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Chinese Mothers

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Why Chinese Mothers Are SuperiorWhy Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?

Source: WSJ, by Amy Chua

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

(When it comes to parenting, the Chinese seem to produce children who display academic excellence, musical mastery and professional success – or so the stereotype goes. WSJ’s Christina Tsuei speaks to two moms raised by Chinese immigrants who share what it was like growing up and how they hope to raise their children.)

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

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.

I’ve thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do. I think there are three big differences between the Chinese and Western parental mind-sets.

First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child “stupid,” “worthless” or “a disgrace.” Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)

Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it’s true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

By contrast, I don’t think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents. My husband, Jed, actually has the opposite view. “Children don’t choose their parents,” he once said to me. “They don’t even choose to be born. It’s parents who foist life on their kids, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide for them. Kids don’t owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids.” This strikes me as a terrible deal for the Western parent.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp. It’s also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, “I got a part in the school play! I’m Villager Number Six. I’ll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I’ll also need a ride on weekends.” God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

Don’t get me wrong: It’s not that Chinese parents don’t care about their children. Just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children. It’s just an entirely different parenting model.

Here’s a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called “The Little White Donkey” by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it’s also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.

Lulu couldn’t do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

“Get back to the piano now,” I ordered.

“You can’t make me.”

“Oh yes, I can.”

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, “I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?” I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn’t even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn’t think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn’t do the technique—perhaps she didn’t have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

“You just don’t believe in her,” I accused.

“That’s ridiculous,” Jed said scornfully. “Of course I do.”

“Sophia could play the piece when she was this age.”

“But Lulu and Sophia are different people,” Jed pointed out.

“Oh no, not this,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Everyone is special in their special own way,” I mimicked sarcastically. “Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don’t worry, you don’t have to lift a finger. I’m willing to put in as long as it takes, and I’m happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games.”

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn’t let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

“Mommy, look—it’s easy!” After that, she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn’t leave the piano. That night, she came to sleep in my bed, and we snuggled and hugged, cracking each other up. When she performed “The Little White Donkey” at a recital a few weeks later, parents came up to me and said, “What a perfect piece for Lulu—it’s so spunky and so her.”

Even Jed gave me credit for that one. Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

(—Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of “Day of Empire” and “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability.” This essay is excerpted from “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, to be published Tuesday by the Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. Copyright © 2011 by Amy Chua.)

譯文:中國媽媽何以更優越?

(作者艾米蔡是耶魯大學法學院教授,也是“帝國之日”和“失火的世界”兩本書的作者。本文摘自艾米蔡“母老虎媽媽戰爭之歌”,由企鵝出版社出版,企鵝集團(美國)有限公司版權所有。)

