David Brooks Says "Superior" Chinese Mom is "Coddling" her Children

CJ Westerberg, January 18, 2011 9:09 AM

David Brooks.AmyChua.jpg

"Practicing a piece of music for four hours
requires focused attention,
but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding
as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls."
- David Brooks

The Coddling Mom

by C.J. Westerberg

I am applauding (and surprised by) the response by David Brooks, uber columnist at The New York Times, in this morning's  "Amy Chua is a Wimp",  blasting away at author Amy Chua's  white-hot  Wall Street Journal article,  "Why Chinese Moms are Superior", and continuing the media saga.   We thought Brooks would come out defending Chua's extreme parenting since her tenets (work hard, don't waste time, practice), of course, sound smart in a vacuum, and appear to be a quick answer to America's "education problems." 

Most parents in America, who are following this story, are probably sighing with a certain sense of relief or is it glee, thinking, "Does Chua really think sleepovers/playdates are about fun?"   Have you ever been there, Amy?   They can be exhausting, demanding and fraught with minefields (aka teachable moments).  

Brooks, we never knew you had it in you - --  

We love this story because it brings up a great conversation about parenting.  In case you missed it, Chua is hyperbolic in her comparisons of "soft" Western parenting vs. "tough-love" Eastern parenting in her new book, which has lit a firestorm of responses in the press.

We think Brooks has one of the most interesting responses yet.  His first line of argument coincides with our first impression, that her style of parenting is being done already by a certain segment in America (check out The Daily Riff post here).    An excerpt from the Brooks article today  (bold emphasis ours):

"Furthermore (and this Chua doesn't appreciate), she is not really rebelling against American-style parenting; she is the logical extension of the prevailing elite practices. She does everything over-pressuring upper-middle-class parents are doing. She's just hard core."  

But his best (brilliant!) argument is in the second half of the article:

"I have the opposite problem with Chua. I believe she's coddling her children. She's protecting them from the most intellectually demanding activities because she doesn't understand what's cognitively difficult and what isn't.

Practicing a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between self and group - these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that blow away any intense tutoring session or a class at Yale.

Yet mastering these arduous skills is at the very essence of achievement. Most people work in groups. We do this because groups are much more efficient at solving problems than individuals . . .

Check out the full article - it's a must-read.

 Let us know what you think ----


Are Chinese Moms Better Than American Moms? -  The Daily Riff

The Chinese Mom Backlash - The Daily Beast


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