Amy Chua is a professor of law at Yale. Yet, her case that Chinese mothers are superior to Western parents is weak.
In her article, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, she claims that the solution to substandard performance is “always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”
Well, lucky for Ms. Chua that her kids must have developed their lower centers of the brain and inhibited their primitive reflexes. Otherwise, I think she’d have a very different take on parenting.
That’s because it doesn’t matter how much a parent screams or threatens or takes away belongings (she gives several examples where she is proud to have done this) when such development is incomplete. The truth is, no parent—Chinese or Western— can “will” a brain to do something if it’s not wired to do so.
So I’d like to suggest different criteria for identifying superior parents. I think that title should go to moms and dads who know whether their child has completed their lower brain development—and who then learn how to help their child build those highways, if warranted.
That, Amy Chua, is the best way to guarantee our children become who they are supposed to be.
Kids have a great radar for fairness, so here are some questions to consider:
But most importantly . . . if we have double standards in our home, how do our kids view those mixed messages? How about initiating a family discussion to find out?
Suppose you discover your child deliberately kept you in the dark about a bad test grade or a concerning note from the teacher. Before concluding that your child is untrustworthy, here’s an important question to consider: How are mistakes handled in your home? In other words, what reaction has your child come to expect if he had shared that grade or note?
For example, did your child anticipate (correctly) that he’d get a speech laced with disappointment, exasperation, and irritation, followed by some kind of punishment? If so, maybe your child’ reaction was more about self-preservation that dishonesty.
Ironically, we may be concerned about our child’s trustworthiness because he no longer trusts us to respond in a way that’s helpful when he’s messed up. So here’s how we may avoid that from happening.
1. Reassure your child that everyone makes mistakes.
Tell your child that you’re glad he makes mistakes—otherwise, that would mean he’s not human . . . and then that would mean he’s an alien from another planet!
2. Tell your child that you’ll stay calm whenever he approaches you with a problem.
Since that may not have always been the case, establish that if you do not stay composed, your child gets something that he likes. That helps ensure you don’t revert to old reactions. And if you do, then your child figures at least he’s still going to get something good by coming to you.
3. Ask questions that prompt reflection and positive action for the future.
In lieu of giving a speech, ask questions such as: Why do you think you reacted that way? What other options could you have explored? What will you do differently to avoid this from happening again?
If there was another person involved, you might ask: How would (name of that person) describe what happened? That open-ended question then becomes a non-threatening way to hear a different perspective of what happened without anyone confirming that the other person’s account is correct.
4. Avoid “prosecutor-type” questions.
You’ll get immediate feedback if you start doing this because your child will become defensive, rather than reflective. Note that our tone often dictates whether we’re coming across as a prosecutor drilling a witness or a concerned parent who wants to prompt some insightful thinking.
5. Ask your child how he’ll accept responsibility for whatever happened.
With a generic knee-jerk reaction (“You’re grounded for a week!), there’s little chance that our child reflects and learns from any particular mistake. So it’s important that we also ask our kids what they think might be a good “natural cause and effect” for whatever transpired. For example, a child may conclude, all on his own, that he’s spending too much time playing video games instead of studying. If so, it’s going to carry a lot more weight if he decides to limit video games to the weekends until his grades improve.
So yes, we all mess up. That in itself is not newsworthy. But how we deal with our mistakes may actually define us.