  很多人想知道中國父母如何能養育出那麽成功的孩子。他們想知道這些父母都做了什麽以至于培養出這麽多的數學和音樂神童,他們又有一種怎樣的家庭。這些人很想知道自己是否也能做到這一點。嗯,我可以告訴他們,因爲我已經做到了。這裏有一些我的女兒:索菲亞和路易莎永遠也不被允許做的事情:
  ◆、在外面過夜
  ◆、有一整天的玩樂
  ◆、參加學校整天的玩樂
  ◆、抱怨說沒有參加學校的玩樂
  ◆、看電視或玩電腦遊戲
  ◆、選擇適合自己的課外活動
  ◆、獲得任何A以下的成績
  ◆、不是科目的第一名(體育和戲劇科目除外)
  ◆、彈奏樂曲(鋼琴或小提琴除外)
  ◆、不練習鋼琴或小提琴。
  我籠統使用的這個字眼“中國媽媽”。我知道一些韓國,印度,牙買加,愛爾蘭和加納的父母也同樣合格這個稱號。相反,我知道有些華裔母親,幾乎都是出生在西方,並不符合這個稱謂。我也要用“西方家長”這個術語。這包括形刑種種的西方父母。
  當涉及到育兒,似乎是中國人的孩子展示了卓越的學術成就、音樂技能和事業的成功–所謂的刻板形象。華爾街日報的克裏斯蒂娜崔採訪了兩位中國移民媽媽,分享他們成長的經曆,以及他們如何希望培育自己的孩子。
  即使西方的父母覺得他們對孩子嚴格,那種嚴厲通常與中國媽媽的標准天差地遠。例如,我的西方朋友認爲自己讓孩子每天花30分鍾練習樂器是夠嚴格的了,最多不會超過一小時。可對于一個中國母親,一小時簡直太容易了,兩三個小時都不是艱難的事。
  撇除對文化的成見和過敏,研究顯示中西方之間,當談到中西父母的差異,有著明顯的本質的區別。在一項對美國50個西方母親和48個中國移民的母親調查中,幾乎70%的西方母親說“強調高分對孩子不好”或“父母需要培育孩子學習的樂趣。”相比之下,約0%的中國母親有同感。相反,絕大多數的中國母親說,他們相信他們的子女能夠成爲“最好的”學生,孩子“學習成績反映了爲人父母的成功和失敗”,而如果孩子沒有在學校出類拔萃則是“問題”所在,父母“沒有做好他們自身的工作。”其他研究表明,相對于西方的父母,中國父母大概花約10倍的時間檢查他們的孩子每天相關的學習活動。相比之下,西方的孩子更多地參與體育運動團隊。
  華人父母認爲,沒有任何東西是有趣的,直到你很擅長和掌握自如。任何的掌握自如都需要努力。孩子本身不喜歡辛苦,這就是爲什麽有時至關重要的爲人父母爲孩子做出選擇。這通常需要爲人父母者堅韌不拔的堅持,因爲孩子會頑強地抵制,萬事開頭難,這也是很多西方的父母往往放棄的原因。但是,如果處理得當,中國戰略可以産生了一個良性循環。堅持不懈的實踐、實踐再實踐是最終卓越的關鍵,死記硬背也是美國人低估了的一種功效。一旦孩子開始擅長和運用自如一種東西,無論是數學、鋼琴、投球或芭蕾,他或她得到一致好評、贊賞和自我滿足。這種自信心的建立,使得一度不太有趣的活動成爲樂趣。反過來,這也使得孩子的父母的工作容易得多。
  中國的父母可以做西方父母所不能做的。我年少之時,不止一次當我不尊重我的母親時,我的父親用我們閩南土語生氣地叫我“垃圾”。這種責罵非常管用。我對自己的行爲感到可怕和深深的羞愧。但是,這並不損害我的自尊之類的東西。我清楚地知道他對我抱有的期望。我其實並沒有覺得自己像一堆毫無價值的垃圾。
  作爲一個成年人,我曾經對我的女兒索菲亞做過同樣的事情,當她對我非常無禮的時候,用英語罵她垃圾。當我在一次宴會上提到我那樣做(對我的女兒),我立刻被排斥。瑪西說她太難過了以至于泣不成聲,更不得不不得不提早離開宴會。我的朋友蘇珊,晚會的主人,試圖在留下的客人中爲我平反。
  中國父母可以做一些似乎不可思議的事情,對西方人來說他們甚至可以采取法律行動,。中國媽媽可以對他們的女兒說,“嘿!胖子!該減肥了。”相比之下,西方家長要蹑手蹑腳圍繞這個問題“舞蹈”,用“健康”來引導,永遠不會提胖字,而他們的孩子仍然要在結束飲食失調和負面的自我形象治療之間掙紮。(我也曾經聽到一個西方的父親祝酒他成年的女兒叫她“美麗,令人難以置信的能力。”後來她告訴我,他父親虛假的語言讓她有一種垃圾的感覺。)
  中國的父母可以要求他們的孩子成績拿全A。西方父母只要求他們的孩子盡力就好。中國的父母可以說:“你這懶蟲!你所有的同學都超越你了。”相比之下,西方父母不得不關于成就與自己的沖突的感覺鬥爭,試圖說服他們自己,他們的孩子不理想的成績沒有讓他們失望。
  我想了很久有關華人父母如何能做那些西方父母認爲不可思議的事情。我認爲在西方父母和之間的中國父母之間,存在著三個思想上差異。
  首先,我注意到,西方的父母非常關心孩子的自尊心。他們擔心自己的孩子如果失敗會感覺如何,他們不斷嘗試從正面去安撫他們的孩子,盡管孩子在考試或演奏上表現平平。換言之,西方的父母關心孩子的心理。中國的父母卻不是!他們斷定孩子是堅強的,而不是脆弱的,這兩種假設和斷定結果,導致了非常不一樣的結果。
  例如,如果一個孩子帶著A–的成績單回家,西方家長極有可能表揚孩子。中國媽媽會喘息不順並問出了什麽差錯。如果一個孩子帶著B成績單回家,一些西方父母仍然會稱贊孩子。另一些西方父母坐下來和他們的孩子談話並來表達不滿,但他們要小心,不要讓孩子們感到不適或缺乏安全感,他們不會罵他們的孩子“笨”,“沒用”或“羞恥”。私下裏,西方的父母可能會擔心他們的孩子沒有考好,或者對課程甚至學校産生懷疑。如果孩子的成績沒有改善,他們最終可能安排與該校校長面談,挑戰教學方法和正在執教老師的能力。
  如果中國的孩子獲得了B—這似乎是永遠不會發生的事情,首先會聽到一聲尖叫,仿佛頭髮撕裂爆炸。氣急敗壞的中國媽媽可能以數十個也許上百個練習題和測試給她的孩子,直到他們的孩子拿到A。
