Strict Chinese Parents vs Gentle Western Parents


Love this piece contrasting Chinese and Western parental attitudes! But can a softie Westernized banana like me do the same?

Excerpts from Wall Street Journal article:

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, “Hey fatty—lose some weight.” By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of “health” and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her “beautiful and incredibly competent.” She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

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.

Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it’s true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences. That’s why Chinese daughters can’t have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can’t go to sleepaway camp. It’s also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, “I got a part in the school play! I’m Villager Number Six. I’ll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I’ll also need a ride on weekends.” God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids’ true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it’s a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

See more at This Yahoo News piece which ponders if Americans are outraged because they are secretly scared that China will be the new power in a generation’s time… And also this admission:

That was a year and a half ago. Today, Chua has worked out some surprising compromises with her children. Sophia can go out on dates and must practice the piano for an hour and a half each day instead of as many as six hours. Lulu is allowed to pursue her passion for tennis.

UPDATE: Lol, it’s becoming a meme! Via AoSHQ from Buzzfeed:

Image generator and submissions at here.

See also High Expectations Asian Father.

My collection of the above meme images at Super Strict Success Asian Mom and Dad Meme Lols.

LOL! See also Irish Setter Dad (via AoSHQ):

But my kids practice too, hour after hour every day. They practice being jerks. And since almost every boss I’ve ever had was a jerk, this gives them a leg up.

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19 Responses to “Strict Chinese Parents vs Gentle Western Parents”

  1. srmcmahon Says:

    And yet, Chinese culture is not punitive of children as Westerners are. I’ve known Chinese nationals living in the US who are aghast by the cynical forms of discipline often used in US schools, even with small children. This was echoed in a documentary I saw about American teachers visiting schools in China, and a group discussion near the end. The Americans kept asking about discipline and the Chinese couldn’t figure out what they were even asking.

  2. Simon Thong Says:

    Go to http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/english/doc/2004-12/07/content_397964.htm

    see what Chinadaily said in

    60% of Chinese children suffer corporal punishment
    (Agencies)
    Updated: 2004-12-07 09:42

  3. Simon Thong Says:

    In the China of the past, discipline was seen as rooted in upbringing. The home was the key to discipline. Parents disciplined their children. That was the ideal. Overseas chinese brought this ideal with them wherever they went. In effect, because parents were not trained in good parenting skills, they fell back on what their own parents did. Because physical punishment and emotional bullying were used, children grew up scarred for life. Disciplined they may have by the time they were adults, many had been abused as children and teens. They, often unthinkingly, did what they had been done to: carry on the tradition of physical punishment and emotional bullying. Only those who thought it through and decided not to continue the vicious cycle of harsh discipline became different. They loved first and used a firm hand. A bit of physical punishment coupled with loads of love can go very far in bringing up children to become stable, mature and successful adults who exhibit self-discipline.

  4. ST=whiteSkisser Says:

    lol, what a white a$$ kisser. You think Americans will thank you for this article? Your words will only make them feel you are being dishonest, counterproductive and condescending.

    Failure to educate your children is the biggest punishment a parent can give to their children. Your children will hate you in return when they end up in a low paying jobs because you failed as a parent.

    How can you expect kids to know what they want when they are young? It’s your job as a parent to be strict to them, so that your children will learn what they needed to know for survival in society in later age. (eg. At least can point out Australia on a map.)

    I only offer what’s truthful.
    Your Malaysian Friend.

  5. Scott Thong Says:

    Sure dude, that would be great advice… If I weren’t already planning on doing that and my blog post were intended to gather praise from Americans and I actually wrote the original article instead of excerpting from it.

    But thanks for your counterproductive and condescending advice anyway.

  6. ST=whiteSkisser Says:

    Duh, stupid me. What was I thinking? Of course you have to write some white a$$ kissing dishonest articles because they are your only donors.

  7. Scott Thong Says:

    1) I didn’t write the article, merely posted excerpts from it
    2) The writer of the article is Chinese living in America
    3) The tone of the article is ‘Chinese parenting is better than American parenting’
    4) Caucasians or Westerners are not my only donors… Because sadly, I have no donations to date =(

    What do you have to say to that, o polite genius?

  8. ST=whiteSkisser Says:

    Sorry then white a$$ kissing articles poster.

    Of course you don’t have any donations to date, just take a look at what kind materials you posted here. Nothing but shameful lies, what..you think your readers are idiots?

  9. Scott Thong Says:

    Well according to you, my readers are mainly Americans, and obviously you have a lowly view of Americans. Not much of a mental leap then to form a conclusion about the IQ of my readers, no?

    As for donors, I thought you had it on good authority that I get lots of American dollars for my Anglo-rear kissing activities? Do make up your astoundingly genius mind.

    Although I know you are this, reading your comments amuses me. So I’d like to ask which shameful lies on my blog in particular you have the most objection to.

  10. Simon Thong Says:

    To: ST=whiteSkisser = I only offer what’s truthful.Your Malaysian Friend.

    U’re Malaysian alright, not the good, sincere kind but the kind of Malaysian who is envious coz he sees Scott, another Malaysian who has got a blog that has almost 3million hits (THREE MILLION!!! Grrrrrrr!!!!!) while all u can do is whine and whinge and kiss ur own unwiped a$$.

    And you’re no friend either but a hypocrite: U claim to be “your…friend” but has only unfriendly words. Very Malaysian of the wrong kind: double-tongued or two-headed.

    What is this “Failure to educate your children is the biggest punishment a parent can give to their children. Your children will hate you in return when they end up in a low paying jobs because you failed as a parent”? Don’t blame ur parents for bringing u up to be the kind of Malaysian whose comprehension level is way down there…….in the pits.

  11. Simon Thong Says:

    I suspect that Scott doesn’t think his readers are idiots. He thinks ONE IS AN IDIOT: fella who wrote under the pseudonym, ST=whiteSkisser

  12. ST=whiteSkisser Says:

    Go get a real job fool. No time to entertain a beggar.

  13. Scott Thong Says:

    No time to entertain a beggar. – ST=whiteSkisser

    By golly! Then what am I doing responding to you all this while?

  14. Simon Thong Says:

    a fool said to someone, “No time to entertain a beggar.” A clown, is he? Nothing he has said has made anyone laugh. The laughter is at him.

    Redundant, begging for job in a circus? Try the zoo, they’re short of chimps.

  15. Zack T Says:

    My goodness… talk about reading and yet not understanding…
    And then speaking without thinking and any substance…
    And then leaving with a denial of what had been wrongly said/attributed or clearly debunked.

    Bravo, ST=whiteSkisser.. you are truly a work of art that I can never comprehend nor replicate. You may not be one of a kind, but still, an art that I will never be able to replicate nor fully understand.

    May God bless you, dude.

  16. Lester Borello Says:

    Dear friends or so I hope! Since you’re enthusiastic about classics, I would like to discuss with you the fact that experts found out an ancient source of knowledge of types of human mind (spirit) — this ancient Chinese manuscript known as Shan Hai Jing (The Collection of Mountains and Seas). It turned out, it contains descriptions of about three hundred unique models or programs of human mind. Additionally, it had been found that I Ching (Classic of Changes) and Dao De Jing (by Laocius) are commentaries to Shan Hai Ching. sinology

  17. Simon Thong Says:

    Dear Lester, who said anything about being enthusiastic about classics? Are you trolling for hits?

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