Last Updated on March 20, 2018

Have you ever been so diametrically opposed to someone else’s viewpoint on something that you literally felt void after absorbing his or her thoughts?

As I was reading The Wall Street Journal‘s recent article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” (that so many moms in social media are talking about), I went through a myriad of thoughts and emotions:  shock, disbelief, confusion, fear, sadness, empathy, and finally … void.

My natural tendency in such circumstances is to walk away, retreat, and purge the thoughts from my mind rather than become disturbed by them. But then this little nagging kept occurring — not to mention the email I received from Bob Lepine asking me if I had something to say about this particular article.

If you haven’t read the article, let me very briefly summarize the major takeaway from it. The author, Amy Chua, believes that American moms are not tough enough on their children and that we would produce better, more successful children if we demanded (and I do mean demanded) perfection from them. In fact, she even shared that she has literally lost her voice from yelling so much at her children in her quest for what she perceives to be success and perfection.

So here I sit, hands on the keyboard … (heavy sigh) … what do I have to say about the Chinese mothering described in this article?

If I tried to dissect it totally, I would be left relentlessly nauseated … much like the  “epic fail” of the dreaded frog dissection back in high school. Please don’t make me.

As I read the article, I happened to scribble down a few quotes that particularly struck me. How about I just touch on those?

But before I get to the quotes, I would like to share that I have been to China and have met Chinese mothers — ones who were loving, gentle, and more compassionately supportive than the Superior Chinese Mother outlined in said article. Could it be that not all Chinese mothers share her parenting characteristics? And, if I may, if someone had read an article by Joan Crawford on how American women can be a good mother, I’m guessing more than one American mom would cry foul. I think I hear the faint sound of a few million moms in China doing the same.

You know, when you write, there is this danger of categorizing “all moms” of doing and reacting the same as you do. What a convenient way to justify your own actions. Am I right? The nuances of motherhood are as varied as the hues of our eye colors. The same … yet different. I suspect that she is describing what happens behind her four walls, her normal, and what she assumes happens in every other Chinese household. I don’t buy it; shame on her for making a sweeping generalization.

However, if I am wrong on that point (doubt it), allow me to zero in on a few things that I reacted to in her article that no doubt are happening in some Chinese households.

The first quote I note is when she refers to a little girl as “fatty.” Really? On so many levels, that is just supremely wrong, and every woman reading this knows that. I’m thinking of an Asian contestant last season on The Biggest Loser whose parents had her so torn up about not performing well and not being “perfect” to their liking that she was an emotional wreck. The whole viewing world saw that firsthand.

Later in the article, the writer says one of the solutions to substandard performance is to “shame the child,” which is so sad. I have visions of slumped shoulders, distant eyes, and a battered heart. My daughter had a sweet friend in middle school whom she tried desperately to befriend and reach out to with minor success. Her family had moved here from China, and some of what was in the article I witnessed through her. She was a dear, dear child and very successful in so many ways — I just described her to you as I began writing this paragraph, and my heart breaks anew for her.

The whole “perfect” children emphasis throughout the entire article literally made my stomach lurch as I recall the frightening number of orphanages filled with discarded Chinese  “imperfect” children.

And now I weep.

I wrote down one complete phrase from the article as I was reading: “Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.”

What could be further from the truth about how our heavenly Father feels about us?

Ephesians 2:4–5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved … .”

Where’s the grace?

That, in a nutshell, is why I would not take one shred of advice from the mom who wrote that article and why reading it left me feeling void.

For the record, I looked up the definition to the word superior, and I saw words like haughty, condescending, unconcerned … rather telling.

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  1. Tracey, I couldn't agree with you more. What a sad and empty existence.

    Thank you for sharing..


    1. Hey Erin, Thanks for being a part of our MomLife Today community…and loving your children!

  2. So sad, really. Yes, there are definitely issues in our nation with parenting, but demanding unobtainable perfection isn't the answer, especially at the expense of a person's heart. If yelling were the answer then certain football teams would have been champs every year for the last decade… Holding children accountable for their actions? Yes, a good parenting strategy. Encouraging and helping your child reach his or her full potential? Yes, another good strategy. Reminding your children that they are loved and can try again even when they fail? Another good one.

    Let us pray for the parents and children affected by that type of parenting while the author of that article has her 15 minutes of fame. Oh, and keep some antacids handy in case you meet one of the children–they'll probably need it.

    Thanks Tracey.

  3. Couldn't agree with you more!!! What have we gained if we only shame a child into obedience? We have done nothing to shape their hearts. Does God yell, scream and shame us to get us to obey Him?? No, He gently corrects us and waits for us to come to Him. What a tragedy that shame is such a part of their culture.

  4. The first time I learned of this book, I was concerned. Children do well with boundaries and expectations, but I know of so many broken adults whose parents followed the misguided path of utilizing humiliation and degradation in order to achieve supposed success. Thank you so much for this post, Tracey.

  5. I would venture to guess that the recipients of these "superior mothers" tacits would disagree if they were exposed to the so called American mothers methods of raising their children. Goes to show bullies can even be parents.

  6. Tracey, thanks for the article! I think I'm going to have to buy this book, just out of curiosity! I had a piano teacher – and great friend – in high school who was also a Chinese mother. She was a graduate of Juliard herself, her husband was a professor, and both of her daughters were academically and musically successful (they all performed with the Cincinnati symphony orchestra). However, this lady was soft-spoken and gentle with her children, as was her own mother. So, I don't think that the author of the WSJ article is in any way speaking for all Chinese mothers. I want to say, though, that I do believe that teaching our children to obey, to have good work habits and to master skills will also increase their self-esteem in the long run. But, never if we try to do it with anger or by belittling them. "Sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness." Prov. 16:21 If the author had shared insight, such as keeping children busy with lots of positive activities, encouragements, etc., it could have been an article about two cultures sharing ideas.

    1. Thank you so much for your insights and for confirming with me that all Chinese mothers do not parent as this woman describes. I have seen first hand the result of children who have been belittled and shamed and I hope the "techniques" and the out comes described in the article to not persuade moms to use her methods! Many blessings to you and yours!

  7. I do not think one parenting style is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong. I believe the key here is balance. Mrs. Chun does make some good observations regarding the obsession some parents exhibit with protecing their children's "self-esteem". I tire of seeing some young (and old) adults living off their parents, putting little effort into their jobs (excellence being an alien notion) and embracing the idea of entitlement. Both styles have some valid points; let's put them together into something that is healthy, responsible and biblical. As Christians, we have the best "Parenting Guide" in the Bible.