Why Mormon Mothers–Like Chinese Mothers–Are Superior

I grew up in a heavily immigrant neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. My high school was minority White, with most students being 1st or 2nd generation Chinese and Taiwanese, or one of several other Asian nationalities in the mix. So when I saw this piece by Amy Chua in a friend’s Facebook feed, it really caught my eye: “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.

Chua describes a routine that would seem brutal to many American parents: several hours of music practice a day, no playdates, no TV, no less-valued extracurriculars like drama, no exceptions–ever. “The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners.” Readers not familiar with real Chinese parents might assume that Chua is exaggerating for effect, but I can attest otherwise, as can “studies indicat[ing] that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children.” Living amongst friends on such a regimen was just a part of the rhythm of my childhood. I knew Friday afternoon/evenings were off-limits for scheduling my birthday parties–that’s Chinese school time, when my friends attended classes in Chinese language, math, and SAT words. Of course I knew never to ask if a friend could play after school on any day.

It was a very comfortable, even familiar, environment for me, I think more so for me than most of my other white classmates. Although my parents had few of the scheduling trappings of Chinese parents, they too had very high academic expectations for me, and they were Mormon. Growing up Mormon in a multicultural immigrant community is great. In such a community, everybody has something freaky about them, usually several things. Whether it was something unusual we had to abstain from, something our family had to do on a certain schedule that compelled us to drop out of the mainstream culture’s routines for a time, something friends needed to be forewarned about before they visited our home, some peculiarity of dress, or just the fact of very stubbornly different parents, we all had a few. There were no pauses or judgmental looks from the others when any of us had to shrug and say, “Can’t–Asian parents,” or, “Can’t–Mormon.” We were protected by the fact that, if any amount of you’re-a-weirdo judgment were allowed to creep into our world, it would be mutually assured destruction for all of us.

As far as the particular peculiarities of Chinese parents, I’m ambivalent. Chinese parents produced great friends for me. We could all focus squarely on studies and advancement, because “coolness”–an incredible time and energy suck if there ever was one–was decidedly out of reach for all of us. My parents had little to worry about in terms of drugs, alcohol use and sex among my Asian-parents-reared circle of friends. Their parents kept them on a very, very short leash on all those things. And we all went on to kick butt on our SATs, and go to good colleges. There were also downsides to be sure–extreme pressure and anxiety, very little sleep (of course with early morning seminary and a full AP class load, I fit right in on that one), angst about parental disappointment and rejection. Even Chinese government officials are concerned about the emphasis on drilling rather than the creativity they see as fostered by more Western education styles. But I’d rather not focus on the details of Chinese mothering. It isn’t in the details where there is similarity between my Mormon mother and Chinese mothers. In fact, despite similar outcomes, I’m sure my mother would find some of the details Chua cites appalling.

What I think is especially interesting and relevant about that piece is its more general implications for the power of mothers to shape a whole nation’s workforce, to shape a whole nation’s character, to shape a whole nation’s destiny. That China has been on a rocketship trajectory toward the top of the world’s superpowers is not in dispute. While natural resources and a large population are important causes, much of this success comes from academic achievement induced by Chinese mothers. This piece can’t but leave the reader with a powerful feeling that mothers–perhaps not individual mothers–but mothers as a unified-purpose, standardized-methods army, can and do wield unmatched power to direct societies.

Of course, this is the same vision of motherhood that we are taught at church. A quick perusal of lds.org’s “Motherhood” topic page yields Chinese-mother-like quotes in spades. “You are the real builders of nations wherever you live, because strong homes of love and peace will bring security to any nation,” said Dieter Uchdorf in 2009. “Throughout the history of the world, women have always been teachers of moral values. That instruction begins in the cradle and continues throughout the lives of their children,” said M. Russell Ballard in 2010. “We hold in our arms the rising generation. They come to this earth with important responsibilities and great spiritual capacities. We cannot be casual in how we prepare them,” said Neil Anderson in 2010. This last strikes me as especially Chinese-motheresque. Casual, let them discover on their own parenting is absolutely not in the Chinese mother program. Ballard’s injunction against paying any heed to what mainstream society thinks also rings very true, “And so, my dear young women, with all my heart I urge you not to look to contemporary culture for your role models and mentors. Please look to your faithful mothers for a pattern to follow.” This was the feature of growing up around Chinese-parent-raised children that made my religious observance so much easier–the key that assured our uncool mutually assured destruction. The fact of this disciplined otherness creates a level of analytical distance to every aspect of life. Every choice becomes a conscious choice and little is taken for granted under an everybody’s doing it umbrella. This is a required value for living a full, examined life. That’s why Mormon mothers–like Chinese mothers–are superior.

