Tag Archives: Family

Thoughts on Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

Last week, WSJ blogger Amy Chua posted a controversial post titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html), supposedly an excerpt from a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

I read it with a smile on my face.  Some of the things she wrote is true about some Chinese parent’s attitudes to education and parenting but they are sweeping generalisations.  In my own experience, I’m an Australian Born Chinese (ABC).  Also known as banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside).  My parents were strict, but not that strict.  But still I can definitely relate to being scared bringing my school report home from school, being encouraged to do more homework than prescribed, I did learn the violin and piano and my extra-curricular activities was basically only music related.  But I was allowed to watch TV, go in school plays, play computer games, etc.

Amy’s post has caused an “uproar” in some areas of the blogging community for all sorts of reasons and I read many of the thoughtful responses over the weekend.

I really don’t know where to start but firstly, I feel sorry for her kids.  Instead of the selfish and conceited title “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“, maybe the post should be titled “Why Chinese children don’t have as much fun“.  Now that I’ve done my high school, university and have worked for many years, I wonder whether it’s actually worth it.  For example, what’s the point of scoring 100% if you only need 80% to get into the course you want?  Once you’re in the workforce, no-one really cares what you scored for what test, how highly placed you were at High School or University.  True there is a certain level of scores that you may need to progress to the next step or open up more opportunities, but come on..   A instead of an A+?  Taking a few more months to learn The Little White Donkey?

Perhaps these “Chinese children” could do extra-curricular activities that they want, study a bit less, have friends over, watch some TV each week, have more a more fun and varied childhood, yet still get into the course they want if that’s the ultimate goal?  I guess a cynic could read the article and think, wow, Chinese kids must be pretty dumb if they need so much tuition!  And in the end they still get the same jobs as caucasians. 

Yes I’ve been westernised having been born and brought up in Australia (a second gen Chinese Australian), but to me, happiness, self discipline, self responsibility, learning consequences from your own decisions and actions is more important that an extra percent mark on a test.  

Yes I see the value in teaching your kids not to give up if things get hard, that they have the potential to achieve greatly if you put in the effort (10,000 hours?), but is it worth the expense of other facets of a once in a lifetime childhood?  Life and time is precious.  There are things that one would only experience or do as a child in school.

Unfortunately Amy doesn’t touch on the point that I suspect sometimes some Chinese parents are doing this for themselves.  It can sometimes be a sort of “show”, upholding their parents pride or face.  So you can boast that your child learnt Whizzbang Etude No. 2 at the age of 3 with their right hand only and can play it blindfolded backwards.  Or disgrace to your entire family name if you took 1 year to learn The Little White Donkey instead of your cousin who took only 2 weeks.   Maybe this is related to the piano and violin thing.   What’s the point in saying your daughter/son can play all of John Coltrane’s sax solos at the 7 if all your Chinese parent friends only measure success by violin and piano Suzuki book numbers.   Perhaps it’s some in built genetic self preservation mechanism – that if their kids do well, they’ll be successful, earn lots of money, and thus have the money to be able to look after the parents when they’re older.   And what with being number 1?  By definition, there can ONLY BE ONE PERSON at the number 1 position.   What about everyone else in the class/school/country/world?  Are they failures?   Shouldn’t you be happy if your child genuinely tried their hardest?

Now that I’m in the workforce, I’ve learnt that academic scores, although impressive, is not really useful if you don’t have strong people, social or communication skills, haven’t had varied life experiences, don’t take pride in personal presentation, haven’t contributed to the local community or  had team building and leadership experiences, through sports or clubs.  I think these things make a much more well rounded human than one who just did rote learning for hours on end, who is scared to score an A instead of A+ in every maths test, who is brought up with the mantra that they have failed if they’re not the top of the class or was forced to learn an instrument that they didn’t want to.  How about your child trying hard and doing the best they can and if they do, you being proud of that?

One of the things that the post raises that frustrates me is the attitude towards music.  Yes, Chinese children may be forced to learn the violin and piano, but when it comes to university/college, often they are strongly DISCOURAGED from taking up music as a profession.  You must be a doctor or lawyer instead right?   Many end up dropping their musical instrument altogether, perhaps suggesting that it was forced upon them instead of playing for the love of it – perhaps even psychologically ruining their attitude towards music later in life.   And I also hear some rare stories of people who have done the medical, law thing but then after a few years, given it up to do music instead.  If “Chinese mothers” are investing so much of their time and effort into their children to learn a musical instrument, and their children are good at it, then shouldn’t they encourage them to follow through with this into their adult lives?

And the other thing I’m frustrated about – as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m seeing younger and younger kids nowadays play musical repetoire that is YEARS beyond their emotional maturity.  Should a 7 year old even be playing The Little White Donkey?  A talented pianist might be able to play the notes, but are they actually making music?  Does it matter if a 5 year old can play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto like a robot with no genuine feeling of love, romance, longing?

