Commentary

Two Parents, Two Styles

Recently, “The Wall Street Journal” published an article by Amy Chua entitled “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” The articled compared the practices of “Chinese mothers” and “Western mothers”. It extolled the virtues of the Chinese parenting style of expecting academic excellence, emphasizing rote and what often seems to “Westerners” as blunt criticism. Chua criticizes Western parenting styles for their excessive worries about their child’s self-esteem, saying that this worry often ends with the parents allowing their child to give up. I represent both sides of this argument. Literally. My mom grew up in Hong Kong and attended a British missionary school. During her senior year of high school, she immigrated to the United States with three of her siblings after the red guards of the Mao Communist revolution came to Hong Kong. My dad, on the other hand, was born and raised in River Edge, New Jersey. He enjoyed a comfortable childhood, played Little League baseball, played varsity sports in high school and studied abroad in France his senior year of high school. In the way my parents handle me, I often witness the manifestations of these two contrasting experiences. Some part of my mom will always be a poor Chinese immigrant and part of my dad will always be a Jewish boy growing up in New Jersey. My mom’s parenting style is much more liberal than Chua’s, who states in her article that her children have never allowed to have sleepovers, play an instrument other than piano or violin, or choose their own extra curriculars. Though I was always allowed on sleepovers, was permitted to quit piano when I turned 11, and was encouraged to play sports, even my mom admits that there will always be a part of her that retains the values of the Chinese mother. In middle school, the report of an A- on a test was met with the immediate question of what went wrong, She would then proceed to make sure to look over my homework in that class until I had restored my grade to an A. Even recently, the appearance of two cuts from Spinning on my transcript gained me a disapproving frown and a promise of extra AP studying. Though at the time I usually mutter under my breath something of the sort, “Mom, you’re so FOB, not everything is about grades.” Sometimes my dad sides with me, but even then my mom’s disapproval always motivates me to work harder. The threat of her disappointment is enough to push me through a bio lab report or a tough practice leading up to Andover/Exeter. As Chua pointed out in her article, my mom’s blatant disapproval and occasional harsh scolding is only meant to push me to succeed. As Chua says, “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.” Yes, sometimes I need my dad to whisper and reassure me that he and my mom would be delighted if I got a five in Math 360, and yes, it is okay to cut FIT—sometimes. My dad will accept my mistakes, even the serious ones, as part of growing up. My mom ensures that I learn from it, usually in ways that involve lots of SAT studying and profuse apologies intermixed with yelling matches. However, I know that my mom’s tough love is exactly that: her love. Jamie Shenk is a three-year Upper from San Francisco, CA and a Sports Associate for The Phillipian.