Comments

  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I love your MAD observation!

  2. Cool

  3. living in zion says:

    I like your post, even though it no way describes my experience raising kids. I can see the benefits to you from being protected by the neighborhood culture. If my family had lived in your neighborhood we would have been the oddballs because I didn’t ride my kids about homework and even encouraged the occasional “mental health” day off from school. Everyone graduated and did the college thing, but not at the top of any lists.
    We aren’t overachievers by any stretch of the imagination. We are kind, generous and service orientated.
    Lastly, no one is on medication for anxiety, depression or bad digestion. I’ll take it.

  4. Julie M. Smith says:

    I liked this post.

    I’ve been absolutely enthralled by that article–thinking about it all weekend. And one of the comments I made to my husband is at least they have a vision of motherhood that is seriously value-added and not, you know, about flower arranging.

  5. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    My mother-in-law was a “Chinese” mother (she is actually, Thai). My father in-law is white from Michigan. So my wife and I have been discussing the WSJ article all weekend. We joke about these peculiarities all of the time. But jokes aside, my wife felt like she didn’t really get to enjoy what she perceived as a “childhood” like “many kids do” because she only remembers Chema-thons, Spelling Bees, Young Authors competitions, piano, etc. She walked to school each morning (a radical gesture for her mother to allow, but her school was only 100 yards away) with a Chinese boy who her mom compared her to and would ask what grades he was getting each day. So my wife’s reaction, from what I can tell in the way she approaches raising our daughters is that the pendulum has swung completely the other way. Kinda sucks. I wanted her to be the overbearing Chinese mom that her mother was. But oh well, we can’t have everything I guess.

    I had a different upbringing loosely based on an LDS mother and convert father who were the products of UCLA in the late ’60s. Yeah. So my wife and I had *very* different experiences. And the way our upbringing manifests itself in our children is that my daughters love punk, eat organic food, don’t know what a fast-food restaurant is, go to a charter school, love art, don’t know what math is, and cannot learn to surf until they learn an instrument (not limited to piano, flute, and violin).

  6. Researcher says:

    Wow. You’re making me miss all my Chinese friends from Graduate Student Housing, and then from the years we lived in University City in San Diego. (And a few particular friends from Nepal, Mexico, and Poland.) Life just isn’t the same living among a bunch of natives of one of the Mid-Atlantic states. (They are very, very nice, however…)

  7. I admire the consistency of this sort of youth. Mine was far different.

  8. Perhaps it was the title of the original article that turned me off (not Cynthia’s, but the news link). It bothers me that, once again, society is blaming (or congratulating) the mother. I was also not fond of the stereotype, founded on some groups of Chinese Americans, as if poor Chinese mothers in rural China would act the same way as those who made it to the states in the last one or two generations—meaning often they came from well-educated Chinese stock in the first place.
    On another note, I don’t think being an anomaly is enough. You have to have the right kind of quirks. We all know families who failed miserably as far at producing successful offspring (by the terms the article sets out) because they are socially inept from odd parents.

  9. I had a friend with a ‘Chinese’ (Burmese, actually) mother. She had the intense pressure and short leash described. Piano practice for hours, a B is as good as failing, lots and lots of physical exercise, and so on. Experiencing that pressure indirectly was good for me. During the years I was friends with her my ambitions grew and I thrived.
    However that intense environment was not good for her, and she started developing pretty severe mental health issues in high school. She took out her aggression on me and the friendship ended.
    Last I heard she has been published a few times, and is well on her way to a PhD. I suspect, though, that she is not a happy person.

