Common Sense Commentary on Amy Chau's Essay
Commentary on Amy Chau's Article on the Chinese Mother by NewPeds.Com
Parenting should not make children sick

Common sense response to:

Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, by Amy Chua WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1-8-2011

On first reading this essay, a typical response might be to reach for the phone and dial the Hot LINE to report child abuse. After reflection, it seems reasonable to say that the article is a perfect example of how not to parent a child.

BUT, it should quickly be added that almost every point (but not all) in the article have elements that are true to some extent and we should back away from the emotional reaction and consider these.

It certainly is true that some ethnic backgrounds produce an extremely high percentage of very successful students and adults. Here is the question: can these techniques still work if they are mellowed and refined to be more kind and gentle and less extreme?

What Ms. Chau says about "Western" parents is true to some extent. Often, children are" in charge" and parents react to what they like and don’t like, if they are happy or not happy. Parents sometimes are acting more like friends than supervisors or teachers.

Success in school is hoped for but if it is not achieved, as Ms. Chua suggests, the search is for some explanation other than the child. The school, the teacher, the other children in the class, the curriculum, or even ADHD or Learning Disabilities. Often, the last consideration is the efforts being made by the child. Consequences of poor performance are not in the spectrum of those depicted by Ms. Chua, thankfully.

It should be noted that some children with the "Western" approach do succeed as well as the children Ms. Chua describes as the children of Chinese mothers. How can that be?

The answer may be that some "Western" parents have been able to take all of the approaches that Mrs. Chua has and soften them to kinder, gentler ones. Ms. Chua, for example, seems only to use negatives in her style of parenting. Yes, it is probably better to practice an instrument for an hour instead of 30 minutes but this might be accomplished with positive praise and some rewards. Yes, children may be doing too much in the way of sports and extracurricular activities….three sports at one time, weekend travel to participate in sports competition, too many hours on the computer or Wii or texting. Too many over-nites. Too much emphasis on latest fashions for kids. Too much time on FACEBOOK or videogames.



Ms. Chua’s approach must be criticized. It is extreme and should be compared to the "boot camp" of parenting. The fact that it works for her is not a sensible justification for trying it as she does on children in general. Rather, if it is looked at as an exaggeration, a cartoon of parenting, then the useful parts can be examined and considered.

Do we need to move away from where we are with parenting in the United States today? We should certainly not do what Ms. Chua advocates. Instead, we should look at most of what she does, redesign her principals, apply TLC, add positive reinforcement aspects, take away the cruel negative aspects, and come away with a more helpful way of steering children than we have now. Ms. Chua, by presenting this caricature of negative parenting, is actually helping us to realize that many U.S. parents have become a caricature at the other end of the spectrum. The common sense message is that we need to change what we are doing and move into the middle of the spectrum...but not to the end where ms. Chua is.

click below to go to the essay in the Wall Street Journal
Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, by Amy Chua WALL STREET JOURNAL, 1-8-2011