  中國家長要求他們的孩子取得完美的成績,因爲他們相信,他們的孩子可以做到。如果他們的孩子沒有得到(完美的成績),中國父母認爲是因爲孩子沒有足夠努力。這就是爲什麽中國父母對孩子不合標准的結果解決方式始終是苛責、懲罰和羞辱。中國父母認爲,他們的孩子足以承擔羞辱並改善不佳。
  其次,中國家長認爲,孩子欠他們的一切。這個原因不明確,但它可能是儒家孝道以及加進去了父母爲孩子的某種犧牲,父母爲孩子做了很多的事情。(的而且確,中國媽媽長期艱苦的奮鬥親自輔導、培訓、審問他們的孩子,有時甚至像從事間諜活動一樣。)據了解,中國孩子必須盡自己的一生償還服從父母,讓他們的父母以此爲榮。
  相比之下,我不認爲大多數西方人的子女有永久地感謝他們的父母的觀點。我的丈夫,傑德,看法剛好相反。“孩子沒有選擇父母的權利,”他曾經對我說。“他們甚至無法選擇出生。是父母強加給他們的孩子生命,所以父母有責任爲他們提供生活所需。孩子不欠父母任何東西。他們的職責將是自己的孩子。”這番話給了我巨大的沖擊。
  第三,中國的父母認爲,他們知道什麽是對他們的孩子來說是最好的,因此他們忽略孩子自身的欲望和喜好。這就是爲什麽中國女兒在高中不能有男朋友,中國的孩子不能去住宿營地。這也是爲什麽中國的孩子永遠不敢對他們的母親說,“我學校有場演出,我演村民第六號,我放學之後要留校,從三點至七點排練,我還需要周末被送過去參加排練。”願上帝幫助中國孩子有勇氣嘗試去那麽做。
  不要誤解我:這並不是說中國的家長不關心他們的子女。恰恰相反,他們會爲了自己的孩子放棄所有。這只是一個完全不同的養育模式。
  在中國,並非所有的愛都以負面的形式出現。問題是:美國父母是否太容易了?這裏有一個中式“強逼”的故事。露露,7歲左右,學習兩種樂器,正在練習鋼琴曲法國作曲家雅克的作品“小白驢”。這首曲子真的很可愛,你可以想像一個小毛驢沿著鄉村道路歡快地前行,但對于初學者也是非常困難彈奏的曲子,因爲兩只手必須同時彈奏不同的節奏。
  露露彈不好。我們曾一個星期不間斷地努力練習,先是兩只手分別進行,一遍又一遍。但每當我們試圖把兩只手放在一起,一只手就會被另一只拖累,然後一切都亂七八糟。最後在她上課的前一天,露露跺著腳惱怒地宣布:她放棄了。
  “你坐回到鋼琴前去。”我命令。
  “你想!”
  “哦,是的,我可以。”
  回到鋼琴前,露露要我付出代價。她拳打腳踢並一把撕碎了樂譜。我把碎片貼到一起到一起,並把它包在一個塑料套裏以防再被摧毀。然後我把Lulu的娃娃屋拖到我的汽車裏,並告訴她,如果她沒能在第二天把“小白驢”彈得很完美,我會把她的娃娃屋一塊一塊捐給救世軍。露露說,“你不是要去救世軍嗎,你爲什麽還在這裏?”我威嚇她她將沒有午飯、沒有晚餐、沒有聖誕節或光明節的禮物,二、三甚至四年內沒有生日派對。當她還是不停地彈錯,我告訴她,她執意讓自己陷入狂亂,因爲她偷偷害怕她做不好。我告訴她不要偷懶,不要懦弱,不要自我放縱和不要自己可憐自己。
  傑德把我拉到一邊。他告訴我要停止侮辱露露,而我什麽都還沒做呢。我只是激勵她,但他不認爲威脅露露是任何益處。他說,也許真的露露做不到那個難度,也許她沒有那種協調能力,我是否考慮過這種可能性?
  “你不相信她,”我指控。
  “可笑!”傑德說,輕蔑地說。“當然我相信她。”
  “索菲亞在這個年齡可以彈奏這個曲子。”
  “但露露和索菲亞是不同的兩個人,”傑德指出。
  “哦,不,不是,”我說,我翻著眼珠:“每個人都是特殊的,”我模仿諷刺。“即使輸家也是以自己特殊方式特別著。好了,別擔心,你不必動一根手指。只要需要我願意面對,我很高興能唱白臉。你可以繼續做他們的偶像,因爲你他們做煎餅,帶他們到洋基隊看比賽。”
  鑽進給爲人父母特制的監獄?我卷起衣袖做一個唱白臉的中國媽媽,我用每一種我能想到的武器和戰術,我和女兒一起努力,到了廢寢忘食的地步,我不會讓露露起身離開鋼琴,即便是喝水甚至不能去衛生間。這所房子變成了戰場,我喊啞了嗓子,但似乎毫無進展,甚至我也開始懷疑。
  然後,烏雲忽然散去,露露彈好了。她的手突然走到了一起,她左右手分別有條不紊的彈奏著,就是這麽簡單。
  露露和我幾乎同時意識到這點。我屏住呼吸。她再次嘗試。然後,她更自信、更快捷地彈奏,那節奏依舊完好。一會兒之後,她是喜上眉梢。
  “媽媽,你看,很容易!”之後,她一遍又一遍地彈奏著,甚至不願離開鋼琴。那天晚上,她來睡在我床上,我們依偎擁抱,互相打趣取笑。幾個星期後,當她在演奏會表演“白色的小驢子”之後,一位家長對我說:“多麽完美的作品,非常的勇敢,那麽有露露的個性!”
  即使傑德也因此給了我贊譽。西方父母過于擔心自己的孩子的自尊心。但作爲父母,你在孩子的自尊心上可以做的最糟糕的事情就是:讓他們放棄。在另一面,沒有什麽比建立自信心和學習做成你原以爲你做不到的事更好的。
  外面世界有很多新書把亞裔母親描繪成陰謀、無情、冷漠到逼迫自己的孩子超負荷的怪物。其實,許多華人暗地裏認爲他們比西方人更關心孩子並更多地願意爲孩子們犧牲自己,誰願意自己的孩子不求上進?我認爲這是一種兩種文化的誤解(或差異)。爲人父母者都是爲了孩子的福祉竭盡所能,華人只不過用了與西方社會截然不同的方式來做到這一點而已。
  西方家長盡量尊重孩子的個性,鼓勵他們追求自己真正的愛好,支持他們的選擇,並提供積極的強化和培育環境。相比之下,中國人認爲,最好的保護自己的孩子的方式是爲他們的未來做充分的准備,讓他們發掘自己的潛能,並用技能、好的工作習慣和發自內心的自信來武裝自己,擁有這一切是任何人無法強取豪奪去的。

