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What's behind our obsessive Amy Chua disorder?

Chua Over the course of the last 13 days, Gabrielle Giffords survived a shot to the head; Tunisians overthrew their government; Sarah Palin tried to change the meaning of "blood libel"; Sen. Joe Lieberman announced his retirement; Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver died; and President Obama made nice with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Through it all, "Tiger mother" Amy Chua has continued to dominate the national conversation, igniting debate over how best to parent our children.

In reaction to Chua's control-freak parenting style, there's been a tidal wave of Western-mom defense. Unhappy children become unsuccessful adults. Children need to learn social skills so that they can navigate the real world. Chua's style of parenting creates sexual basket cases, and it certainly doesn't create leaders. If the Chinese method of parenting is so great, why are parents in China now following the U.S. model? And then there's my personal favorite, care of Jewish mom Wendy Sachs, who thinks parents ought to encourage a culture of debate -- and not subservience -- in their households. "Perhaps that's why there are so many Jewish lawyers," she argues. Oh snap.

In Chua's defense, the reactors have largely focused their commentary on the part of her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," that was excerpted in the Wall Street Journal -- not the whole story in which she evolves into a slightly less ferocious tigress that loosens up enough to allow her children sleepovers.

Even so, we can't get over the "us-versus-them" parenting debate, which the Jan. 12 episode of "Modern Family" captured so well. So what's our deal -- why are we still obsessing? One theory is that we don't want to admit that maybe we've gone too soft with our Montessori schools and an attitude that children deserve a vote. But I suspect, like Paul Whitefield, that the obsession is pegged to our inferiority complex with China. China might soon become a global superpower, with more money, environmental resources, military muscle and international allies, but we'll be darned if their kids are better than ours.

Personally, I believe in a combo-parenting plan. Hold your kids accountable for good grades, encourage a spirit of competition, nurture their creativity, and have their friends over. If all goes well, that should result in a triple-threat: ambition, creativity and networking savvy, which, in L.A. at least, are skills that are rewarded with a big Hollywood paycheck.

Of course, no parent truly nails it. If they did, what would we have to talk to their therapists about?


"Tiger mother" -- this year's Toyota

In the eye of the "Tiger"

Reader reaction to Amy Chua

-- Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: Book cover for "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua. Credit: The Penguin Press / Associated Press


Comments () | Archives (10)

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I read an article about Amy Chua a few weeks ago and felt she was spot on. I sent my parents these articles via email and thanked them for being "chinese parents". I believe the same as Ms Chua; parenting should include a balanced supply of encouragement, self accountability and stern discipline.

Mr Quick

Kids need more discipline. They're treated like they know everything, nobody should tell them they're wrong, everyone should wow over whatever they're producing.

Result: when they are confronted with a NO, or some sort of rebuke, which happens in college or even later when they start to work, they are totally disarmed and behave like spoiled brats instead of mature persons who can deal with failure because they've been through it before and have learned to deal with it...

So yes to authoritative, pushy parents. I will never thank my mom enough for being a tough parent with me, because if she hadn't, I'd be a bum.

Enough with the PC thing, which is camouflage for laziness and a synonym for giving up and/or not trying.

Steve M.

When you're a parent, your job description includes instilling values and an education in your children. The belief that one's children should be better off than the preceding generation, started a rapid decline in the '90's

The "...if it feels good do it and do it until your satisfied" went way to far in scope and today, we have youngsters without ambition, motivation or are prepared for the world outside.

To illustrate the point, look at how many "bounce-backs" children have moved back in with their parents today as compared to that thirty years ago.


There isn't just one "right way" to be a parent. What worked for Ms. Chua might not work for other parents. As far as I'm concerned, I did a good job as a parent, the best I could and the LAST thing I need is some elitist ethnocentic witch telling me otherwise!

Bee Gomez

You know what a really enterprising reporter might have done? Gone out to San Marino, Alhambra and Monterey Park and asked kids and moms for their reax to this story. But, sigh, the LAT seems to think that non-mom Daum is good enough.

NoyNoy Banoy Aquino

The Chinese lie their way to graduation. In the USA, they are biggest welfare recipients.
All those tons of MBAs, they are still dumb as a rock. They get by with their clans.
Furthermore, Amy Chan is a lying sad sap who has the superiority complex of a fly on top of a cow.

Do you know Amy Chan was born in the Philippines, where she learned English, was sent to good schools, treated as equal with the male sibling, something that will never happen in China.

Her nurturing country taught her to be assertive and smart just like any other filipino daughters and yet the first thing she did, out of the Philippines was to write something so demeaning against the Filipinos.

Now she married a jew, she claims that the reason for the CHinese 'success' was because of her parenting skills.

Does her parenting skills include teaching them to lie and cheat in tests?

Ha, Chu-Chua?

sensitive parent

What's behind the obsession with Amy Chua is the guilt parents (particulary mothers) feel. Most understand how important their "job" is in raising their children because it is, for the most part, a reflection of their ability as parents. Although Amy Chua's style of parenting is extreme, many can't help but feel they are not doing enough for their children. Parenting IS a very sensitive issue.


Montessori is now very popular in China. The Chinese know what is good! Montessori offers freedom but within a clearly defined structure.


Montessori is now very popular in China. The Chinese are seeking what is good in the West. Montessori offers freedom to children - but within a very careful structure.

Ben Braddock

Amusing editorial! Funny about the Jewish mom. Probably also explains the movie moguls.

Seriously, a nerve was struck by Chua but I doubt it has to do with China. I think Chua is a vehicle for our own domestic culture war.

You might call it the “compassionates vs. competitives” or the “emotionals vs. rationals” or the “entitled vs. dutiful” or the “slackers vs. achievers.”

Passion has its place, but usually the best answer sits somewhere in the middle. I'm sure Chua knows. But passion sells more books.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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