After reading Amy Chua’s controversial article on WSJ last night, i can’t stop thinking about how it translates to the context here in Malaysia. It’s hard to generalize accurately, so i won’t try, but i will share with you the personal experiences i’ve faced. I’m a Malay Muslim, but with a Chinese father, so i’ve had the benefit of being able to compare the general differences i’ve seen.
Amy Chua says,
“Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.”
That’s exactly what my father said to me anytime my grades slipped. In fact, anything less than a B would get a real tongue lashing from him (and from my Malay mom).
In comparison, my Malay cousins, some would get Cs and Ds, and the reaction from their parents was completely laid back. Almost as though they didn’t care (or they did, but didn’t show it). It was always, “Its ok, try again next time” or “Tak de rezeki (it was fated)” or “Don’t worry, it’s all part of God’s plan”.
Was it a great surprise that they continued getting Ds?
In school, i saw the same thing happening, well at least from a result perspective. The top students were almost invariably Chinese. Yes, there was a token Malay occasionally in the top 5, but this was completely disproportionate to the number of Malays who made up the student population. 70% of the students were Malay, but only 1 of them made it into the top 5 on a regular basis? That just doesn’t compute.
The Chinese are not genetically superior. They aren’t predisposed to be smarter. But how could their fantastic academic performance be explained? It must start from the home, there was something different that their parents were doing to make them perform at a higher relative level to the kids from other cultures.
Despite all the negative comments Amy Chua’s article has received, i applaud her. A good parent never gives up on their child, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, they never let their child give up themselves. A good parent always pushes, threatens, cojoles, manipulates their child to be better, to get it right, to correct mistakes. Do children know what they want? Yes, perhaps they do — but because they don’t know what’s good for them, that’s where a parent needs to step in to tell them. And to force them to like it, if required.
We’ve been inundated with Dr Spock feel good parenting books for a long time. Raising a child shouldn’t be done with kid gloves.
- “Amy Chua on Chinese Mothers: Parenting Genius or Dictatorship?” and related posts (blogs.babble.com)
- Yale Law Professor Amy Chua Writes in Praise of Crazy Asian Moms (abovethelaw.com)
- Where the “Chinese mother” model gets it right…and why I will never be one. (shanshantastic.wordpress.com)
- “Woman Argues That Denying Children Individuality, Shaming Them is ‘Superior’ Parenting” and related posts (nymag.com)
- Dominic Lawson: ‘Chinese’ mothers… a lesson to us all (independent.co.uk)