Amy Chua and Hannah Rosin: a comparison and contrast of parenting styles
In recent years, Yale professor Amy Chua has drawn a great deal of attention due to her focus on a parenting style that is foreign – both figuratively and literally – to most Western parents. This style centers on a Chinese model that Chua espouses, and that has become famous, or infamous, for the stern and rigorous practices that Chua enforced with her own two daughters. Chua has received a large amount of criticism; one of her critics is Hannah Rosin, a prominent writer and editor. In response to Chua, Rosin outlines an alternative method of parenting. It can be argued that while both Chua and Rosin are involved and devoted mothers, they have distinctly contrasting views on how to raise children. There are three areas in which this contrast can be most clearly seen: attitudes to success, attitudes to self-esteem, and attitudes to happiness.
Amy Chua’s model of parenting has success at its core. Chua sums up the Chinese approach to activities in this way: “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it” (Chua, 2011). With this as a mantra, Chua promotes an extremely rigorous approach to such activities as learning a musical instrument; she believes that two or three hours of practicing an instrument daily is appropriate for young children. Furthermore, Chua believes that parents should not give their children any choice over which musical instruments to learn; the violin and piano are the only acceptable choices, regardless of the child’s natural talent or predilection. This approach is also evident in academics. Chua says, “…the vast majority of Chinese mothers…believe their children can be ‘the best’ students, that ‘academic achievement reflects successful parenting’ and that if children did not excel at school there was ‘a problem’ and parents ‘were not doing their job’” (Chua, 2011).
Hannah Rosin takes a distinctly different approach to success, one that is arguably more reflective of Western attitudes in general. Rosin says, “Ms. Chua has the diagnosis of American childhood exactly backward. What privileged American children need is not more skills and rules and math drills. They need to lighten up and roam free, to express themselves in ways not dictated by their uptight, over-invested parents” (Rosin, 2011). In Rosin’s view, Chua’s version of success is ultimately very limiting. Rosin doesn’t argue that success is a negative thing in and of itself; however, her looser, freer approach suggests that it can be achieved differently.
Another area where Rosin and Chua differ from each other is in their approach to self-esteem and the way in which parents should treat their children. Chua openly admits that it is common for Chinese parents to make comments to their children that Western parents find reprehensible, such as “Hey fatty, lose some weight”, or referring to a child as “garbage” (Chua, 2011). However, Chua defends these comments by arguing that in fact, Chinese parents speak in this way because ultimately, they believe that their children are capable of being the “best”. She contends that Chinese children know that their parents think highly of them, and criticize them only because they have high expectations and know that their children can meet them.
Hannah Rosin disagrees. She says, “…there is no reason to believe that calling your child ‘lazy’ or ‘stupid’ or ‘worthless’ is a better way to motivate her to be good than some other more gentle but persistent mode’” (Rosin, 2011). She believes that a parent’s role is not to act as a harsh critic and task master, but rather to guide them through the inevitable difficulties of life that arise. Unlike Chua, Rosin is not concerned with forcing her children to be “the best”. Rather, she says that “It is better to have a happy, moderately successful child than a miserable high-achiever” (Rosin, 2011).
It is in this area, pertaining to notions of happiness that Chua and Rosin depart most distinctly from each other. It can be argued that the idea of happiness is almost completely absent from Amy Chua’s template. Chua says, “Chinese parents believe that they know that is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences” (Chua, 2011). In other words, the feelings or preference of the child as an individual are lacking completely from the Chinese framework of parenting. The child’s happiness, or misery, is completely irrelevant, because the parent is the supreme authority, acting in the child’s best interest. Chua claims, “It’s not that Chinese parents don’t care about their children , just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children” (Chua, 2011). However, the one thing that Chua and other parents will not give up is complete authoritarian control.
Rosin takes an entirely different approach to the value of individual happiness. She observes that happiness does not come through being successful; furthermore, “happiness is the great human quest” (Rosin, 2011). Parents cannot possibly always be in a position to know what will make a child happy or not; children must work out their own path to happiness (Rosin, 2011). Rosin believes that an over-emphasis on perfection will not lead to greater happiness and may even create less happiness in the end.
In conclusion, it is undeniable that both Amy Chua and Hannah Rosin love their children and believe that their approach to parenting is based on a desire to do what is best for those children. However, the two approaches present a sharp contrast to each other. Amy Chua believes that success, perfection and being “the best” are of paramount importance, and will ultimately build a child’s self-esteem (Chua, 2011). Hannah Rosin is critical of the harshness of the Chinese template and argues for a gentler approach, one that takes the natural interests and talent of the child into account (Rosin, 2011). Rosin notes that the idea of enjoyment or happiness is strikingly absent from Chua’s parenting style; in turn, Chua observes that many Western parents are disappointed with the choices that their children make in their lives (Rosin, 2011; Chua, 2011). It can be argued that both the Eastern approach and Western approach have a great deal to offer each other; a wise parent knows how to walk a middle ground.