Amy Chua with her daughters, Sophia and Louisa.

The Tiger Mother Responds to Readers

On Saturday, Review ran an excerpt from Amy Chua’s new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” The article, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” attracted a lot of attention, generating more than 4,000 comments on wsj.com and around 100,000 comments on Facebook. Below, Ms. Chua answers questions from Journal readers who wrote in to the Ideas Market blog.

Do you think that strict, “Eastern” parenting eventually helps children lead happy lives as adults?

When it works well, absolutely! And by working well, I mean when high expectations are coupled with love, understanding and parental involvement. This is the gift my parents gave me, and what I hope I’m giving my daughters. I’ve also taught law students of all backgrounds for 17 years, and I’ve met countless students raised the “tough immigrant” way (by parents from Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Korea, Jamaica, Haiti, Iran, Ireland, etc.) who are thriving, independent, bold, creative, hilarious and, at least to my eyes, as happy as anyone. But I also know of people raised with “tough love” who are not happy and who resent their parents. There is no easy formula for parenting, no right approach (I don’t believe, by the way, that Chinese parenting is superior—a splashy headline, but I didn’t choose it). The best rule of thumb I can think of is that love, compassion and knowing your child have to come first, whatever culture you’re from. It doesn’t come through in the excerpt, but my actual book is not a how-to guide; it’s a memoir, the story of our family’s journey in two cultures, and my own eventual transformation as a mother. Much of the book is about my decision to retreat from the strict “Chinese” approach, after my younger daughter rebelled at 13.

I have a 20-month-old, and my husband and I both enjoyed the article. How can you apply this to toddlers?

We didn’t actually do anything that different when my daughters were toddlers, just the same kinds of things that you probably do already: read picture books with them, took them for strolls and to the playground, did puzzles with them, sang songs about ABCs and numbers and mainly snuggled with and hugged them! Maybe the only thing different I did is that I always had a babysitter or student speaking in Mandarin to them every day, for at least four to five hours, including weekends, because I wanted my girls to be bilingual. (I wanted my daughters to learn from native Mandarin speakers, because my own native Chinese dialect is Fujianese [Hokkien], and my Mandarin accent is terrible.)

Your method may work with children with a native high IQ—but demanding that kind of excellence from less intelligent children seems unfair and a fool’s errand. Demanding hard work and a great effort from children is the best middle ground we can reach philosophically, isn’t it? Your thoughts?

Jokes about A+s and gold medals aside (much of my book is tongue-in-cheek, making fun of myself), I don’t believe that grades or achievement is ultimately what Chinese parenting (at least as I practice it) is really about. I think it’s about helping your children be the best they can be—which is usually better than they think! It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else—even more than they believe in themselves. And this principle can be applied to any child, of any level of ability. My youngest sister, Cindy, has Down syndrome, and I remember my mother spending hours and hours with her, teaching her to tie her shoelaces on her own, drilling multiplication tables with Cindy, practicing piano every day with her. No one expected Cindy to get a PhD! But my mom wanted her to be the best she could be, within her limits. Today, my sister works at Wal-Mart, has a boyfriend and still plays piano—one of her favorite things is performing for her friends. She and my mom have a wonderful relationship, and we all love her for who she is.

Ms. Chua, are you a happy adult? Do you look back on your childhood and feel that it was happy? Do you remember laughing with your parents? Do you wish that you could have taken ballet or been in the high school musical?