  10. Mark Brown says:

    Cynthia, I noticed that you started by talking about parenting, then finished by talking about mothering specifically. I realize that many people, especially LDS people, are big fans of Mom Power, and many women in the church find that rhetoric fulfilling and validating. I have no particular desire to rain on their parade. However, I do find it confusing when we use ‘mothering’ and ‘parenting’ interchangeably.

  11. Cynthia L. says:

    #10 Mark, I was conscious of that problem while writing. I think my upbringing would be better described as having been parented, and the term my friends used to excuse various idiosyncrasies was “Asian parents.” However, the article I was writing about used “Chinese mothers” and “mothering” exclusively, and of course in the church we typically think of mothers being responsible for the home. So, I guess what I’m saying is that my excuse is that I was constrained by the source material. :-)

    Objection very duly noted though.

  12. Cynthia L. says:

    #4 Julie, you are in fact the “friend” of “friend’s Facebook feed”!

  13. Cynthia L. says:

    #8 mmiles: “On another note, I don’t think being an anomaly is enough.”

    I agree. I tried to sort of coin a phrase with “disciplined otherness,” in other words, being apart from the world is a choice made out of discipline, not a fate determined by some less useful kind of oddity. Though I think some not obviously useful oddities are also useful. Anyway, I need to think more about this. Certainly I don’t feel my theory of useful otherness is fully developed yet.

  14. #4 Julie: “at least they have a vision of motherhood that is seriously value-added and not, you know, about flower arranging.”

    Yes! I love this observation. One thing that bothers me about some versions of stay-at-home-motherhood is that it seems immensely focused on trivia. As if modern conveniences have left mothers with so little to do that we are left to optimizing things that just don’t need optimizing. I understand that everyone needs creative outlets, and everyone has their hobbies and whatnot, and not everything needs to be rational. But when people start trying to tell me that my mother’s work is measured in how cutesy my house looks, how precision-cut my scrapbooks pieces are, and how elaborate my coupon use scheme is, I start thinking that modern motherhood has jumped the shark. Whatever its flaws, as you say, at least this version of “Chinese mothers” seems more substantive to me.

    #3 living in zion: For the record, my mom never rode us on any of that either, and she was happy to grant mental health days and “lets just not do that, what are they going to do, fire you?” I was kind of pathologically self-motivated.

    #9 Starfoxy: That certainly rings true with some of my experience, both from watching my friends age and from the new crops of Asian-parented kids I teach in college. But it goes both ways. For many kids, having been forced to do things for a time gave them a chance to be miles ahead on something they do love, versus, say, deciding in high school that you want to be a pianist starting from zero, and you’re so hopelessly behind already that it really is not an option for you. But there are others who find themselves far down a path they didn’t choose and don’t want and they don’t have the emotional or life tools to fix it. As Observer says in #5, sometimes the parenting we get doesn’t match what we would have wanted, and that can just as easily go in either direction. Thems the breaks I guess.

  15. Not an attempt to threadjack, but when did an absence of depression in a child become the sign of good parenting? Or maybe this is the essence of the OP: is the child’s achievement/well-being/income level/church calling evidence of the quality of the parenting/mothering/home-schooling/gospel teaching?

    Based on many reasons (e.g., free will, peers, inborn traits), I say NO.

  16. Agreed, Angie. Definitely agreed.

  17. Thomas Parkin says:

    I’d prefer my children have interesting lives than lives that are ‘successful’, almost however else you define it. The best thing my progenitori did for me was give me an example of being interested. I was exposed to the belief that life and reality are rich. I would much rather have children that are interested than children that are traditionally educated. And you can’t compel a person to be interested. You can, however, do your best to find life interesting and try to show that reality is interesting. Some interested children will find their interests leading them to “higher” eduction. Others will take more adventurous and variously satisfying paths.

    My assessment of the very educated: big shrug. If it’s been good for you, good for you. Society needs the well educated, and it does such a good job of encouraging it that it can no longer employ all the postgrads it encourages. My life didn’t lead me to higher educated till my mid 40s. I’ve seen and experienced such a variety in life, no chance I’d trade that for a PhD at 27. No chance. I’d probably have put a “chinese mother” in an early grave.

