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Opinion | Family

Why I Don't Want to Be a Chinese Mother

I don't want to be an American mother, for that matter.

Amy Chua's essay for The Wall Street Journal, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," sprinted across media outlets and the blogosphere, prompting responses at Motherlode, The San Francisco Chronicle, and Slate, among many others.

The essay spawned an interview on the Diane Rehm Show, not to mention nearly 5,500 reader comments on The Wall Street Journal's website and over 100,000 comments on Facebook. Many of the comments—from Caucasian and Asian American readers alike—express criticism or dismay. Why the uproar?

Chua makes extreme statements about her parenting style throughout the essay (an excerpt from her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother). She begins with a list of things her two daughters were "never allowed to do," including "have a playdate," "watch TV or play computer games," and "get any grade less than an A." She describes calling her daughter "garbage … when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me." Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, explains, "the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child."

Chua's statements and the anecdotes from her parenting experience come across as harsh and extreme. She couches her approach in the language of love and belief in her children's abilities. But she includes stories such as losing her voice from shouting at her 7-year-old daughter until she can play a piano piece correctly.

Chua's approach comes across as demeaning and unhelpful at best. In a follow-up interview ...

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