• Dadwagon on Facebook
  • Dadwagon on Twitter
  • Dadwagon RSS feed

The Tantrum: Should Your Babymama Be a ‘Chinese Mother’?

January 10th, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  10 Comments

A Chinese mother terrorizes her child.

A Chinese mother and child.

If you are alive and able to understand the English language, over the weekend you probably read Yale Law School professor Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” That’s the one in which she details the reign of terror to which she subjected her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, denying them the comforts that are an American child’s birthright, like watching too much TV, playing videogames, playing a tree stump in the school play, and having friends.

Instead, Chua forced them to play piano and violin until they—gasp!—became good at the instruments, and browbeat them into getting straight A’s in school. Also, she called them “garbage” to their faces if they gave her any lip.

I probably don’t need to tell you that this is not the DadWagon approach to parenting. There’s little chance Theodore, Nathan or I would spend hours enforcing mandatory piano practice, mostly because we’re drunk whenever the kids are home. Also, our kids already know they’re garbage—we don’t need to remind them.

The thing is, we have wives, girlfriends, and ex-wives, who are, in total, 87.5% Asian. (Correct?) While we Barcalounge the evenings away, we could get them to frighten our demon spawn into achieving the bare competence needed to survive in the modern world. All it would take is a mere nudge from us, and those babymamas—all first- or second-generation immigrants—would revert to their Old World standards of high expectations and easy emotional abuse. Get ready, Harvard—Sasha’s coming your way!

Or not. It’s pretty easy to criticize Amy Chua’s approach to parenting—”garbage,” really? to their faces?—but I have little doubt her children will get Ph.D.’s or M.D.’s and become, at least outwardly, successes. Maybe they’ll need extensive therapy, maybe they’ll commit suicide, or maybe they’ll be okay.

But to my mind, right now they look, well, boring. Another couple of Chinese-Jewish (their dad is Jed Rubenfeld) kids who play piano and get good grades—stereotypes. And while I wish them all the material success in the world, it’s hard to see them as anything but automatons. They may become doctors or lawyers, but so what? I’d rather my Sasha be an interesting individual first, then a successful individual. Of course, I’m not Chinese.

My wife, however, is—or nearly is. Jean was born and raised in Taiwan, and while her parents did push her to learn piano and memorize Tang Dynasty poems (which she then had to perform at dinner parties), I don’t think they terrorized her into submission. Yes, she had to complete a biology degree at Johns Hopkins before they’d let her go to fashion school, but they did relent. They even let her marry a non-Taiwanese freelance writer!

Still, I worry. I worry that one day some switch in her brain will flip and she’ll turn into Amy Chua, a take-no-prisoners monster demanding pointless grades and mastery of arbitrary skills (what, no cello?). And if it could happen in my family, it could happen in yours!

Moral of the story: Don’t marry an Asian woman. (Leave them all to us!)


  1. dt says:

    January 10th, 2011at 3:02 pm(#)

    I’m not sure how far removed from a highly programmed American kid life this is. Both are being told what to do, 24 hours a day. Both will go insane in college.

  2. SCOTTSTEV says:

    January 10th, 2011at 3:47 pm(#)

    @DT – I was totally going to say the same thing about how American and Greenwich/New Canaan this sounded. I have a friend who sings professionally, and he refers to certain colleagues whom “all the kids in the family took lessons, but music was never played in the house.” And finally, when they’ve achieved some level of proficiency, the family objects music as a career.

    At least its good to see the WSJ learning how to troll for webhits. The Atlantic, has mastered the art of pissing off the internet since they started publishing Caitlin Flanagan and Laura Gottleib.

  3. greg from daddytypes says:

    January 10th, 2011at 4:22 pm(#)

    nail on the head, @scottstev, I had fun imagining the scene at NY Mag when they saw the WSJ muscling in so successfully on their Parental Ivy Anxiety beat.


  4. greg from daddytypes says:

    January 10th, 2011at 4:23 pm(#)

    And wow to the high Asian babymama quotient around here, I had no idea.

  5. Nathan says:

    January 10th, 2011at 5:08 pm(#)

    Believe it, Greg. Half of my wife is the only non-Asian female around these parts. Apparently low-earning Jews are like catnip for Taiwanese and Japanese women?

  6. beta dad says:

    January 11th, 2011at 2:16 pm(#)

    Low-earning WASPS, too!

    My 1st generation Vietnamese immigrant/refugee wife has a slightly different background. Her parents had all the expectations and demands of Chua’s mom, and cranked up the shame to 11, but weren’t involved in the kids’ activities at all. They were too busy with work and managing a huge family to even teach my wife any English. And they had no books in the house. Still, my wife and her sibs are all assets to society, and…let’s see…3/6 of them are really ambitious and successful.

    Vietnamese Mom FTW!

  7. Jean says:

    January 11th, 2011at 2:37 pm(#)

    Uh, Matt, Why do you think we have a Schoenhut toy piano?

  8. Matt says:

    January 11th, 2011at 2:49 pm(#)

    Oh, no! It’s already begun!

  9. esa says:

    January 11th, 2011at 4:48 pm(#)

    I think at this point it would also be incumbent to recognize that jewish women totally rock.

  10. Nathan says:

    January 11th, 2011at 5:23 pm(#)

    Yes! Perhaps too much. I don’t recall them lining up to date me, especially not that one girl (you know who you are, you semitic siren).

Leave a Response

Error, no Ad ID set! Check your syntax!



Recent Comments

  • Dee: As one of the impressed moms there last night, and also because my kid ate 3 bowls of that bolognese, thanks for...
  • Drew Wallner via Facebook: I’m totally making this when we get back from holiday travel, I even just got a...
  • Matt: Whoops! Just put that back in. The recipe editor has been fired.
  • Ed Lilly: Looks great – thanks for posting! One question – you did not specify putting the meat back into...
  • Len: Absolutely! Unequivocally! Especially if they’re only in preschool. What they learn and experience on a...

DadWagon Reads!


With a little more swearing, this could've been one of our articles.

The Real Reason You’ll Never Be Able to Parent Like a French Mom


Hint: It has nothing to do with being chic.

Jul 1st 9:30am • 1 Comment

Actually, we prefer to let babies cry US to sleep.

It's OK to let your baby cry himself to sleep, study finds


A new study adds support to the idea that letting babies cry it out is effective and does not cause stress or lasting emotional problems for babies.

May 24th 10:54am • No Comments

Why you should name your next child Jasqquosius or Viterine.

Baby names generated by a neural network


In 2015, Stanford computer science PhD candidate Andrej Karpathy decided to test out some neural network tools he’d been experimenting with, and set them to generating plausible baby names.

May 6th 10:48am • No Comments