  18. Cynthia,
    I think your theory is easily relatable to how religions develop. When religions first start, the early members thrive and develop a close knit community because of their otherness. Their otherness is necessary for them to develop a distinct body so they try to protect it. Families have the potential to be like new relgions, setting themselves apart with distinct traits, which make them thrive. Maybe that is partly what Covey was getting at in 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families–developing unique family mottos, etc.
    I do think you’re onto something. But I think the otherness has to be purposeful, otherwise, it’s just strange.

  19. nat kelly says:

    Cynthia, I really, really liked this post. Thanks.

  20. To be fair, I don’t believe the article says that Chinese Mothers Are Superior. I doubt the author titled it that way.
    My oldest child goes to school with a lot of Asian kids, and Asian is our biggest minority here. I like to borrow a little bit of the good things about their expectations. I sent my kids to Kumon for Math for a year (because of the inadequate new math curriculum in school) and they were the only 100% white kids in there. I had to push the director to keep their workload smaller (no Sunday work, plus scaling back when it was too much). The woman who ran it really believed it was good to make the kids cry and you could tell the other clients were on the same page. I was willing to give my kids 20-30 minutes of extra math 6 days a week, but not 60 minutes 6 days a week and make them cry.
    I try to look at “western” parenting objectively and adjust my parenting accordingly. Everything I read and see seems to point to the “Western” parenting as having some drawbacks.
    1. Self Esteem movement is a big lie. Flattering your children won’t help them.
    2. Telling your children they are naturally good at something doesn’t help them. They need to learn that practice and work makes them good at something. (See Nurtureshock)
    3. It is not good parenting to care about your children’s opinion of you and try to be their friend. You need to be their parent and have confidence to be the parent and enforce the rules no matter what.
    4. You are not going to convince a 2 year old or a 16 year old to agree with all your rules. Explaining and explaining hoping that they will say “ok mom, I understand now” isn’t the way to go.
    5. We let our kids watch too much TV and play too many video games. I thought that was obvious.
    6. Our society fallen down on the job on teaching children and teenagers the idea that they have a duty to ANYONE. Just by watching TV and listening to their peers they feel like the world owes them. We are not teaching children to respect adults or their own parents enough. We are not teaching children they they should be grateful.
    7. I would rather my kid be good at math than just think she is good at math. I would rather my child be a good person that just think he is a good person.

  21. MikeInWeHo says:

    I was raised by a German mother and was struck by the similarities to the Chinese mother. I don’t remember being told that getting all A’s was required, but I do remember sobbing when I got that single B. It was so bad my parents had to console me. This doesn’t seem like a psychologically healthy situation.

    On the whole I am exceedingly grateful for how I was raised, but there are also some downsides to an ultra-strict parenting style. Conformist/Shame cultures have the highest suicide rates. The WSJ article would be more interesting if some of the negative aspects were discussed as well.

  22. I agree, Mike. The WSJ piece was an interesting conversation starter, but knowing what it looks like up close, I felt there was a lot more that needed to be said for the conversation on Chinese parenting to be complete. In my junior year, we had a kid commit suicide after getting one bad grade. I hesitate to draw too much from that one data point–who knows what else may have been going on. But there’s no doubt that there were significant downsides to the stress. We had sort of the opposite problems from a “bad” high school, but sometimes it ends up the same: kids routinely cut class–but to do homework or study for big tests coming up in later periods, and there were whispers of drug abuse–but by kids trying to stay awake longer. I don’t know how to talk about all of this in a fair way–to avoid whitewashing while also not unfairly dwelling on negatives.

  23. Peter LLC says:

    I work with the adult male offspring of “Chinese” mothers and tutor a couple of their children and it’s definitely a mixed bag. The kids are a pleasure to work with–compliant and attentive. What strikes me about the adult males, however, is their lack of problem-solving skills/feigned helplessness (“Hey, can you indent this paragraph? Ok, now change the font.”), which I am told extends to the home (mom/wife will take care of it), and their readiness to use employer time and resources to further their children’s budding careers.

    Of course, this is the same vision of motherhood that we are taught at church.

