I am reproducing here a few comments that I made on Facebook in response to a friend posting this article: "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior."
Written by a professor at Yale Law School who is publishing a book about parenting, the article is (in my opinion) rather self-congratulating about a parenting style that another friend described as "quite pushy and hyper competitive."
As a parenthropologist, it took me effort to give benefit of the doubt and try to read past author Amy Chua's Western-versus-Chinese contrast to see what else she might be saying.
For me, parenting, in addition to its joys, is about humbling moments and continual soul searching. So, reflecting on how you were parented yourself seems a productive place to begin.
Personally, I have thought a lot about what I feel my parents (and admittedly, this means primarily my mother, which is itself worth further commenting upon...) did quite well, and what I now make efforts to do rather differently. It is true that I sometimes think about these differences in terms of culture. (Chua's parents immigrated from China - my parents from Korea.)
At the same time, I think it also matters that parents raise kids at particular historical moments. So, it is not just "cultural" differences that account for different priorities or practices for parents.
Clearly, at this particular historical moment, parents in the United States are faced with a lot of anxiety about raising children.
The problem, I suggest, is not that American parents are not doing a good enough job. It is that we are having to do our best under conditions that continually undermine our efforts. As anyone with kids will tell you: This is not a family-friendly society.
Re: Chua. The point that continues to stick in my craw is the continued propagation here of an East-West contrast. A few years back, there was a book written by two Korean-American sisters called Top of the Class that was more or less a tribute to "Asian work ethic" and "Confucian values" - in contrast, presumably, to the liberalness and permissiveness of "American" parenting.
As a cultural anthropologist whose research interests include parenting, for me the question is not whether or not Chinese or Korean mothers are "superior." (What does that even mean?) Instead, it is how and why it is (again) that East and West become held as opposed reflections on each other - this time on the thorny issue of parenting.