my two cents: i’m kind of late, but i finally read this and i don’t think it’s as awful as everyone has made it out to be. the way my white friends talked about it you’d think this woman slapped her children and starved them for weeks on end. she’s doing everything a traditional chinese parent does. my parents raised me the same way (minus the musical instruments, unfortunately), and i think i turned out pretty damn well. yeah, there were a lot of nights where i cried myself to sleep. yeah, i wasn’t very popular at school and never had playdates or sleepovers. and yeah, i do have some self-esteem issues and had an emotionally rough adolescence. but in all honesty, a lot of that also had to do with my genetics. my parents didn’t make me a timid, insecure person; that predisposition existed long before my dad yelled at me, told me i was useless, and told me no one would ever want to marry me. maybe that made me a little more socially awkward and a little (more like a LOT) less able to express affection as i progressed into teenagehood, but a lot of what my parents did to me i’m grateful for now that i’m an adult.
case in point: when i was young, my dad would make me do four or five hours of advanced problems every night. while my first grade classmates were learning simple addition, i was learning long division at home. my dad would yell at me, call me stupid, and force me to sit in one place and do the same problem again and again, even when i couldn’t understand it. sometimes he’d make me sit there until i got it, which might have gone well into the night. i eventually got placed in the math level above me at school and got sent to a gifted class that met once a week at a different school. every time i came back people in class stared and laughed at me. it’s not cool to be smart in elementary school. then in high school my parents pushed me and pushed me, constantly comparing me to my best friend who got better grades than me and expressing his disappointment that i wouldn’t go to harvard like his friend’s daughter. sometimes he would tell me he wished i’d never been born, other times he’d say i should be glad he didn’t hit me because normal chinese parents would. i pushed, and i pushed, and even though i was miserable the entire time, all that hard work paid off. i’m now at one of the best universities in the country on a full scholarship. i’m not afraid of sacrificing partying and dating for being successful, which i think is the reason why i’ve stayed at the success level of those rich kids who have all the connections in the world around me (although my academics have slipped since i left home — oops).
moreover, i’m glad that my parents never let me hang out with my friends after school. i used to hate them for banning me from having a happy, healthy, normal social life like all my other friends. they were the reason people called me a nerd and made fun of me. while they were having fun, i was stuck at home, reading book after book. i never had toys, i never got fun things for christmas, and i never had birthday parties. i wasn’t supposed to have fun — i was supposed to study nonstop. in retrospect, i’m glad that was the case. those classmates whose behaviour i so desperately wanted to emulate ended up being druggies and slackers who wasted away in community college (not that i have anything against people who have to go to community college for financial reasons, but people who don’t work hard enough to get into a better college when they can afford it annoy me). and me… well, i personally think i did better for myself.
people may not understand this method of parenting, but i completely agree with amy chua: chinese parents, in general, care just as much (if not more) about their children as western parents do. my parents would give up anything to ensure my success. they don’t express it the way western parents do, with hugs and kisses and saccharine, overexaggerated praise (my parents never told me they loved me until i went to college), but it’s very clear in the way they relentlessly push you to succeed. as a parent, the hardest thing to do is stand by as your child cries or see the loathing in your kid’s eyes when they glare at you before storming into their room. knowing YOU’RE responsible for their unhappiness is even more devastating. but chinese parents will suffer through that because they know in the future, their child will reap the benefits of having to practice violin for three hours or not getting to go over to their hippie friend’s house after school.
(one thing i do disagree with my parents on — not every child is a blank slate that can be trained to be an A+ student and piano genius. sometimes if you can’t do something, you can’t do something. it’s unfair to compare your kid to another kid. however, i do agree that not “everyone is special in their own special way,” as amy chua’s husband put it. losers are NOT special. they’re just losers.)
“The Gods envy us. They envy us because we’re mortal, because any moment might be our last. Everything is more beautiful because we’re doomed. You will never be lovelier than you are now. We will never be here again.”—