You are Strongly Encouraged to Not Feel Superior


Christmas, 2008

My parenting technique has always
leaned toward the stricter side. At least I thought so. Until I read
Amy Chua’s article in the Wall Street Journal which has gone Internet viral, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior . I have nothing on
Chinese moms. I know she has a book she’s trying to sell and so any
publicity is good publicity, but wow. Calling your overweight kid
“fatty?” I mean, ouch, right? But oh it’s such a fine line we walk when we as parents think we’re superior.

I do think she makes some excellent
points on parenting. In so many ways, us Western parents are
too lenient. I know of several families in which the children are
squarely in charge. I’ve watched parents calmly and quietly repeat their child’s
name, “Dylan? Dylan. Dylan? Dylan. Please stop pounding Ethan’s
head into the sand. Dylan? Dylan.” And they expected to get results. But “Dylan” has grown up to be a fine young man, so who am I to judge?

I love what Chua says about not
letting kids give up, on activities or themselves. I’m a huge
proponent of never allowing my kids to quit something when the going
gets tough. “Karate Kids” A City Mom, March 2006 Especially when learning just about anything–math,
an instrument, a sport–is hard in the beginning and only get easier
with time and practice. But there are limits. I think forcing your
child to play a song on the piano for hours straight until she gets
it right borders on cruelty, whether Carnegie Hall is in her future
or not. My sons are Taekwondo black belts now and I won’t tell you
how many times they talked about quitting martial arts early on and I wouldn’t let
them. But every situation is different. My daughter started piano
lessons last year. And she wanted to quit last year. And I let her.
Her plate was already full with acclimating to her new life and
language and academics. As much as she wanted to learn piano at the
time, it became more of a frustration–for all of us. How can you
foster a love of music and learning when everyone is stressed-out and
frustrated? I felt it was more important for her to have as much of a
childhood as she could, considering she’d missed out on most of it,
and we can get back to music lessons later.

All three of my children are excellent students. They’re well behaved and well adjusted and respectful of adults and their peers. Maybe it’s all just DNA, but with my daughter being adopted, I think maybe I can give my husband and myself a little bit of the credit. And lest you think I’m feeling superior, I’ve been knocking on wood all through this paragraph and know the jury is still out. I’ll even take full responsibility if all three of them completely rebel and I end up on a first name basis with a bail bondsman named Louie.

My daughter is now talking about learning guitar, and we’ll allow music lessons back into her life when the time is right. Right now, academics are the most important thing. When we do, she will be made to stick with her instrument of choice until she gets through the hard parts. And if she thinks I’m being too mean and strict about it, Chua will sell one more copy of her book, which I imagine (I hope!) is the real truth behind her superiority complex.

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