Saturday, January 15, 2011

More on Amy Chua and "Extreme Parenting"

The New York Times has two features today commenting on Amy Chua's WSJ article. In one they asked six "experts" to comment, and you can read their responses here. Many of the themes we covered in our discussion come up, but the one thing these writers emphasize that we did not is Chua's belief that parents can control their children's lives:
It’s hard to accept that by bringing a child into the world we’re creating a hostage to fortune. Amy Chua’s child-rearing manifesto . . . presumes that we can prevent our kids from hurt, harm and disappointment. It’s a fantasy of control and protection.
Second and more interesting is this review of her book. It seems that the WSJ excerpted the most inflammatory section, as you would expect. But there is more to the story:
Born to Chinese parents who were raised in the Philippines and attended MIT, Ms. Chua, 48, graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law, where she was an executive editor of the Law Review. She confesses in her book that she is “not good at enjoying life,” and that she wasn’t naturally curious or skeptical like other law students. “I just wanted to write down everything the professor said and memorize it.”

She was determined to raise her daughters the way she and her three sisters had been raised — which, she said, left them adoring their parents. By her account, her elder daughter, Sophia, complied, excelled and played piano at Carnegie Hall. But the younger, Lulu, rebelled. At the turning point of the memoir, Lulu, then 13, begins smashing glasses in a Moscow restaurant and yelling at her mother, “I HATE my life, I HATE you.”
She told an interviewer that her first draft included a lot about the parenting conflicts between her and her more laid-back husband, but he never thought she was getting his side right, so she decided to leave most of it out.


Katya said...

In my life, an amazingly diverse cross-section pointed out Amy Chua's WSJ and the NYT follow-up pieces.

I felt sad how the "discussion," such as it was, so quickly lapsed into "what a great marketing ploy for the book!"

Good for A.C., I guess.

John said...

There has been a lot of "I thought so!" in reactions to the revelations about Chua's younger daughter -- or maybe it's just relief. But her daughter's rebellion at age 13 doesn't necessarily invalidate all Chua did. After all, lots of 13-year-olds have screamed hateful things at their parents. Even if the daughter felt oppressed at 13 she may have been quite happy at 7 or 9, and she certainly learned a lot of things by 13 that many people never learn. She may be happy at 21 that she learned young how to play the piano and violin and how to excel in school. Or she may be screwed up for life. Who knows?

All the questions we discussed here about how much pressure should be applied to children remain valid.

Katya said...

I agree on your last point--which is part of what made me sad about the diversion into the "great marketing!" angle.

Clearly, the article touched a nerve--which is why I had so many people from diverse areas of my life (you/Bensozia included) referring to it over the past couple of days.