Do Asian-American parents push their kids?

Does the Tiger Mother get it right? While some view Asian-Americans as pushy, stressing their children into exceptional achievement, research doesn’t bear out that stereotype.

Extract from an article by Kathy Seal in a recent edition of Miller-McCune magazine.

Asian-American parenting might look pushy and pressuring to Western eyes. But that’s not so, say researchers, pointing to studies where Asian-American kids say their parents’ guidance is warm and loving.

Of course, these researchers didn’t look at the parenting of Amy Chua, author of the just-published Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua rightly thinks parents should hold high expectations and encourage kids to work hard and achieve competence. But she tells of doing so herself through harsh pressure, such as threatening to take away her daughter’s toys, holiday presents, and even lunch and dinner.

That portrayal of Chinese parents as domineering, overbearing and intrusive plays into the false and negative stereotype of Chinese mothers in particular, says Ruth Chao, a University of California, Riverside, psychologist and leading researcher of Asian-American parenting practices.

Asian-American parenting is distinctly different from the white middle-class style, Chao says. However, it doesn’t typically include demeaning and unloving coercion. While the Chinese describe their parental role as guan — which literally means “to govern,” or “control” — that word also denotes “to care for” and even “to love.” Chao illustrates the affectionate aura of guan by highlighting its role in romantic relationships. “One partner may say, ‘You’re not guan-ing me enough.’ That means, ‘You’re not paying me enough attention.’”

Studies have found that parental behavior that feels controlling to North American and German children feels warm and accepting to Japanese and Korean children.

The full article is available at Miller-McCune.

Pacific-Standard Magazine

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