Law Professors

Chinese Moms Succeed Because They ‘Gasp in Horror’ at an A-Minus, Yale Law Prof Says

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Updated: Want your kids to be super-achievers? Try Chinese parenting, a Yale law professor advises.

Writing at the Wall Street Journal, law professor Amy Chua explains the differences between Chinese mothers—used to describe anyone with a strict parenting style—and Western parents. Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As, tell their kids they are lazy and fat, and override their kids’ desires and preferences, Chua says. Western parents worry about self-esteem, while Chinese parents “assume strength, not fragility.”

“If a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child,” Chua writes. “The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. … If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.”

Chua writes that her two daughters would never be allowed to attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, and to be anything less than the top student in every subject (except for gym and drama). Rote repetition and “tenacious practice, practice, practice” work, she says.

“Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction,” she writes. “This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.”

The Careerist blog and Above the Law both noted the article, an excerpt from Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

“Wow. I thought my Chinese parents stressed academic achievement,” the Careerist writes, “but they were wimps compared to Chua.”

Chua later told the San Francisco Chronicle that she had some misgivings about the Wall Street Journal article, which was edited without her input. “The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book.” she said. “And I had no idea they’d put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn’t even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end—that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model.”

Updated on Jan. 13 to include information from the San Francisco Chronicle.

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