Chinese Mother Equals Traditional Jewish Mother

Could Chinese wives be superior for similar reasons? I had a sage named Chaim Amalek often counsel me that what I needed most in life was a Chinese wife who would kick my butt into working harder and smarter.

Khunrum emails: “As I see it the Chinese are smarter than just about anyone else (‘cept the Jews perhaps) and they try harder. Chinese merchants and politicians run all the countries in Indochina. Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, you name it. They’re clever. They’ll marry a Thai woman and the kids will be smart little Thai citizens. Thai Chinese are go getters. Thai Thais (I hate to say) are rather lazy and dense.”

Chaim Amalek emails: “Chinese people are going to revive racism in this country, both because they are often quite racist, and because the example of their success cannot be beneficial to the duskier denizens of America.”

“Are you familiar with the p-k hypothesis? You can have many offspring and invest little in each, or have few and invest a lot in them. True of animals, and, some say, true of human cultures.”

Amy Chua writes in a new book:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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