Last Saturday morning I was on my way to meet a regular client when I picked up my usual weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal and was struck by a feature at the top of the first page. It read WHY CHINESE MOTHERS ARE SUPERIOR and displayed a picture of a smiling, slim Chinese woman with her arms folded for implied elegance flanked by two teenage girls who looked like younger versions of the woman, except not fully Chinese. I was intrigued by the headline and read the article. The woman was Amy Chua, a professor at Yale University, and this week the woman amidst a firestorm of judgmental parents and adults with strong opinions on childrearing methods.
As it turns out, many people were as intrigued as I was. Nearly four thousand comments have been left for the online version of the article, the most for any online Wall Street Journal article ever. An astounding one hundred and seventy-eight thousand people “liked” the article on Facebook, and yes, there are lots of opinions. Some think that eastern methods are far too harsh, citing mental and emotional breakdowns in children who completely reject the methods. Some think that Prof. Chua’s insights offer some of the freshest and most revolutionary ideas on childrearing we’ve been allowed to read in a long time. I just thought it all pointed a huge foam finger at childhood obesity.
We live in a strange time, especially in the west, where childbirth is a right, mostly because abortion is a choice. Meaning, many women and families have the option to negate pregnancies, so those same individuals, in choosing to get pregnant, see it as a right to be and stay pregnant. It should be the opposite. One chooses to be pregnant, and they have the right to abort the pregnancy. All it means is a great deal of people with children, not because they’re interested in raising stellar individuals or forming effective families, but because they’ve been given the right to have them. To me, the parenting problem begins here. Before the letter grades, before slamming the ABCs into their heads, before pre-natal yoga, the decision over the baby’s birth holds the keys to what sort of individual the baby will become.
If so many see it as a right, they’ll make every other decision based on right, i.e. “I have the right to feed my child whatever I want,” and “I have the right to raise my child however I want.” What these parents forget is that seeking pleasure, or doing things based on what they “want” is what initially created the child. What they’re doing by parenting this way is teaching whole families to seek pleasure. There’s no guidance in those priorities. There are so many areas of our society where eliminating choice necessary. That’s not to say that we should relinquish freedoms to an omniscient government so that food may be rationed and jobs are chosen for us. It’s that individual censorship that lacks in our society, or a voice that screams clearly from within that the things that are better for us are far more important than the things that make us feel good.
This is a difficult and often rejected concept in the west, but it’s the basis and foundation of families in the east. Now, when eastern principles are running families in western societies, things can become skewed. So, if a parent has eastern-type expectations for a child at school, the expectations come more from the idea that western children don’t properly apply themselves, making those who actually do the winners in our society. If a parent thinks that put-downs are encouragement, it happens more because they know other children never get any encouragement, positive or negative. They’re told they make their parents proud, but they’re not “encouraged” to seek the highest level of what they’re doing because of possible failure, or because parents aren’t really fond of people who are actually about things. Remember, these are people who simply work because they’re about their children. Western children aren’t encouraged to really be or do anything of merit, because people here don’t think life is within their control.
I believe that statement to be true. Children here are raised under a cloud of “ifs.”
If my baby is born healthy
If my child is interested in this or that
If my child gets into college
Here, it’s the norm to treat a life span like something that’s left to a state puppet master. Those leaving life to chance are taking an even bigger chance with the things we should hold most dear. If family is most important, then why not enforce your most important values, making it so that you control your family’s priorities for generations? The answer is, because individuals here have no idea what the correct values are. This is a place where we give more importance to reality shows about other people’s lives than our own. Second, if education is important, why do we simply rely on schools to provide it for our children? If children here practiced things, and not simply schoolwork but also every thing that took perfecting to really enjoy, then we’d have far more individuals with developed talents in far more areas. Practice, in terms of repetition is taboo in our society. We hear about people who are diligent and dedicated to things, but not many of us actually are. A nerd-type enthusiasm for one’s craft is a cause for ridicule. Really, human beings have the capacity to practice and perfect almost any concept that human beings can already comprehend. Lastly, if our bodies are most important, then why is it also taboo to do the best things with them and to put the best things in them for fuel?
A deficiency in all three is holding back American children. Their families don’t know what families should do, or how they should be run, and they make a multitude of incorrect and sensory choices. They go to schools that aren’t equipped to raise children for their parents, and surely can’t serve out work ethics like school lunches, so children learn to do things, but never how or why to practice and perfect them. They eat based on what tastes good to them, and they do as much sitting as adults, so much that children need to be encouraged by the media to be interested in activity. This trio of issues produces a child (and later and adult) who, according to society is normal, but in terms of being an effective adult is failing.
This is what Michelle Obama is afraid to say when she’s saying that getting kids active will help childhood obesity. What’s missing in all of these speeches from the White house lawn are insights into proper priorities and observations of our changing society. Old world ideas might not survive in our world, and new world ideas aren’t always effective just because they’re new. Smart ideas trump both. I’m not a parent yet, but if and when I do have my own family, I’m going to start with a foundation that says to all “this family treats progression, enrichment, and our bodies with the utmost importance.” Prof. Chua’s aim is one of reaction to western society and defending against the mediocrity that society accepts. It may lead to exceptional performance in school and life or a negative emotional reaction to a surrounding environment that doesn’t support these methods. The west’s aim is help everyone get the things they desire, which may produce loving, supportive families or incredibly fat and incompetent children. I say, if you really love your children and they’re not just here to cement your right to have them, then you’re making intelligent decisions every day that are based on who you want them to be. You’re not simply waiting to see how society will determine who they are and who they will become. It will be far too late when you find out.
A shortlink to the original article: