Since her jolting WSJ article on the superiority of Chinese mothers ran last week, Amy Chua has been called many things.
Here at Strollerderby, we did our fair share of dissecting her parenting approach — like most, were shocked by her supremely strict ways (A- is a bad grade, the first 3 hours of piano practice is the “fun part,” sleepovers and school plays are for losers).
But this week, New York Times columnist David Brooks threw a curveball by calling Amy Chua a wimp, in his piece titled…you guessed it, “Amy Chua is a Wimp.” Here’s why he says she’s a “soft and indulgent” parent:
The easy stuff, he says, is being a drill sergeant — forcing kids to robotically practice or excel in specific subjects. In your own room pouring over math problems, or having 10 hour piano practices with your mother — sure, those things are hard, but they’re actually only using a certain set of brain muscles, while the most useful ones go to waste.
The real tough stuff of childhood (and I agree with him on this), is learning complex social skills, working in groups, learning to think intuitively and understand other people’s points of view. Beyond that, kids who are so narrowly focused or single-tracked don’t have to deal in the grey — they aren’t challenged to see nuances, or think in the abstract.
And we learn a lot of these vital skills at sleepovers and practicing for school plays, because that’s where we have to deal with groups, hierarchies, communication with peers, and so forth. Helping kids through all that is the hardest work for a parent.
Of course, we’ve since heard that Chua herself is more nuanced than the way her WSJ article portrays her. For me the piece spurred self-reflection — I actually liked that Chua got me thinking about how difficult it is for us to say “no” or set limits for our kids sometimes — and how hard it is to tolerate their tough emotions.
So her book excerpt certainly got us talking, hashing out our differences, hearing other people’s points of view. Just the kind of hard work David Brooks values.