I was raised by extremely strict—but also extremely loving—Chinese immigrant parents, and I had the most wonderful childhood! I remember laughing constantly with my parents—my dad is a real character and very funny. I certainly did wish they allowed to me do more things! I remember often thinking, “Why is it such a big deal for me to go to a school dance,” or “Why can’t I go on the school ski trip?” But on the other hand, I had great times with my family (and even today, it’s one of my favorite things to vacation with my parents and sisters). As I write in my book, “When my friends hear stories about when I was little, they often imagine that I had a horrible childhood. But that’s not true at all; I found strength and confidence in my peculiar family. We started off as outsiders together, and we discovered America together, becoming Americans in the process. I remember my father working until three in the morning every night, so driven he wouldn’t even notice us entering the room. But I also remember how excited he was introducing us to tacos, sloppy joes, Dairy Queen and eat-all-you-can buffets, not to mention sledding, skiing, crabbing and camping. I remember a boy in grade school making slanty-eyed gestures at me, guffawing as he mimicked the way I pronounced “restaurant” (rest-OW-rant)—I vowed at that moment to rid myself of my Chinese accent. But I also remember Girl Scouts and hula hoops; poetry contests and public libraries; winning a Daughters of the American Revolution essay contest; and the proud, momentous day my parents were naturalized.”

And yes, I am a happy adult. I am definitely a Type A personality, always rushing around, trying to do too much, not good at just lying on the beach. But I’m so thankful for everything I have: wonderfully supportive parents and sisters, the best husband in the world, terrific students I love teaching and hanging out with, and above all, my two amazing daughters.

What is your relationship with your daughters like now?

I have a wonderful relationship with my daughters, which I wouldn’t trade for the world. I certainly made mistakes and have regrets—my book is a kind of coming-of-age book (for the mom!), and the person at the beginning of the book, whose voice is reflected in the Journal excerpt, is not exactly the same person at the end of book. In a nutshell, I get my comeuppance; much of the book is about my decision to retreat (but only partially) from the strict immigrant model. Having said that, if I had to do it all over, I would do basically the same thing, with some adjustments. I’m not saying it’s for everyone, and I’m not saying it’s a better approach. But I’m very proud of my daughters. It’s not just that they’ve done well in school; they are both kind, generous, independent girls with big personalities. Most important, I feel I’m very close with both of them, knock on wood.

Tiger mom's memoir meets ferocious roar

Tiger mom’s memoir meets ferocious roar

By LEANNE ITALIE
The Associated Press
Thursday, January 13, 2011; 8:31 PM

— A new memoir of bad-ass parenting, Chinese style, from a self-proclaimed tiger mother has unleashed a ferocious roar.

Fallout was swift for Yale law professor Amy Chua after she published a stark essay in The Wall Street Journal describing the harsh words and heavy handed methods she used with her two teen daughters.

Her “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” shot to No. 6 in the Amazon sales rankings Tuesday, the day it was released, likely fueled by angry buzz over the weekend column and a headline Chua had nothing to do with: “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.”

Adult offspring of Asian and Asian American immigrants are weighing in on Chua’s provocative description of Eastern-style parenting: No sleepovers or playdates. Grueling rote academics. Hours of piano and violin practice. Slurs like “lazy” and “garbage,” and threats to burn stuffed animals when things don’t go mom’s way.

Some see truth and a borderline abuser. Others see dangerous stereotype with the potential to feed China haters and xenophobes. Still others publicly thanked their moms online for similar, though less extreme, methods.

Few had read the book themselves, missing out on more facetious nuances and details on Chua’s journey to a softer approach with Sophia, 18, and Louisa, nicknamed Lulu and about to celebrate her 15th birthday with – gasp – a sleepover party.

“It’s been tough on my kids,” Chua said Wednesday. “They want to speak out over the thing that has hurt me the most, when people say, `Oh, doesn’t that kind of strict parenting produce meek robots?’ My daughters could not be further from meek robots. They’re confident, funny, kind, generous, with very big personalities, and they’re always calling my bluff.”

Chua, 48 and the daughter of Filipino immigrants of Chinese descent, insists her tone in the book is self-deprecating. It’s a point she considers lost in the blogosphere, including heat from moms employing current Western philosophies she doesn’t consider better or worse, but more lax and undisciplined.

“My first reaction was, `Is this a joke?’ I kept waiting for the punch line,” said Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, 44, a second-generation Chinese American and mother of four in Ann Arbor, Mich. She had parents with high expectations but none of Chua’s histrionics. “Her methods are so crude. The humiliations and the shaming. The kids will hear that voice in their heads for the rest of their lives.”

Christine Lu’s memories of her tiger mom growing up in Los Angeles are laden with sorrow. Mom’s ramrod tactics failed on her (“life at home used to be horrible”) but they worked on her older sister. She hit 28 and spiraled into a depression that led to her suicide after the startup where she worked fizzled.

