Stress and Parenting (2)

Continuing the comment from the last post about Amy Chua’s article in the Wall Street Journal titled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. To achieve goals the author has for her daughters, she imposes high levels of pressure and coercion.  There is a significant risk that this will result in long term damage to their self-esteem.  This damage is the common denominator in my patients whose symptoms are linked to their childhood experience.

Mitigating this is the author’s motivation that her children achieve goals as a means to their happiness, not her own.  This is a key distinction.  For many of my adolescent patients with stress illness, the parents continually presented them with a myriad of ways to improve.  When those kids achieved a goal, they were given another one.  It was no surprise when they began to wonder why they should keep trying and became ill trying to jump over yet another high bar.  When Ms Chua’s children achieve a goal, there is great mutual joy and that makes a huge difference.

Nevertheless, I did not consider anything like the author’s parenting choices for my own children.  Children are too diverse for all of them successfully to fit into the narrow box Ms Chua chooses for her daughters.  Why should a child who might fall in love with the drums, as my older son did, be forced to play violin?  He is in his late 20s now and joyfully plays with his band, as a hobby, in front of up to 1000 people.  My younger son loves the piano, but if my wife and I had forced him to practice instead of joining the track team, he would not have become an Academic All-American in the Decathlon.

Ms. Chua also prohibits sleep-overs, play-dates and summer camp.  What effect will this have on her daughters’ social skills, leadership qualities and emotional intelligence?  In the business world, social organizations and marriages, these are key elements of success.  More in the next post.

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