    I think there are enough substantial differences that this is not the case. For example, there is a growing trend of “Chinese” mothers splitting up their families to live abroad so their children can learn a foreign language while their husbands work to support them from back home. The kid I tutor lives in Europe with his mom, his brother is at a boarding school in the US and dad supports it all from the, err, mother ship.

    Furthermore, the emphasis on education as the key to the future (i.e., successfully passing university entrance exams, civil service exams, etc.) has spawned fierce academic competition (kids are ranked early and often), which many “Chinese” mothers face by outspending their neighbors on tutors and after school programs (effectively a second school day), and sometimes combined with moving to another country as mentioned above. Private education spending consumes an inordinate portion of the family budget (highest in the OECD!), undermines the traditional values of meritocracy (achievement is correlated to socioeconomic status), destroys confidence in public education and probably contributes to a depressed birth rate. The above have been recognized by local politicians as a social problem–the goal is to actually decrease private education spending.

    Much good has undoubtedly come of “Chinese” mothers’ emphasis on achievement, but I’m not convinced the GAs you cited had arrangements like this in mind.

  24. There are some interesting parallels between the Chinese model of parenting and the Mormon one. But here’s my hangup:

    I’m not sure that our highest goal as Mormon parents is to produce “successful” children, meaning children who are the best at everything, children who will get lots of applause and kudos in their adolescence for sports or music or academics, children who will end up valedictorians or successful doctors/lawyers/academics. This seems to be the primary motivating force behind the Chinese model: produce children who excel.

    It seems to me that as Mormon parents our goals are (or should be) different, at least if we take time to dig underneath the layer of cultural expectations that kids need to be “successful” in the traditional sense in order to be happy or fulfill their life’s mission. We want our children to grow up to be service oriented, family oriented, interested and engaged in things of this world (of course!) but also mindful that our time on earth is but a chapter in an eternal existence. Yes, we teach that discipline and goal setting are important, but we’re also reminded time and time again not to let our obsessions over things of this world overwhelm the real point of our existence: strengthening relationships, helping others, coming unto Christ.

    So while I agree that the LDS rhetoric about the importance of parenting might seem similar to the Chinese model on the surface, and while there are many many LDS parents who’ve bought into the idea that the number of trophies on the shelf or As on the report card equal parenting success, much of what we’re asked to do as Mormon parents works against having kids who excel in the same way as the Chinese model. For one thing, we have much larger families, a logistical issue in and of itself. But I also think that “excellence” in the worldly sense requires a certain kind of focus and even selfishness that can be at odds with the God-centered and other-centered life we’re trying to teach our kids to live.

  25. #24 I’m not sure that our highest goal as Mormon parents is to produce “successful” children, meaning children who are the best at everything

    #23 I think there are enough substantial differences that this is not the case. For example, there is a growing trend of “Chinese” mothers splitting up their families to live abroad so their children can learn a foreign language while their husbands work to support them from back home.

    Angela and Peter, I think you’re misreading me. I can only reply with this passage from the post:

    It isn’t in the details where there is similarity between my Mormon mother and Chinese mothers. In fact, despite similar outcomes, I’m sure my mother would find some of the details Chua cites appalling.

    What I think is especially interesting and relevant about that piece is its more general implications for the power of mothers to shape a whole nation’s workforce, to shape a whole nation’s character, to shape a whole nation’s destiny. …[Mothers] can and do wield unmatched power to direct societies.

    Of course, this is the same vision of motherhood that we are taught at church.

  26. Missing from the above description is the practice of competitive bragging. Chinese and Korean children literally “make their parents proud”. Report cards become weapons in the SoCal Korean community, and family stature depends on it. Not the future success of the child, but the present status of the parents and their ability to live vicariously (and comfortably) on the future financial coattails of their mini-me firstborn son.

    My understanding is of course only anecdotal. One of my college roommates was Korean-American. One day he had a nervous breakdown and switched his major from Organic Chemistry to Linguistics. Then his father had a nervous breakdown. He later married a Chinese woman and I think the family stopped talking altogether. I was best man in a sham-wedding ceremony (the couple having already eloped to qualify for student housing), mainly chosen so that neither the Chinese nor Korean side would feel slighted. I worked hard on my speech, but was told not to worry too much: most of the audience did not understand English.

