True Happiness is Success in and of Itself



Like most people I found this article by Amy Chua frustrating: Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

The reason why I found it so frustrating is best summed up by the title of this blog post by Betty Ming Liu: Parents Like Amy Chua are the Reason Why Asian Americans Like Me are in Therapy

Seriously, what is the point of being talented and successful if you're unhappy for the rest of your life? Isn't happiness success in and of itself?

This article by Amy Chua illustrates one point that I make in The Alpha Asian Mindset: as a whole Asian Americans are highly intelligent, driven and talented, and yet we have incredibly low self esteem. We have high skill but low confidence. And a lot of this is due to strict Asian parenting, which stresses academics over emotional and social development

Of course we all know that not all Asian parents are like this Amy Chua. But I can say for myself that my parents were strict and often berated me. My mom actually bought a math book and made me do homework during the summer.

But I understand some of what Chua is trying to say:

"What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up."

I think the Chinese adhere to the 10,000 hour rule, the idea that the more you practice the better you become. Success is directly correlated with effort. If you failed, then you failed because you didn't try hard enough.  Talent is not innate.  It is cultivated through consistent practice.  Any athlete, any musician will tell you this.

The problem that I have with Amy Chua and other strict Asian parents is when they try to shame or humiliate their kids into behaving. You want to build confidence in your children, not destroy it. If you grow up in an environment where you are constantly being judged and deemed "not good enough," then you will internalize that view of yourself long after you've moved out of your parents' house.

On the other hand, I think Amy Chua has a valid point: parents in modern Western society coddle their children.  Western parents praise their kids for everything, whether or not the praise is justified.  And this has created a society of assholes who feel entitled to everything.

Praise is important, but it has to be constructive praise.  You praise effort and hard work.  You don't praise a kid for just being there.  An excellent book on this subject is Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman.

Comments

Anonymous said…
I actually found Nurture Shock quite enlightening to my parenting experience. I agree that Asians are quite talented, but often lack the confidence to do things. But, I think that applies mainly to Asian men in American society.
MaSir Jones said…
"My mom actually bought a math book and made me do homework during the summer."

HAHA. Mine too dude!! I bet there's at least a million Asians forced to study extra during the summer.
MojoRider said…
You know, part of me thinks (albeit cynically) that this is very calculated on Chua's part. You know, the more controversial, the more publicity, the more publicity, the more you can turn yourself into some sort of enterprise.

It follows the same path of the Michelle Malkins, the Ann Coulters, etc, and Chua sees the template there for her to cash in.

Yes, there is something to admire about the focus and learned work ethic. But as pointed out, it's meaningless if you're miserable but yet accomplished at the violin or or in an academic field not of your choosing.

As an amateur musician, myself, I can tell you that I've encountered people who were accomplished or technically decent at their instrument in high school. But their performance always came across as clinical, cold, and lacking the intangible emotional connection with the listener because the person was dead inside. All done by rote and there was very little self expression.

And I don't quite understand why some of these Asian parents push their kids towards symphonic instruments, like the violin, piano, and classical music. I mean, why not the guitar or saxaphone? Why not jazz? Being in a symphony doesn't afford you any kind of special status. Classical music has been dying a slow death for years. So is this more about the kid, or is it about the parents, who can hob nob at these formal recitals and elevate themselves because their kid is second or first chair cello player for a local or even national symphony?

I think of Andre Agassi's father, who pushed him hard in tennis drills relentlessly at a very young age. Agassi, states in the first few pages of his book "Open" that he hates tennis. He never enjoyed it at all and it was not his choosing. Yet, he accomplished a lot but was miserable.
James said…
Mojo wrote: And I don't quite understand why some of these Asian parents push their kids towards symphonic instruments, like the violin, piano, and classical music. I mean, why not the guitar or saxaphone?

I don't know, I think there's a backlash from Asian American parents who want to drill their kids in rock, pop and dance:

Rock on Lil Alpha Asian

Anyway, there was an interesting response on the Big WoWo blog in support of Amy Chua. My guess is it's TZ.

It's interesting that her dad thought every day in her "childhood should be like a day at West Point." Chinese culture with its Confucian hierarchy is paramilitary in structure. Every nuclear family is like a squad, so Chinese parents really are like drill sergeants, constantly berating you. That critical mindset toughens you up. It's really about how much bitterness can you eat?

But just like boot camp, you either rise to the occasion or you're traumatized and emotionally scarred for life. Depends on the parent and it depends on the kid.
Masir Jones said…
Somebody should drill into Chinese parents' heads that the Game is just as important and that Asian men should only come home with the best looking women without a parental hookup.

Don't stop at studying, sports and classical music. Cross pollinate that shit over to the dating world!!
Anonymous said…
Her article should be entitled, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior at Producing Beta Sons".
James said…
Anonymous Wiseguy wrote: Her article should be entitled, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior at Producing Beta Sons".

Ha-ha! Hence the little emperor syndrome.


MaSir wrote: Somebody should drill into Chinese parents' heads that the Game is just as important and that Asian men should only come home with the best looking women without a parental hookup.

In my experience, Chinese parents are pretty harsh on the women their sons bring home. "She's not Chinese," "she's too independent," "she dresses like a whore," etc.

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