with the general principle that Americans on average put too great an emphasis on entertainment and not enough emphasis on academia. A bit less TV and video gaming might not hurt American parenting to try, for example, and I'd count myself among those who wished there was a lot more discipline in American parenting and yes, I would love to see a greater emphasis on academic development, and slightly less on making a child's life revolve so much around entertainments and rewards.
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 02:02 pm
@Robert Gentel,
Very well put, Robert. I didn't like the tone of the article and thought it very polarizing as well.

Robert Gentel wrote:
- Americans are also much less involved in each other's lives than in other cultures. Americans don't take care of their parents or their kids nearly as much as almost any other culture. It's not as common to see family businesses run by Westerners as it is by Asians. In Western culture, and America specifically, your parents are on their own, they have social security and they go to the old-folks-home and stay out of your hair. Kids leave the nest nearly as soon as they are legally able in America in other cultures it's common to only do so if you marry, and even then you may build your house next to mom and dad's. On a fundamental level, American families are structured far more individually, with much more freedom and much less cooperation and overlap between each other's lives. There is more space, both literal and metaphorical in the American culture than on average.


I'm surrounded by examples of this. We live in a predominately Jewish community. Non-Jewish caucasion families and Asian families make up the rest of the area. Our Asian families are a mix of Chinese and Korean, both of which have multiple generations living in the smallest houses. Mom and dad both tend to work while Grandma (and sometimes Grandpa) tend to the kids. In the summertime, when school is out, the kids and Grandma return to their homeland and catch up with Grandpa (unless he was here already) and the rest of the extended family.

Academics are strongly pushed in both the Jewish and Asian households. Music, particularly classical music, is prevalent. The non-Jewish American kids tend to participate in sports more often than either of the other two groups. I do see somewhat of a difference between the Korean kids and the Chinese kids when it comes to extra-curricular activities. The Korean kids seem to strive to participate in more wide-spread activities than the Chinese kids, but in both cases, they want to excel at whatever they do. I sometimes wonder how they get any sleep at all. These are generalizations, to be sure, and the kids seem to take it in stride, but the generalizations are real.
0 Replies
 
JPB
 
  1  
Reply Thu 13 Jan, 2011 02:08 pm
@sozobe,
Our schools start pushing them in 8th grade. They take the PLAN test (a sub-test of the ACT) so they can start mapping out their high school experience. Then, in 9th grade, each freshman meets with his/her guidance counselor and is supposed to tell them what colleges they're going to apply to and their intended major.

I got a call from M's guidance counselor telling me she wasn't being very helpful and that they couldn't complete her four-year plan without a focus for her hs education. I told them that I was sure she'd end up at graduate school somewhere so they should just worry about getting her qualified for a good undergraduate program and we'd worry about the specifics later.

I'm a very unusual parent in my community. These programs are set up because our parents demand that their children are ready for Duke, Stanford, or MIT.
 

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