“She graduated from Harvard with an MBA. That was the first time she had ever experienced failure,” said the 34-year-old Lu, who was born in Taiwan and moved to LA with her parents and three siblings at age 2.

She stopped short of blaming her mom, adding: “It’s the culture. Amy is a product of the culture, too.”

It’s a book of extreme parenting, for sure, a memoir and not a how-to manual, Chua cautions. Her parenting choices were conscious and reflect her upbringing: No TV, no pets, no computer games, no grades under A, no parts in school plays, no complaints about not having parts in school plays, no choice of extracurricular activities, nothing less than top spots in any school class except gym and drama, no musical instruments except piano or violin.

When Lulu had trouble with a tricky piece of music, Chua denied her bathroom breaks and threatened to ship off her dollhouse to the Salvation Army, piece by piece, until she got it right – which she did with pride, mom at her side.

When she pushed back at age 13, rejecting the violin, mom allowed for tennis instead, keeping a keen eye on her game.

Betty Ming Liu, 54, grew up in New York City’s Chinatown, the oldest of two girls of Chinese immigrants with high expectations and abusive tactics.

“This is a topic so close to my heart,” she said. “It’s frightening to see that Amy Chua is still doing it. She’s young. She’s educated. She’s American born. She’s not an immigrant and for her to perpetuate this … is frightening.”

As a young adult, Chua said she rebelled in her own way. She married a white, American Orthodox Jew after hearing from her dad: “‘You’ll marry a non-Chinese over my dead body.’ Now my dad and my husband are the best of friends.”

Liu and Chua alike acknowledge that the tiger mom parenting approach isn’t uniquely Chinese, “but we’ve perfected it,” Liu said. “I got straight Ds in college. That was my only power over my father.”

Growing up in California’s Marin County, Tony Hsieh’s parents forced him to play four instruments. He’d sometimes cheat on practices by recording previous turns at the piano or violin and playing them back while his parents slept. Practice exams for the SAT began in middle school.

Hsieh graduated from Harvard in 1995, co-founded an Internet ad network sold to Microsoft and is now CEO of the online shoe retailer Zappos. He published a memoir of his road to success, “Delivering Happiness,” last year. What he didn’t do was become was a doctor, a top prize to his parents.

“For myself personally, I think I would have benefited from a less strict parenting style, because a big part of being an entrepreneur is about being creative, thinking outside the box, defying conventional wisdom, taking risks, which runs counter to the values of many Asian parents,” he said.

Shay Fan, 26, in San Francisco, didn’t rip up sheets of music like one of Chua’s girls, but she once protested piano by playing with her feet and paid for it with a fierce spanking.

“I understand her motives,” she said of Chua. “Is there a limit to what parents should do? Absolutely. Chua’s method of parenting worked for her children, lucky for her, but you have to take things by a case by case basis. … Overall, I’m glad that my mom taught me to be diligent and introspective.”

And Wendy Lin, 55, who remembers yelling and screaming over her perceived laziness as a child, appreciates Chua’s resolve to dive into the trenches with her kids.

“She was with them every inch of the way. I thought that was really touching,” said Lin, who is parenting her 15-year-old son more gently in Great Neck, N.Y. “A lot of mothers would just shout from the next room.”

Chua stands by much of her tiger mom ways: intense attention to academics, for instance. And she has some clarifications: Her girls HAVE had sleepovers and playdates, but they were few and far between.

Regrets? “I wish I hadn’t lost my temper,” she said. “I wish I hadn’t been harsh. I wish I would have let them have more freedom.”

Chua considers it a luxury to get to make those choices. Lin understands that in terms of her own parents.

“As an immigrant parent, there aren’t a lot of tools you can give your children. You’re very powerless in the system. You’re very powerless when it comes to language,” Lin said. “One of the things that you can do is make sure your kids have a good education and make sure they get into a good school, and after that you can finally rest and take a breath.”

我想打破亚裔富不过三代的魔咒

  新年伊始,亚裔虎妈、美国耶鲁大学教授蔡美儿制定十条家规、采用高压手段管教女儿的故事,引发了中美育儿理念的大讨论——美国一些媒体认为,在教育子女方面,中国母亲的严格教育方式似乎更见成效。正在素质教育之路上蹒跚起步的中国母亲们则开始困惑,宽松的家庭氛围,不是更能培养孩子的创造力么。
  蔡美儿为何要采取这种教育方式?严厉的管教背后,她如何保护和培养孩子的创造力?
  近日,通过电邮、电话等方式,本报对话亚裔虎妈、美国耶鲁大学教授蔡美儿。

