Monday, January 17, 2011
Parenting: East versus West
My friend Sally Rippin today sent me this extraordinary article by lawyer and writer Amy Chua, called Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.
This story has attracted more comments (nearing 7,000 at last count!) than any story previously published by the Wall Street Journal, and has set off a fierce debate on so-called Eastern versus Western parenting styles.
It has waded into parenting territory at a time when there are various hot-button debates going on about whether modern kids have too little freedom, too much praise, too little real competition, too much pressure, too little responsibilities and so on, and so on.
Funnily for me, Chua's article is the first thing I've read since returning from a beach holiday (yesterday) where I deliberately focussed on being less controlling and less fearful in how I deal with my kids; to give them more trust, more room to explore their own boundaries and learn from their own mistakes. Holidays are a good time to work on that stuff!
I don't really understand the motivation for the kind of parenting Chua describes. While I sympathise with the need for discipline, and the role parents play in helping their kids to learn the benefits of hard work, her approach seems dangerously extreme to me.
Doubtless her "Eastern model" is a way to create children who have great technical proficiency. But for what? Where is the fun and the joy? And what of the role of creativity and the imagination?
Surely without that, you risk shaping an immature child, confused about their true motivations, who might be able to pay a note-perfect Rachmaninoff but can't invest it with any real emotional sensitivity, let alone create anything original of his or her own.
I'd love to know where you guys sit on this issue... And, while you're at it... on this one too!