The Corner

The Chinese Way

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.

My inner Murdstone, however, would prefer that the job be done by someone with more time and patience than I have. Few of us have any interest in devoting hours a day to parenting; amongst working males with active social lives, very few; and it’s an intractable fact that you don’t do anything well if you have little interest in it. That’s why there are schoolteachers.

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.

(For my reviews of Amy Chua’s books, see here and here.)

Most Popular

Film & TV

In Unsane, Aetna Meets Kafka

Unsane doesn’t take the form of a horror film; at first, it appears to be a Hitchcockian thriller about mistaken identity or perhaps getting ensnared in a web of bureaucracy. Yet with clinical detachment it develops into a nerve-flaying story almost too agonizing to endure. Unlike most horror movies, it isn’t ... Read More
Science & Tech

The Real Deal With the Tech Giants

A bit of dialogue from the old television series Person of Interest, where a reclusive billionaire programmer and a former CIA agent use a giant supercomputer to predict crimes and save people: FINCH: Hester's living off the grid. No photos online and nothing on the social networking sites. REESE: I've never ... Read More

Viva l’Italia?

Italy has just had elections, with very interesting results. I wanted to talk with Alberto Mingardi, which I have. He is one of the leading classical liberals in Italy -- the director general of the Bruno Leoni Institute, in Milan. (Mingardi himself is Milanese.) He is also an authority in arts and letters. In ... Read More

Putin and the Cult of Leadership

On Sunday, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin won an unsurprising reelection-campaign victory against Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin, by a margin of 76.7 percent to 11.8 percent. The results were unsurprising because Putin is a tyrant who murders or imprisons political rivals, and who isn’t afraid to use ... Read More

Trump and Brexit Derangement Syndrome

I am not one of those Brexiteers who believe that Brexit and Trumpism are essentially the same phenomenon in two different countries. To be sure, they both draw on some of the same political trends, notably a distrust of elites and an upsurge of popular anger over evident failures of public policy such as illegal ... Read More

Stand Up to Putin

President Putin’s landslide victory in Russia’s presidential election was achieved against the lackluster competition of a group of mediocre candidates from which the sole serious opponent had been excluded; amid plausible allegations that his security services had tried to poison two Russians in England by ... Read More

Nordic Welfare States Worsen the Gender Gap

Following International Women's Day 2018, a host of policies have been promoted as ways to advance women's careers. CNBC, for example, has run a story arguing that policies such as parental leave for both parents can raise women’s incomes. In the Huffington Post we can read that adopting the welfare policies of ... Read More