Is Strict Asian Parenting the Way to Go?

Most of us have likely grown up with strict Asian parenting—you know, the parents who made us start learning the piano or violin at age 5, refused to accept grades less than an A, and gave us curfews hours earlier than any of our friends. But what causes our parents to be that way? And is the strict Asian way of parenting truly superior to the Western way, which is known to be more forgiving? A recent Wall Street Journal book excerpt, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” by Amy Chua, sought to explore these questions and stereotypes through a Chinese mother’s reflection of raising her children. In defense of the harsh way that Asian parents often treat their children, Chua argues it’s because they firmly believe their children can do anything they set their mind to. This passage in particular spoke to me:

"First, I've noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently."

Chua also notes that many Asian parents feel that their children are indebted to them as a result of long-embedded cultural norms. For those that marvel at the lengths Asian parents will go to in terms of criticizing and restricting their children, Chua says:

"Don't get me wrong: It's not that Chinese parents don't care about their children. Just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children. It's just an entirely different parenting model."

Judging by the 2000+ comments and heated discussion that this article has received online, people clearly feel passionately toward the subject of Asian parenting. Personally, I’m extremely grateful to my parents for exposing me to piano and violin lessons from a young age and pushing me to always strive for excellence in everything that I do. However, they never pushed me to the brink, such as the example in Chua’s essay where she forces her daughter to learn a piano passage, refusing to even let her use the restroom—I found that particularly extreme.

What are your thoughts on the Asian way of parenting? Were your own parents like the author, or were they more lenient? If you were victims of strict Asian parenting, do you think it benefited you in the end? Photo source: Boston University