Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Are Chinese Mothers Really Superior?

This article from the Wall Street Journal has been all the buzz in the last ten days in the parenting circles. If you haven't had a chance to read it, here it is.  And be forewarned, it is bound to provoke some sort of strong reaction -- or several.  


First of all, I'm all for kids achieving their full potential.  Who isn't?  However, a child achieving her "full potential" doesn't mean just playing the piano well enough for Carnegie Hall.  A wonderful experience, yes, but there is far more to life than that.  Achievements are empty if kids feel they need and must produce them in order to win the love from their parents -- or even a minimal level of acceptance.

Kids need to feel loved for who they are, not what they achieve.  The author claims she loves her daughter, and I'm willing to believe that perhaps she does in her own twisted way, but did she ever tell her that in no uncertain terms?  Did she ever explain to her daughter that the reason she was only so hard on her was because she loved her so much?  I highly doubt it.  Did she ever say, "I love you no matter what?"  Never, I am quite sure.

For her sake I'm quite happy that the poor traumatized girl was able to pull off her piano routine.  However, someday there will be routine she can't master, a class she cannot get an "A" in regardless of how hard she tries, cries, and steels herself against food, sleep,  and using the bathroom.  As humans it happens to all of us eventually, not being "the best" all the time, in everything.  No one is perfect, so it's unfair to expect perfection from a child who wants nothing more than to be assured of the love of her mother.  When that inevitably happens, this girl will lose her self-esteem because it is based strictly on performance, not her own intrinsic value as a human being, not "how she played the game."  That's not even touching on the many other admirable qualities she may exemplify -- loyalty, generosity, a sense of humor, comradery, and consideration of others' feelings, to name just a few.  That mother would prefer to have a monster of a child who is "accomplished" than one who may be "average" but is a quality human being who enjoys life and realizes that kindness may be important than triumph.

It's a shame you don't need a qualify for a license to be a parent, for this woman would surely fail for the first time in her life.


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