Thursday, January 20, 2011


By now, you've probably heard enough already about the latest flap in modern parenting. It's been discussed ad nauseum in the media, the blogosphere, around the water cooler, and among our friends (actual and facebook-variety).

I found the whole episode to be very thought-provoking. Are Tiger Mothers really superior? Does permissive "Western" parenting create underachieving kids? How can we raise children to be successful in an increasingly global community? Does Amy Chua really call her children "garbage"? The piece seems almost tongue-in-cheek, but where is the punchline...? Now that book reviews and author interviews are starting to surface, and it seems Ms. Chua's views are more nuanced than what appeared in the Wall Street Journal excerpt, I have another question....

Who is this woman's publicist? And how did that person convince the Wall Street Journal to publish this most non-nuanced, and provocative portion of Chua's memoir, with an inflammatory headline to match....? Because that person is a genius.

As the dust settles a bit, I have to say, I feel like we have been played. Caught up in a firestorm, over what? As far as I can tell, Ms. Chua has been busy backpedaling away from the WSJ piece ever since it appeared:

"There is no easy formula for parenting, no right approach (I don’t believe, by the way, that Chinese parenting is superior—a splashy headline, but I didn’t choose it). The best rule of thumb I can think of is that love, compassion and knowing your child have to come first, whatever culture you’re from. It doesn’t come through in the excerpt, but my actual book is not a how-to guide; it’s a memoir, the story of our family’s journey in two cultures, and my own eventual transformation as a mother. Much of the book is about my decision to retreat from the strict “Chinese” approach..."

Mmm-hmm. That line probably wouldn't have sold as many books (or newspapers) this past week, though. Nor would it have turned her book tour into a media circus.

In the end, I just don't find her message to be that remarkable. Yes, we should insist that our kids do their homework, and practice their instruments, and try their best. Less "screen time" would be good. Say "no" and mean it, set limits, recognize each child's individual strengths and weaknesses. Temper it all with affection and good humor. We've all dabbled in less-than-ideal parenting tactics from time to time. We move on, and hope our kids get over it.

Thanks, but I think I'll keep my $25.95.


Joyce said...

We, of an older generation, had different but similar topics on parenting. No one has ever had the answers, but we discussed them none the less.

Anonymous said...

The WSJ article has had over a million hits, so obviously Chua has struck a nerve! It is similar to what happened when Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. The "Uproar" continues-

Michelle said...

Well said Chris!