As some other blogs have said, this is a complex issue and everyone’s got their own thoughts.  If anything, this has made people reflect on their own parenting styles and how much influence their heritage/ancestry/own upbringing has played on their parenting style.   Also, many of the things Amy raises is not specific to just Chinese parents either.   There’s no doubt that Amy Chua loves her children.  Everyone has different ways of showing love, and ultimately, as long as her children realise that what she is doing is because that’s the way she’s choosing to show her love and dedication, then all is OK right?

The sad thing is that I’ve read that Amy Chua didn’t have any say into the WSJ piece, and that it’s an edited piece of various parts of her book, which coincidentally has launched into the Top 10.   Is this all just a marketing ploy to generate interest in the book?  Have we been sucked in?

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New blog header!

Don’t normally do a weekend blog post, but the girls are all asleep so I decided to do something I’ve been wanting to for ages – create a custom blog header!

I couldn’t decide between putting up one of the photos that I took myself, or putting up a family photo.  Since my blog is not just solely focussed on photography but more about life in general, I decided a family photo reflected the state of my blog at this time!

This great family photo was taken by my cousin’s wife in Singapore over 3 and a half years ago!   She runs a photo studio in Singapore called KidsPictures.  If you’re visiting or currently live in  Singapore and want some great natural family photos or photos of the kids, I definitely recommend going to see Anne.   She was so relaxed with us, made the kids feel really at ease and made us look great!   Visit the website here:  http://www.kidspictures.com.sg/

Camping

Car packed for camping

We went camping on the weekend..  and we froze our butts off!

Yes it was fun!  The kids loved getting back to “nature”, playing in the forest, going on bushwalks, having smo’s on the fire…

But when it came to sleeping time, we freezed all night!  Maybe it was the air mattresses we were on, letting the cold come straight in from the ground (but we did have a groundsheet) but we had to put on extra layers on during the night.  My sleeping bag was rated 5 deg C, but wifey’s was rated -5 deg C and she was still cold.  Next time I’ll have to remember to pack a beanie and get a better sleeping bag, but we wondering if foam mattresses help since the other campers in our group who slept on foam weren’t as cold. 

Wish we could’ve stayed another night to make it worthwhile having packed so much stuff – well, it didn’t seem much, but it just all bulked up.

Here’s what we brought along:

– 4 sleeping bags
– 1 double air mattress, 2 single air matresses for the kids
– 4 pillows
– 1 ground cover
– 1 tent
– 2 camping chairs
– 1 pump, lantern, hammer, torch
– 1 bag of clothes and toiletries
– 4 cold winter jackets
– 1 camera bag with video camera and SLR
– 2 towels
– 2 bags of food, drink, bread rolls, etc

As usual, everytime we go camping we always say to ourselves, why don’t we do this more often?   Am now thinking of when we can do our next trip!

Don’t want to go to school!

This morning, our 7yo didn’t want to get out of bed.

“I don’t want to go to school!” she complained.

“Why?”

Silence.

“Is there something you don’t like at school?”

“We have to do maths for the rest of the week.  I don’t like maths.”

“What are you learning in maths?”

“We’re doing takeaways, like when you go shopping, how much money you have left.”

“That’s important baby.. you have to learn that so you can go shopping.”

“No I don’t.  I can still go shopping,” she replies in a sing-song whining voice.

It just seemed like yesterday when I, myself, was in school and had days that I wanted to wag school!  And now, I’m having to convince my kids that they need to go to school and learn maths.

WHHHYYY??  Does being a parent mean having to get your kids to do the things that you yourself didn’t want to do when you were a kid?

I so wanted to take the day off with her, bring her to the cinemas for a movie, maybe going to Leederville for lunch, go for a walk or cycle then an icecream by the beach…    but…   I have to go work…

Happy Birthday Django!

Dear Django,

Happy Birthday!  It was your second birthday today.

You started the day by waking up in T’s bed.   You were all sprawled out and totally floppy, wrapped in the warm quilt.   The kids woke up and you did your usual morning stretches, first back legs, then front.

Mum served you your favourite and usual breakfast of 2 spoons of yoghurt with half a cup of dry dog biscuits.  As usual, you swallowed it up full.  T made you a cute Birthday card and she presented it to you this morning.  She hugged you tight with all her love whilst she read the card to you.    You love cuddles from the kids and T loves giving them to you!

A Birthday Card for Django
A Birthday Card for Django

Soon it was time for us to go to school and work.  As a special treat this morning, I gave you half a Lix Baked Bone as a reward for your birthday and for going out the back door when I called you.  You have been so good at it lately!  You come when I call, you sit when I ask you to sit, and then you drop when I ask you to drop…  I might try to trick you tomorrow by not having the treat 🙂

I think you spent the rest of the day lazing on the back verandah, guarding our home, awaiting the return of those big creatures that give you food.

Django's Cupcake
Django's Cupcake

This evening we celebrated your birthday with a little blueberry cupcake with a sparkler on top.  A warm rendition of Happy Birthday was sung and then as a special special treat, we let you eat the cupcake on the kitchen bench!  You loved it!

I hope you had a great doggy birthday today!  No walk today, but we’ll get you out on the weekend 🙂  May you continue to bring the family much joy and love.

Family love
Family love