A Chinese tiger mom explains why being a hard-ass Asian parent is better for your kids than Western coddling

My mom, brother and me at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, eayly 1960sWow, the WSJ has a book excerpt today, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” written by Amy Chua, a Yale law school professor that boggles my mind and sends a chill down my spine. It’s her blunt declaration that the values of Chinese (and I’m telescoping it out to include all Asian) mothers are better for raising kids than “Western” parenting style.

She acknowledges the stereotype that Asian moms are hard-asses and then goes on to say that being tough on your kids is a Chinese mom’s way of showing they know the kids can a) get an A in the class, b) learn that difficult piece on the piano c) excel at everything the Chinese mom says is important. It’s just a different way of showing your children you love them, she says. She states her case so emphatically that this essay really just fortifies those American stereotypes. I can hear parents in conservative households murmuring their agreement: “See Martha, I knew there’s a reason why those Chinese are always so damned good at math and science!”

Here’s how the article starts:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• have a playdate
• attend a sleepover
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

This has to be a joke, I thought, except the Wall Street Journal probably doesn’t have a sense of humor and doesn’t run satire pieces. Take this line, for instance: “If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion.”

Nope, Chua, who was born in 1962 a year after her parents immigrated to the US, is serious. In fact, this essay is an excerpt from a book being published this week, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.”
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I admit it, Ada Wong’s Asian American journey has got me DVR-ing “The Biggest Loser”

Here’s Ada Wong‘s audition for “The Biggest Loser.” She made it to the Final Four contestants out of 21 this season the episode that aired tonight. Her personal story of family dysfunction — hard-ass Asian parents who criticized her all her life and didn’t support her three-month stay on the Biggest Loser ranch — has made her a favorite with other contestants and trainers. And, her story has resonated with Asian Americans who identify with her struggle against cultural values and family pressure.

Her talk with her family about her feelings (which she’d aired on episodes and in media interviews) was frank and satisfying, with her parents finally realizing how they’ve battered her soul.

It was as moving for me to see her dad tell her he loves her (even though he doesn’t show it) as it was for her. And it made me laugh to see her dad hug her in that oh-so-Asian dad way, with the tentative Asian pats on the back.

Favorite moment: She had to use a port-a-potty halfway through the marathon and poop on national TV. How embarrassing — but how real.

In the end she didn’t lose as much weight as we’d hoped, so it’s up to viewers to vote for her to be one of the finalists next week. I hope she gets in. This is the first time she’s been below the “Yellow Line” because of the low percentage of weight loss at the weigh-in, and I can only imagine how she feels. It’s like getting a B and you know your parents are gonna say, “Why didn’t you get an A?”

But win or lose, she’s a terrific role model, for everyone, but especially, for Asian Americans. You go, girl.

(Cross-posted from gilasakawa.posterous.com)