    My German-English and Irish-Czech Catholic parents are proud of all their six children, regardless of “success”. And I, though not the concert pianist or brain surgeon I might otherwise have been with more obsessive parenting, am very proud of them.

  27. Dan, I think your anecdotes represent some of the worst excesses, and some flavors you describe are IMHO more typical of the Korean approach than the Chinese approach, but otherwise, I hear you.

    Interesting that you mention being one of six. I think large families have the potential to mitigate some of these problems (or, conversely, having only one child tends to exacerbate the problems). When you have lots of kids there is less pressure on any one of them to individually fulfill all your parenting fantasies and be able to, alone, support you in your old age.

  28. Cynthia, what I was responding to is the idea that the Mormon model of parenting and the Chinese model of parenting would produce, as you called it, “similar outcomes.” I just think it’s interesting to contemplate that the “outcomes” we probably ought to be striving for as Mormon parents–outcomes that would lead our children to want to dedicate a large portion of their lives to cultivating relationships, marrying and raising children, and developing a spiritual self–can actually make it more *difficult* to be a great success in all sorts of fields. The type of dedication and exceptional focus (often at the expense of all else) that it takes to be a great violinist or surgeon often impedes the very things that Mormonism says is necessary for our eternal progression. It’s just interesting to contemplate the differences between what success looks like in the Chinese model as opposed to the Mormon one, and how those different visions impact the way we raise our kids. And what does it mean for Mormon parents who are trying to raise kids who fulfill BOTH visions of success simultaneously? Is it even possible?

  29. Angela, again, you have misread me. My mother was not striving for the same outcome as my friends’ parents. She valued education in a general way, but a lot of it just comes down to me–I just came out the way I did. I think I’ve made that clear in several comments if not the original post.

    My parents were more of “just do your best and, in the end, we want you to turn out happy and a good person.” I think even if I had, say, apostatized, they would have been able to handle it gracefully, as long as they felt like I was a good person generally.

  30. ADMIN NOTE: As a general note, not directed at anyone personally, I would hate to see this thread become a big long collection of everyone sharing their story like, “my [roommate/coworker/one kid in my neighborhood], who is the only Chinese person I can think of in my life, [blah blah stuff about him/her].” I’m not sure I can articulate my problem with that very well. But it just seems like an inappropriate way to talk about an entire race/nationality.

  31. As an ESOL teacher, I work with many first-generation immigrant families, about half of whom are Chinese. While many of these traits are common in immigrant parents (emphasis on school work, willingness to be different, etc), I see them most in families that come from poorer backgrounds. For example, the Indian families are much more willing to drill their kids than the Swedish families are. OUTLIERS (Gladwell) had an interesting idea that this is, in some part, due to the generations of Asian rice culture–the extreme effort needed to simply sustain life–vs. the northern European harvest calendar which dictates hard work for a season and then drinking all winter.

    One of the most frustrating experiences my colleagues have with my ESOL students, though, is when one of them strays from type. Generally new immigrants are model, if functionally illiterate students. They try hard. They learn fast. They often out-perform our American students in math. But when one does not exhibit that drive, especially an Asian student, it is quite maddening to my colleagues–they are so accustomed to the Modal Asian Student, that when a Chinese kid acts like…a regular American, he is a cause of great frustration. I have a sixth grader who is seriously terrorizing the administration at the middle school (he can be most unpleasant)–he lives out of district and the administration is acting to get him to go to his local school. If he was a MAS, that would not be the case, I don’t think. I guess his mother left her superiority in China. (Dad too).

    I am just throwing that out there to say: this is another case in which even a positive stereotype is not helpful and is often harmful.

  32. Whoops–I wasn’t speaking about you or your mother specifically. Kids come how they come, and sometimes they come driven and focused and exceptional. I’m just interested in the different outcomes between the two models generally: how does the ultimate goal of a Mormon parent operating under our expectations for “success” differ from the ultimate goal of the Chinese model exemplified in the article? That’s all. I apologize if I haven’t been clear.

  33. Which isn’t to say that the post and initial article weren’t interesting.

  34. S’okay, Angela! Didn’t mean to be so hard on you. I think as a general philosophy thing, your points about balancing definitions of “success” were valuable.

