Amy Chua, author of the Wall Street Journal's much-maligned "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," did a Q&A about her heinous child-rearing techniques. She swears she isn't that monstrous. Watch the "tiger mother" do her best impression of a harmless kitten.
After "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" stayed at the top of WSJ's most-read list for an entire week (during a week when a mass murderer shot 20 people in Arizona) the Wall Street Journal brought their perfectionist parenting expert back for a Q&A, where Amy defended herself and added context. And, yes, she still sounds like a monster. But less fire-breathing chupacabra and more Oscar the Grouch, this time:
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.
Well, when you put it that way—without all the stuff about calling your daughters stupid, ugly, and fat—it sounds downright nice! Anyway, Amy Chua says her book isn't intended as a how-to parenting guide, but a memoir:
[M]y 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.
So, fine. This lady and her daughters have had plenty of aspersions cast at them. (Most heartbreaking: the daughter of a "Chinese mother" whose "perfect" sister committed suicide.) But let's make one final note: Amy Chua's daughters aren't adults yet. In college, adulthood, and wherever else you meet humans (dive bar bathroom?) I have met many American-born Chinese, all of us raised by Chinese mothers of varying levels of strictness. (Mine being the most lax. Blame the O'Connors.) Our parents instilled varying degrees of competitiveness and perfectionism in their children, and ultimately we were all fucked up and ill-adapted in our own special ways.
So worry not, Amy Chua! You're not the first mother destined to dominate her children's psychotherapy sessions, and you won't be the last. And that's how we'll always know you're an American mom at heart. [WSJ, image via Wikimedia Commons]