In an article in the Wall Street Journal, Amy Chua argues that “Chinese Mother” parenting is superior to the typical Western parenting style. She claims that pushing your child to get straight A’s via extreme measures while denying them the ability to choose their own extracurricular activities is a better method for leading children to success. While I couldn’t disagree more, there have been plenty of responses written defending Western parenting and slamming “Chinese Mother” parenting. One thing stood out to me reading the article, though. What of the Chinese Fathers?
For part of the article, Amy Chua writes about “Chinese mothers” but at some point she switches to “parents.” Still, she admits that her husband, Jed, is not of the same mindset as she is when it comes to parenting styles. While she believes that the children owe their parents everything and the parents should “override all of their children’s own desires and preferences”, her husband thinks that “it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide for them [the children].”
So far, there’s no real problem. Usually parents will agree on some parenting points and disagree with others. In my mind, however, parenting is a team effort. When disagreements happen, they should be hashed out (preferably not in front of the children) and a compromise reached. Amy, however, doesn’t seem to think this is the case.
She recounts a story of trying to teach her daughter Lulu, 7 at the time, how to play "The Little White Donkey" on the piano. Lulu was having great difficulty with the piece and so Amy threatened her with no meals, with giving away her toys and called her “lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.” Her husband intervened and, pulling her aside, mentioned that he didn’t think threatening was helpful. Perhaps she simply didn’t have the coordination yet, he argued.
At this point, I would hope a normal couple would figure out some compromise. Some slight change in tactics that would satisfy both parents. Amy, however, told Jed that he just didn’t believe in his daughter, mocked him and went right back to her tactics (even going as far as denying bathroom breaks). When her daughter finally performed the song properly, Amy took it as vindication that she was right (and, presumably, that her husband was wrong).
To me, Amy shows a lack of respect towards her partner in parenting. She completely dismisses his concerns and thoughts on the matter. She admits sarcastically mimicking him. For his part, he seems to give up the fight and let her do what she wants. To me, this raises the question of how many other times this discussion has taken place. How many times did he raise his objections to her parenting tactics only to basically be told to sit down and shut up? Did he eventually give up fighting not because he thought she was right, but because he saw an old familiar path of arguing to no effect? Where, in Amy Chua’s vision of Chinese Mothering, does the father fit in?