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Did the Chinese and Jewish mother just trade places?

Something strange is afoot in the Sino-Jewish personas.

Mothers, father, educators and children have been talking non-stop about China Mom, Yale Professor Amy Chua’s WSJ take in the WSJ on the superiority of the Chinese method of parenting and the subject of her new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (affiliate link).

Chua’s thesis on the difference between Chinese parents and their Westen embodiment — and it certainly helps to sell books — is simple:

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

Over 7000 comments were received on the original WSJ piece and numerous blog and journalistic responses were launched from the NYT to Newsweek.

New Perspective: A Jewish Doctor of Chinese Medicine

My wife, in her 3rd year of doctorate program in chinese medicine, was taken by this debate.  Minda agreed to provide her thoughts on the matter (we’re also parents of 5 kids, ages 3-15 so it’s strikes very close to home).  In fact, when I think about it, her response (which I list below) is more Chinese (in the philosophical sense) than China Mom’s original thesis — which strikes me as the type of instruction my grandparents, 1st generation Jewish immigrants, instilled in their children.

My parents  were pushed and goaded into performing in a way that I wasn’t.  In some way, it’s very immigrant — maybe as the Chinese experience in America evolves, so too the perspective on success and child rearing.  Or maybe not.

All of [these responses] sort of beg the question of what are we doing here in this life?  if we don’t start with that first question of why we exist, then how do we know what we are trying to accomplish when we raise our children?  are we here to play at carnegie hall?  are we here to get A’s or high-paying power jobs?    a bit superficial, don’t you think?  i think the Daoists are rolling over in their grave with all this “chinese” (confucian?) philosophy being thrown around.
“The perfect man has no self;
the spiritual man has no achievement;
the sage has no name.”
-   Chauang Tzu
isn’t life a process?  isn’t it our soul meeting the challenges of this life, and somehow in that process our soul is changed and grows?  of course that can be played out at carnegie hall or anywhere else one finds themselves, experiencing whatever challenges life has put before them.  as we go deeper into ourselves we can unlock and flourish.

“Because self-actualizing people ordinarily do not have to abstract need-gratifying qualities nor see the person as a tool, it is much more possible for them to take a non-valuing, non-judging, non-interfering, non-condemning attitude towards others, a desirelessness, a ‘choiceless awareness.’ “  … This kind of detached, Taoist, passive, non-interfering awareness of all the simultaneous existing aspects of the concrete, has much in common with some descriptions of the aesthetic experience and of the mystic experience.”
-   Abraham Maslow, Toward a Psychology of Being, 1962, p. 38

i’m not really sure that the “chinese mother” is on a mystical path.  and so, at the end of the day, what has she done?  smoke and mirrors to distract us from the very difficult path of being and find our way in this life. (that said, i am planning a “crackdown” on school work in our house. even the mystics should try to pass 7th grade.  it may be a path to transcendence, we will find out).
Well put, Jewish mom with a Chinese perspective.  ”Even the mystics should try to pass 7th grade”  – great quote.

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