Amy Chua has set the cat among the pigeons with her WSJ piece on the Chinese-Mom style of parenting. As an 18-year resident of an American household that includes a Chinese Mom, I’m getting asked about my reactions.
Something like: the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. I cheer Ms. Chua’s scornful rejection of all the happy-sappy idiocies of “child-centered” parenting. The Englishman in me says that kids should be flogged and bullied through to adulthood, if they are to arrive there with any learning, skills, or character.
Nature-nurture-wise, we’re in the territory here of r-K strategies, otherwise known as the cads-dads dichotomy. In one environment a critter’s best species-survival strategy might be to have as many offspring as possible and not bother about them much — to be a cad. In another, the best payoff may come from having few offspring but investing heavily in them — the dad strategy. As with many other features of human nature, the rule of three applies here, with East Asian populations statistically most daddy, sub-Saharan Africans most caddy, and the rest of us scattered in between.
On a cad-dad scale of 0 to 10, I’m about a 4. Mrs. D. is more of a traditional Chinese Mom, but not out at the Chua end of the spectrum: about a 7, I’d say. This has created stresses and strains with parenting issues, but nothing we couldn’t handle. Our offspring seem to be turning out pretty average American kids (though Nellie does play a mean violin). Now, in mid-to-late teens, they meet Mom’s Chua moments with patient tolerance, or at worst a rolling of the eyes. If, however, I were to tell you that the phrase “control freak” has never, in all these 18 years, been screamed across the Derb living-room, I’d be telling you an untruth.