Nowhere are cultural differences more evident than in the way we raise our children. The subject seems to have heated even further with the quite popular now discussions of Tiger-style parenting. Here is the most recent publication exploring the roots and reasons behind it.
My son is a half-Chinese (his mother is from Shanghai) and half-American mutt (I’m a pastiche of Chua and Rubenfeld’s “unsuccessful” groups). My son and I understand the tiger mother well. You think Amy Chua is frightening? You ain’t seen nothin’. Chua’s not even from China; she was born and raised in Illinois. My wife is from the mainland—she grew up during the tail end of the Cultural Revolution. Believe me when I tell you that the discipline, dedication, and maniacal sense of competition is even more intense in mainland-born Chinese of that generation. They weren’t just pushing piano lessons and skipping play dates—they were doing all that and smelting their own metal, apportioning rationed food and clothing, denouncing the bourgeois pigs, and trying to survive the centrally planned economy.
Like other Chinese kids, my son has excelled: black belt in kung fu, award-winning pianist, math whiz, and so on. I’d like to take credit for it, but my main role is just enforcing the intense regimen that his mother lays out for us. Many Americans are shocked by the way Asians excel at math and engineering, and secretly wonder about a math gene or some engineering enzyme in the blood. But like almost everything else in ethnic groups, the answer is not biological.