updated 26 Feb 2011, 03:33
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Sat, Jan 22, 2011
The New Paper
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I'm not 'oppressed by evil mother'

[Top image: Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, third from left, with her family]

THE Yale Law School professor's essay in the Wall Street Journal on the heavy-handed methods she used to bring up her children created quite an uproar.

Professor Amy Chua, 48, even got death threats after her provocative essay, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, appeared earlier this month.

The article, an excerpt from her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, described "how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids".

It led with a manifesto: "Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: attend a sleepover; have a playdate; 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."

Now, Prof Chua's eldest daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, 18, has told her side of the story in a letter published in the New York Post.

"One problem is that some people don't get your humour. They think you're serious about all this, and they assume Lulu (the other daughter Louisa, 15) and I are oppressed by our evil mother. That is so not true.

"Every other Thursday, you take off our chains and let us play math games in the basement," Sophia wrote.

"No outsider can know what our family is really like. They don't hear us cracking up over each other's jokes. They don't see us eating our hamburgers with fried rice.

We had fun

"They don't know how much fun we have when the six of us - dogs included - squeeze into one bed and argue about what movies to download from Netflix."

But she also admitted that having Prof Chua as a mother was no tea party.

Sophia wrote about how much she wanted to go to some play dates, and piano camps she wished she had skipped.

Now that she is 18 and is about to leave "the tiger den", she said she's glad her parents brought her up the way they did.

Sophia wrote: "I think your strict parenting forced me to be more independent. Early on, I decided to be an easy child to raise.

"Maybe I got it from Daddy - he taught me not to care what people think and to make my own choices - but I also decided to be who I want to be.

"I didn't rebel, but I didn't suffer all the slings and arrows of a Tiger Mom, either.

"I pretty much do my own thing these days - like building greenhouses downtown, blasting Daft Punk in the car with Lulu and forcing my boyfriend to watch 'Lord of the Rings' with me over and over - as long as I get my piano done first."

Another criticism of her mother is that she promoted tunnel vision.

But Sophia feels that her parents taught her how to pursue knowledge for its own sake.

"It's been tough on my kids," Prof Chua said last week.

"They want to speak out over the thing that has hurt me the most, when people say, 'Oh, doesn't that kind of strict parenting produce meek robots?'

"My daughters could not be further from meek robots.

"They're confident, funny, kind, generous, with very big personalities and they're always calling my bluff."

Prof Chua insisted that her tone in the book is self-deprecating.

It's a point she considers lost in the blogosphere including heat from mothers employing current Western philosophies she doesn't consider better or worse, but more lax and undisciplined.

One such mother is Ms Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, 44, a second-generation Chinese-American and mother of four in Michigan, who said: "My first reaction was, 'Is this a joke?' I kept waiting for the punch line."

She had parents with high expectations, but none of Ms Chua's histrionics.

Sh said: "Her methods are so crude. The humiliation and the shaming. The kids will hear that voice in their heads for the rest of their lives."


This article was first published in The New Paper.

readers' comments
Dear AsiaOne Diva

As long as the kids said they are ok, they are OK. Unless they were not being truthful.

Dr Lee Wei Ling has written about how her mother brought up her 2 brother and herself. No 'Chinese Tiger Mum' here. Yet they are cream of the cream and all are very successful in their own right and have their own family, except Dr Lee, to take care of.

So, it is a CLEAR example that the so-called Chinese Tiger Mum is a myth!!

Going Ms Chua's way or her detractor who wrote about her in the NYT without considering the situational variables will be digging their kids' graves!

Ultimately, you want the kids to become Independent Individual who has the right integrity, the social skills, and practical problems solving skills to deal .....
Posted by Lukeehong on Mon, 24 Jan 2011 at 01:39 AM
When the kids grow up well, we look back and say we did the right thing - whether it's the light handed "Western" style or authoritarian "Eastern" method.

But the when the kids grow up wrong, we look back and say, "What happened? we did everything correctly!"

Hindsight is always 20/20. A perfect vision of the past, and past methods.

The best of East and West upbringing have both produced the best and worse kids.

There is now one correct formula.

Important thing is - when you kids go bad, will you still be the good, loving, parent.

Bringing up kids in one thing. More important, and less talked about is bringing up parents.
Posted by kiddingz on Sat, 22 Jan 2011 at 22:35 PM

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