  35. #15 Angie, I agree with you.

    And in reference to #28 Angela, we know that outcomes are not guaranteed.

    This is far more than a case of Your Mileage May Vary.

    The issue encapsulates the conundrum of LDS parenting. On the one hand we want to give our children every opportunity to succeed (physically, spiritually, academically, economically), but in the end, we don’t determine whether or not they will.

    And parents are not helped by societal pressure (in or out of the church) to produce “successful” kids, since in the end, kids will make their own choices.

    Parents should not be defined by their children’s successes, nor are children only defined by their parents’ influence.

  36. No problem, Cynthia. And Paul, I agree 100%. I think the drive to produce outwardly successful children (either by the Mormon model, the Chinese model, or both) can be toxic to the parent/child relationship on a number of levels.

  37. My goal for parenting is to produce adults who aren’t jerks. They may not be the smartest or richest or even the nicest. But they have enough good sense and awareness not to go around making life unnecessarily crappy for other people.

    Give me another 15 years and I’ll let you know how it goes.

  38. Peter, I think you’re misreading me. I can only reply with this passage from the post:

    Responding to someone’s perceived failure to understand by repeating yourself verbatim? I’m starting to feel a little like Lulu.

    For the record, I get your larger point that Mormons and Chinese probably agree that “mothers […] can and do wield unmatched power to direct societies.” I just don’t see anything particularly Mormon about how the respective visions are realized.

  39. MikeInWeHo says:

    “My goal for parenting is to produce adults who aren’t jerks.”

    Love that comment, Cynthia, although I won’t deny it made me laugh at my desk this morning. My immediate thought was “She’s not setting the bar very high…..” :)

  40. Kevin Barney says:

    Cynthia, that’s a great goal. I have succeeded admirably in such a goal; my kids are just grreat, great human beings. I’m not sure what kind of alchemy took place for them to turn out as they did, but I’ll take the result.

  41. I’d prefer my children have interesting lives than lives that are ‘successful’, almost however else you define it.

    My goal for parenting is to produce adults who aren’t jerks. They may not be the smartest or richest or even the nicest. But they have enough good sense and awareness not to go around making life unnecessarily crappy for other people.

    And I, though not the concert pianist or brain surgeon I might otherwise have been with more obsessive parenting, am very proud of them.

    I’m possibly pointing out the obvious, but I want to at least note that being successful and being well-adjusted/interesting/happy/not-jerky aren’t exactly mutually exclusive outcomes.

  42. Observer (f.k.a. Eric. S.) says:

    (31) – That’s great, thanks. Managing expectations that are established based on identity is something we all deal with, and it’s a problem we all create for ourselves and others. The human condition and ego are too lazy and vulnerable to make the commitment of getting to know the details of each person as an individual in the world around us. And our ego doesn’t want us to learn the true details, or it would be disruptive to the way it has explained the world to us so far. It would mean we would have to actually care about others (competitors) in the struggle to gather limited resources (survive), which creates a big problem for the ego. The tug of war presented by the sixth grader and your colleagues sounds like this sort of disruptive awareness.

  43. Cynthia L. says:

    #39: “My immediate thought was “She’s not setting the bar very high…..” :)”

    I dunno, Mike. There’s a LOT of jerks in the world. So, statistically speaking, it’s far from a guaranteed victory.

  44. MikeInWeHo says:

    You couldn’t produce a jerk if you tried, Cynthia. Agreed that there are many out there, though. I assumed that baby jerks usually come from jerk parents.

  45. ByTheRules says:

    My goal in child rearing has been to encourage, faciliate, help, discipline, and parent my children to live up to their potential. Unfortunately, they have a LOT of potential. Fortunately, they are living up to it.

  46. Okay, I’m days late to the conversation, but this frees me to feel no guilt about focusing on a tangent. I love Julie’s point, and Cynthia, your expansion here:

    One thing that bothers me about some versions of stay-at-home-motherhood is that it seems immensely focused on trivia. As if modern conveniences have left mothers with so little to do that we are left to optimizing things that just don’t need optimizing.

    So well put! I’d love to see this discussed in another post.

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