Comparing American and Chinese Parents

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This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Some American parents might think their children need better educations to compete with China and other countries. But how much do the parents themselves need to change?

A new book called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua has caused a debate about cultural differences in parenting. Ms. Chua is a professor at the Yale Law School in New Haven, Connecticut, and the mother of two daughters. She was raised in the American Midwest by immigrant Chinese parents.

In the Chinese culture, the tiger represents strength and power. In her book, Ms. Chua writes about how she demanded excellence from her daughters. For example, she threatened to burn her daughter's stuffed animals unless she played a piece of music perfectly. She would insult her daughters if they failed to meet her expectations.

Ms. Chua told NBC television that she had a clear list of what her daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were not permitted to do.

AMY CHUA: "Attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch TV or play computer games, be in a school play, get any grade less than an A."

Many people have criticized Amy Chua. Some say her parenting methods were abusive. She even admits that her husband, who is not Chinese, sometimes objected to her parenting style. But she says that was the way her parents raised her and her three sisters.

Ms. Chua makes fun of her own extreme style of parenting. She says she eased some of the pressure after her younger daughter rebelled and shouted "I hate my life! I hate you!"

Ms. Chua says she decided to retreat when it seemed like there was a risk that she might lose her daughter. But she also says American parents often have low expectations of their children's abilities.

AMY CHUA: "One of the biggest differences I see between Western and Chinese parents is that Chinese parents assume strength rather than fragility."

Stacy DeBroff has written four books on parenting.

STACY DEBROFF: "The stirring of this intense debate has to do with what does it mean to be a successful parent and what does it mean to be a successful child?"

Ms. DeBroff says Amy Chua's parenting style is not limited to Chinese families. She says it represents a traditional way of parenting among immigrants seeking a better future for their children.

But she also sees a risk. When children have no time to be social or to follow their own interests, they might not develop other skills that they need to succeed in life. Stacey DeBroff advises parents to develop their own style of parenting and not just repeat the way they were raised.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report. What are your thoughts about parenting styles and cultural differences? Tell us at voaspecialenglish.com or on Facebook at VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember.


Contributing: Faiza Elmasry and Lawan Davis

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