★ “有些词语,看上去很严厉,其实我是想幽默地表达这个育儿的过程。”
  时报:“虎妈”这个称呼是谁给你的?为什么这么叫你?
  虎妈:我对女儿要求严格,她们有时受不了,背着我叫我“母老虎”“伏地魔”。我先生杰德觉得我过于苛责,认为我的要求太高太强硬,让家里太紧张,不自由。他们不满时或开玩笑时,就喊我“虎妈”或“伏地魔”。
  时报:你怎么看这个称号?
  虎妈:我喜欢这称号。
  时报:我在网上看到,你的育儿经验最近引发了中美教育方式的讨论。有一些人因此认为中国妈妈的教育方式强过了美国妈妈。
  虎妈:月初,一家报纸报道了我严厉教育女儿的事。我的邮箱收到了300多封信,不少是指责我的教育方式极端残酷,没有人性。1月8日,美国一家纸媒将标题做成了“为什么中国妈妈比美国妈妈更优秀”。再后来,《时代》又发文分析称美国父母是不是该思考自己是个“失败者”。
  其实,这不是我的初衷,媒体的有些报道是断章取义,让大家误读了我的教育观。最近我一直在澄清:我是一位华裔妈妈,用我所受的中国式教育管教了两个孩子,并记录了这个育儿经历,仅此而已。其中所使用的一些词语,看上去有些严厉,其实我是想幽默地表达这个育儿的过程。

★ “你是否有更好的教育方法?没有,请配合我。”
  时报:你怎么严厉教育你的女儿?
  虎妈:我给两个女儿制定了10条清规戒律。在学习上,我不准她们任何一门成绩低于“A”。
  我的大女儿索菲娅五年级时,有次乘法速算测试得了第二。接下来我每晚让她做20张试卷,每张100道速算题,我在一旁掐着秒表计时。一周强化训练后,索菲娅次次稳拿第一。小女儿露露有次没做考试加分题,我告诉她家教良好的孩子都应做加分题,正是这些实实在在的分数将优秀和平庸区别开来。从此,露露再也没放弃过加分题。
  时报:有人反对你的这种教育方式吗?
  虎妈:在美国社会,按照中国人的方式教孩子,会面对各种各样的冲突,这是一场持久战,攻坚战。
  时报:你丈夫同意你这么做么?
  虎妈:我在家里并不占优势,我丈夫杰德就是一个有犹太血统的美国人,要求我不要太严。我和他签协议让他不要干预我对孩子进行中国式教育,我问他,你是否有更好的教育方法?没有,请配合我。
  时报:这种教育的效果怎样?
  虎妈:两个女儿保持着门门功课皆“A”的全优纪录。索菲娅18个月就认字母表,3岁阅读《小妇人》,开始弹钢琴,14岁就在卡内基音乐大厅弹钢琴。露露练小提琴,12岁成为耶鲁青年管弦乐团首席小提琴手。有人称她们是“音乐神童”。成年后,露露改打网球,裁判评价她“是那种不付出110%的努力决不罢休的小姑娘”。

★ “当她已经长大时,我应该把一些选择权还给她,让她做真正喜欢的事。”
  时报:有人对你不让女儿参加同伴聚会不理解,不应鼓励孩子参加社会活动吗?
  虎妈:不参加玩伴聚会,是因为时间很宝贵,会耽误练琴时间。有一次,索菲娅一直央求说她想参加最好朋友的生日聚会,我心一软就答应了。可第二天早上她到家,很累,焦躁,也没心练琴了。一盘问才知道,她一整晚都在听一位同学谈论对性的神秘尝试。我后悔让孩子接触这类糟粕聚会。我认为,没必要让孩子犯了错误再学习。
  时报:孩子们不听怎么办?
  虎妈:小孩子的天性就是喜欢玩,她们抵制学习、练琴这类枯燥的事。
  我和露露的第一次冲突发生在一个天寒地冻的下午,那时她才3岁。我要求她练琴,结果她连打带踹,又哭又闹,我忍无可忍将她拖到门外。也许是为了表示反抗,索菲娅还偷着将钢琴咬得到处是牙印。当她们不好好练琴时,我会威胁她们不准吃饭,要烧掉其所有的绒毛玩具,骂她们“垃圾”。
  我每时每分都得软硬兼施,用尽了咒骂、威胁、贿赂、利诱等一切办法,让她们做一些现在不乐意、但将来有益处的事情。
  时报:你会退让么?
  虎妈:要视情况来定。有一次我们到俄罗斯旅行。在一家咖啡馆内,我让露露尝一粒鱼子酱,她不同意。面对我的坚持,她发疯似的说我令人恐怖,要她做地这一切实际上是为我自己!她讨厌小提琴,憎恨这个家,并抓起玻璃杯砸碎在地上,发誓称如果我不放过她,她就要砸掉所有的杯子!
  我最终想清楚,当她已经长大时,我应该把一些选择权还给她,让她做自己真正喜欢的事。这样的事情以后还有很多次,比如说,我同意露露辞去首席小提琴手的职务,改打自己喜欢的网球。

