Saturday, January 15, 2011

Jewish Mother Responds to "Chinese Mothers Are Superior" Controversy 

Controversy over the Wall Street Journal's "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior" book excerpt by Yale professor and author Amy Chua heated up even further today, as a Jewish author and mother responded with a new essay in the same newspaper championing a more relaxed approach to parenting.

Titled "In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom," Ayelet Waldman's essay humorously outlines differences between what she sees as the lackadaisical approach taken by western mothers and the strict regimen Chinese mothers use on their children that Chua discusses.

The Wall Street Journal piece, which took excerpts from Chua's parenting memoir "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," ignited a heated debate across the Internet this week. Critics claimed that the book advocates abusive parenting, while others asserted that it will lead to xenophobia and feed China haters.

Aided by the controversy, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" reached the No. 6 slot in the Amazon sales rankings on Tuesday, the day it was released.

In her response to Chua's piece, Waldman, author of "The Mommy-Track Mysteries" series of novels and the wife of best-selling novelist Michael Chabon, jokingly tells of allowing her children to quit the piano and the violin to spare her from attending boring recitals while letting them sleep over at their friend's houses to save money on babysitters.

Yet her tone gets more serious when she describes how she let her daughter know her disappointment when her report card didn't have straight-As -- though this was without the "screaming, hair-tearing explosion" that Chua described in a similar situation.

"The difference between Ms. Chua and me, I suppose -- between proud Chinese mothers and ambivalent Western ones -- is that I felt guilty about having berated my daughter for failing to deliver the report card I expected," Waldman wrote. "I was ashamed at my reaction."

Waldman, 46, goes on to describe how her daughter Rosie overcame mild dyslexia and learned to read using a special intensive reading program that she was not pressured by her parents into taking, but chose to struggle through on her own.


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