At park day yesterday, one of the moms shared an article from the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua titled, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. This article has generated a lot of buzz though I remained blissfully unaware of it while in my knitting-induced haze.
I do agree with some of the ideas presented as musts: skipping sleepovers, playdates and school plays especially in the younger years and I adore the "no complaining" rule. However most of the descriptions of what Chinese mothers do made me sick to my stomach, but I am saddened the most by this:
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.
Personally that sounds like a miserable life for a child and a parent. I'm not a lax parent allowing my children to do as they please. (Yes, they are only 4-1/2, but I have no intentions of being lax in the future, either.) At the same time, I respect their innate differences and abilities. If I have to force my child to practice her piano lesson then perhaps piano isn't where her interest lies? Maybe she would be better served with violin, guitar, the harp or she could simply not be musically inclined. GASP!
At the same time, I agree with Chua that "the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up." In our house we have to complete the course. When it is time to sign up for the next session, the girls are free to choose. Often they will say that they don't want to do something that we've agreed to. By explaining that we have to honor our commitments we go ahead without arguing or complaints.
What worries me most about this type of parenting, though, is the emphasis that it puts on academic grades. These children miss out on the the most important part of childhood. Play. Free, imaginative, open-ended, unstructured play.
This type of playing helps children to be able to problem-solve, work with others and learn self-control. And can help them get into Harvard.
Children's development hasn't changed since at least 1925 when the Arnold Gessell first published his developmental schedules. That means replacing play with drilling and extensive academics won't help them in learning only in training.
So the question is, should children to learn or be trained? I'm voting for learning.