★ “我想打破亚裔富不过三代的魔咒。”
  时报:什么原因令你对女儿如此严格?
  虎妈:我想有两点。一是我自小接受中国式教育。我认为,这种严厉的教育可以培养孩子坚持不懈的品质。二是我害怕两个女儿走下坡路。
  在美国,亚裔移民有“富不过三代”的魔咒:一代移民终于实现了“美国梦”,会省吃俭用,将所挣的每一分钱和巨大的精力投资在孩子的教育上。第二代移民因父母的巨大投入而相对优秀,但他们教育孩子也因此不太严厉了。第三代移民的生活很舒适,有一群成绩B+的朋友,认为个人权利受宪法保护,不愿付出辛苦,就会走下坡路。
  我父母是中国人,他们先是移民菲律宾,上世纪六十年代又举家移民美国。我是移民二代,我想打破亚裔富不过三代的“魔咒”。
  时报:你小时候父母如何教育你?
  虎妈:我父母对我很严格。8年级时我历史考了第二名,颁奖仪式结束后,父亲说“千万不要再让我像这样丢脸了”。在家里说中国话时不小心夹杂了一个英语单词,就要被狠狠打手板。
  我当时也经常抱怨,我的事为什么他们老做主。这事在我申请读大学时得到了解决。父母坚持让我读加州大学伯克利分校,说离家近,可以住家里。我想摆脱“虎笼”,于是就瞒着父亲,伪造了他的签字悄悄申请了哈佛大学并被录取。父亲为此折腾了整整一宿,一边因我违抗父命大发雷霆,一边又为我考取哈佛而骄傲。
  时报:现在回头看,有没有不喜欢的地方?
  虎妈:回头看,我很理解、也很感激父母。我相信,我的孩子最终也会理解我。

★ “西式教育过于强调‘创意’,排斥纪律、刻苦等旨在培养毅力的东西,中国教育过于强调后者而忽视前者。”
  时报:大家担心,严苛的教育会夺走孩子的快乐童年。你怎么看这个观点?
  虎妈:我们还有其他快乐时光。练完琴后,我们有很多快乐的话题,会趴在床上读书,会一起做有创意的中国菜。我丈夫会带领一
  家人骑车旅行,教孩子们游泳、玩扑克,朗读文学作品。我们一家到过伦敦、巴黎、罗马等几十个国家和城市。当然,根据“家规”,我会提前预约好琴房,以免孩子们生疏了琴艺。
  时报:你觉得,中西方妈妈教育孩子的方式有什么不同?
  虎妈:我注意到,西方父母在意孩子的自尊和心理感受,对孩子的学习没有过多要求。中国妈妈看重孩子考了多少分,排在第几名,会为孩子报很多课外班,督促其超过其他孩子。西式教育让孩子自由,有创造力和想象力,但也直接造成孩子关注吃喝玩乐、看影碟电视、不勤奋上进、遇到问题退缩等种种问题。中式教育方式能通过大量的训练使孩子强化意志力,能培养良好的学习习惯。
  时报:你的观点是什么?
  虎妈:我认为,我这种外人眼中有些严苛的教育,实质上是掌握孩子人生的最初“选择权”。孩子年幼时,不了解社会,也不可能会有明智、成熟的选择,需要家长为其做出正确的“选择”,家长要负起这个责任,督促孩子去实现这个“选择”。随着孩子逐渐成熟,有了自己做出选择的能力,家长就应该放手给孩子。
  时报:你认为,你的哪些观点可供中国妈妈借鉴?
  虎妈:我很高兴,中国妈妈们已经注意到素质教育,并寻找方法培养孩子们更多的创造力。对孩子来说,创造力确实很宝贵,但没有严苛教育培养出来的基本学术能力、坚持不懈的性格基础,也不会有脱颖而出的创造力。
  我个人认为,西式教育过于强调“创意”,排斥纪律、刻苦钻研等旨在培养毅力的东西,中国教育却过于强调后者而忽视前者。现实中,双方都把这个关系摆成了“要么/或”的关系,其实,这是一个“既/和”的关系,两种教育方式应达到一个理想的平衡状态,孩子才会长成我们期待的那样。

★ 人物 “虎妈”蔡美儿
  蔡美儿,英文名Amy Lynn Chua,女,1962年生,祖籍福建。其父获麻省理工学院博士,就职于加利福尼亚大学。蔡美儿幼年随父母移民美国,获哈佛大学文学学士、法学博士,现任耶鲁大学法学院终身教授。
  蔡美儿为两个女儿制定十大戒律,自称“采用咒骂、威胁、贿赂、利诱等种种高压手段,要求孩子沿着父母为其选择的道路努力”。
 ◆不准在外面过夜
 ◆不准参加玩伴聚会
 ◆不准在学校里卖弄琴艺
 ◆不准抱怨不能在学校里演奏
 ◆不准经常看电视或玩电脑游戏
 ◆不准选择自己喜欢的课外活动
 ◆不准任何一门功课的学习成绩低于“A”
 ◆不准在体育和文艺方面拔尖,其他科目平平
 ◆不准演奏其他乐器而不是钢琴和小提琴
 ◆不准在某一天没有练习钢琴或小提琴

Written by Boathill

2011-01-13 at 21:00

Posted in digest, News

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