Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Evils of Play Dates and Other Western Indulgences

I am sure that many of you have heard of Amy Chua and why she thinks Chinese mothers are awesome. I saw her on the Today Show, ironically after the Snooki novel interview.


She’s a hardcore, no-nonsense kind of mama. Not the kind where you feel all cozy at her house while you sip coffee during a play date. Oh wait, that’s right. Because there were no play dates for her girls. Or TV. Or anything fun. Because according to Amy nothing is fun unless you are the best at it. (No wonder I like to watch TV; I am damn good at it)!

I thought Amy would just be a blip on my radar, but then my uncle sent me the article in the Wall Street Journal.

Wow. And yikes again. (And thank you)!

My favorite part was when she describes the battle of epic proportions in which she would not let her daughter quit until she got this piano piece exactly right. Sounds great, right? What kind of mother would she be if she just gave up on her daughter? Except that she called her seven year old “lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent, and pathetic” to show her love and support that she could do it.


I am all about perseverance and hard work and success, yet not at the expense of self-esteem. But Amy says that the Chinese parent is not concerned with self-esteem because children will get that from doing a good job.

I disagree. I think that bullying a child for good results is the opposite of good parenting. But that’s pretty typical of Western thinking in general: we believe in the individual and fostering a strong sense of self-esteem. We believe that we are all special in our own way.

I’m pretty sure that Amy would disagree with that. According to her parenting model, her kids’ performance at school is a reflection of her job as a mother. She’s all about micromanaging and domineering. Which, if it’s working for her, that’s great. But I wonder how these kids learn to make any decisions on their own when they aren’t under the careful watch of the prison warden, I mean mother.

But I did agree with her on one thing: Many Western parents don’t put the blame on the students for not doing well in school. They call the principal to argue how the material is being taught and the teacher’s credentials. I was the victim of that plenty of times when I was teaching. And it was horrible. So on this, I will agree. Often Western parents don’t put enough heat on their kids to take responsibility for their actions. And with that, there is a sense helplessness that comes along with not feeling empowered by making your own choices and feeling the weight of their consequences.

The sense of entitlement can be just as debilitating as being micromanaged by your parent. Which is kind of ironic, don’t you think?

But here’s the thing, her kids are not adults yet. Isn’t it a little preemptive to say her parenting model is full of the awesome and her kids haven’t even gone to college yet? What happens if they get a taste of beer freedom and go bat-shit crazy? Wonder if all those years of saying no to school plays, she wants to be a drama major?

And I’m not saying that I am doing everything right. I’m pretty sure I have given Marie plenty to talk about with her future therapist such as when I told her that she disappointed me by lying about jumping on the bed. Thomas will probably talk about the times I didn’t give him attention when he pouted that I would not give him a brownie until after he finished his dinner.

As mothers, we follow our inner compass and do our best that we can. My inner compass says that raising healthy, balanced babes is my priority. If Amy wants to bully her kids and call them pathetic in the name of raising successful kids, then that’s her priority. (And success if pretty subjective which is a post for another time).

But I can’t say that, if our kids were the same age, that they would be friends.

Mostly because a play date was not on the list of approved activities for her girls.

So what do you think? Where are you on the spectrum of parenting? Are you a bad-ass, crack the whip call-your-kid-fat-to-her-face-because-I-love-you kind of mom? Or are you I-Can’t-Believe-The-Teacher-Gave-You-A-Failing-Grade-How-Can-That-Be-You-Are-A-Genius-That-Teacher-Is-A-Moron kind of mom? Or do you fall somewhere in between? Let’s hear it!


melissa said...

i wrote about this too. it angered me on so many levels!!
great post!

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of her...but I've run into "her" a few times at parent conferences. Where am I on the parenting scale? Somewhere to the right of "anything to boost your self-esteem". I don't believe every kid should get a trophy but I don't believe in humiliation as a parenting technique.

You bring up a good point...her kids aren't even grown up yet. I was the evilest mom in town a few times BUT I think I raised some decent human beings.

Your pal,
Aunt Diane

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

Melissa, thank you! Looking forward to reading your post.

Aunt Diane, I think I'm on the same side of the scale as you are.

New York Mama said...

I think this woman has major control issues & although it may be cultural, her child's performance level shouldn't be all about the Mom. Bullying is wrong, especially to children, never justifiable.
The Wall Street Article was thought provoking as is your post. There are a lot of kids who don't know who's in charge because their parents allow them too many freedoms as, "if you want to study for an hour and play video games for two, it's your life" ...NOT in my house. We all have our roles/jobs/responsibilities as a family unit. If one of us does not do our part, the family as a whole suffers. Of course this is what we use as a starting point & a way to teach valuable life lessons. Personal responsibility & self esteem are both very important.

Erin Janda Rawlings said...

"Personal responsilbilty and self esteem are noth very important" - well said! I totally agree!