At first, I felt “obligated” to weigh in on the matter. After all, I am Taiwanese (No, it doesn’t mean I am a Chinese if that’s what you are wondering. Most Asian countries are culturally-Chinese-influenced). Many commenters (well over 7542 comments through WSJ at the writing of this) and bloggers—in fact, the vast majority of the ones I have read—are aghast. Some are appalled at Chua’s parenting techniques. Others are angry because they have no desire to be lumped into Chua’s “Chinese mothers” categorization, and feel that the Wall Street Journal is simply perpetuating harmful stereotypes. A lot of hateful language directed at Chua. Just to share a few: “This was appalling and reprehensible. Anyone viewed treating a child as she describes should be prosecuted for child abuse. Anyone who could construe that this type of behavior might be “motivation” need psychiatric evaluation. This is not a cultural issue. I am so sorry for her daughters. The woman clearly hates herself”; “I grew up in America, in a white family, with a psycho mom much like Amy, and boy do I feel bad for her kids! If I were her husband I’d divorce her”; “Chinese Mothers Are Nothing”.
Frankly, I am more curious about the blistering reactions than Chua’s methods. Why are people enraged about how one woman chooses to raise her children as if there is “the right” way to parenting.
Well, is there?!
I decided to read the book to get the whole story before judging by its cover. Reading Chua’s book was like reading documentation of my own father’s child rearing techniques. It hits home: Growing up, we were never allowed to have a playdate, nor sleepover, or video games. There were no snacks between meals–“Three meals a day is plenty”–my father would say, and he decided what two TV programs to watch per week. We were required to speak Taiwanese when we were at home, or my parents would not speak to us. The scene about fighting over practicing the piano with Chua’s daughter is also all too familiar; though, I didn’t have the gall to rip up music sheets, but at one point in protest, I played piano with my feet, and paid for it later with a fierce spanking, plus an hour of grueling squat. Comic books were prohibited. I was once caught reading them when I was in 9th grade. Six hours of kneeling on an abacus with a Bible in hand to read out loud was the punishment. My father sat across from me throughout the night till dawn. I went to school with both bruised bleeding knees.
Some would say without a doubt my parents are strict, and even abusive. During teenage years, I wrote in my journal about escaping my parents “mad house”, so they could no longer damage my spirit. I vowed I would never spank my children when I become a parent. I would reason and give choices to my children. I would praise, encourage them and never yell or punish them physically. I questioned their parenting skills, and blamed them for my failures. I fact, I know I will be an American-family-TV-shows-type-of-parent (you know a few of them, don’t you), a better kind than my parents.
What I didn’t know then was this very thing about parenting I discovered several years ago. I will call it, “default condition.” It’s like once you take on the role, “Parent”, you are immediately inherited certain thinkings, ideas, behaviors, beliefs about what being a parent is, and is not. You play the role accordingly without knowing. It acts as gatekeeper for what you can think, and do as a parent. You thought YOU can do better than, or do the opposite (as like I used to think), but the challenge is that you don’t know that you don’t know (yes, it’s mouthful) the kind of parent you become is not given by your aspiration, but the default condition, which is: “Children are property, and they belong to you. To save your children from your fears and to get them to turn out the way you want them to turn out by working hard [exerting effort (intense force)] to avoid what you are afraid of, to instill and perpetuate your personal beliefs, opinions and points of view in your offspring, including the need to be well thought of” (Taken from the workshop: Parents: Outside the Trap).
Do I have any evidence for that? Sure, I do. It is well illustrated in Chua’s story……
(To be continued…)