The Wall Street Journal published an essay, titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” this past Shabbat. It was written by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of a new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” which will be published on the fortuitous day of 1/11/11.
The essay generated 1,200 online comments in 48 hours. I actually had two pre-publication copies of the book, and can tell you that Professor Chua’s points are that strict mothering raises outstanding children.
Her book tells how her children must only score “A”s in school, may not have sleepovers, playdates, or act in a school play. The must be the first in their class in all subjects except for gym and drama, and they may only play piano and violin. While other mother’s might think they are strict by making their children practice their instruments 30 minutes a day, Chua expects at least 2 hours from each of her daughters.
Chua, a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law, states that Chinese mothers understand that “nothing is fun until you are good at it.” Western parents, on the other hand, allow their children to give up when things get hard.First in her high school class, Phi Beta Kappa at Harvard, and a clerk to a federal judge, Chua writes that Western parents are conflicted about pushing their children; unable to say their children are “lazy or “fat.” A Tiger Mother has no problem saying this bluntly and directly to her womb-fruit. Chua’s parents, who came to America from China in 1961, were horrified when they learned that as a child, in Girl Scouts, Chua was “wasting time” on community service projects. Chua once said to her own daughter, “If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!”
AND WHAT ABOUT MODERN JEWISH MOTHERS?
The most popular parenting book this month is “The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers” by Dr. Wendy Mogel. Mogel, a social-clinical psychologist tells parents to focus on empathy and to RESIST the urge to intervene or to rescue their children, and to allow kids to benefit from the learning opportunities that come from mistakes.
What? While all these other mothers are pushing their kids to A’s and the Ivy’s, Jewish kids are playing T-Ball, getting B-Minuses, drinking, staying out late, and probably shoplifting condoms. We are sunk. Who will be my future dentist and internist?** I Jest.**Oh… by the way… did I mention that Professor Chua’s husband is… you guessed it… Jewish. She is married to Professor Jeb Rubenfeld, who was raised not as strictly, but still made it to Princeton and Harvard Law, stretched his creative muscles at Julliard’s drama department for two years, had a clerkship, and is a professor of law at Yale.
* Yes, I am intimately aware that one can be both a Jewish and a Chinese mother, and the identities are not mutually exclusive.
** For the record. My dentist, physician, optician, and bagel baker in NYC are Chinese or Thai Americans; But my opthamologist, rabbi, congressman, and grocer are Jewish.