A Few Reasons Why I Will Consider The Chinese Mother In Me

by Gina Parker Collins on January 13, 2011

No, I am not Chinese. But I really related to Amy Chua and three ways her and many other Chinese mothers’ parent. The WSJ Online recently ran Ms. Chua’s essay entitled, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. Like Ms. Chua, many African American mothers have historic styles of parenting too. I can really identify with three of Ms. Chua’s:

1. NO SLEEP OVERS, hmm that is a no no for many families of color
2. NO SCREEN TIME, a personal favorite, but weekends are cool
3. A or BETTER, another personal favorite and a wish of most

Many families of color have time honored traditions and styles of raising children. For example, as an African American mother, I often hyper-focus on how my children behave, particularly in public. Perhaps, this is some genetic code to protect my offspring, embedded by slavery and Jim Crow. I wonder if in an effort to protect our children from the original slave masters, along with “Jim” and his laws, we over emphasize risky yet normal kid behavior, which could inflict pain. Even today, without realizing it I immediately give that look, produce a strong elevated tone, and threaten, so no one else will.

Not long ago, I viewed the documentary, Race to Nowhere, and was struck by my own strong ideas about what success means:

1. getting the best grades
2. getting into the best college
3. hugely successful career

To date, my children were not allowed any screen time during the week, and the idea of bringing home anything less than an A was unacceptable to me. I cared very little about their complaints and reveled in their increased reading, great grades, less commercialized requests, and more innovative play. But, after seeing the documentary, I felt like a tyrant. The film documented the emotional and psychological damage of students being pressured by society’s ideal of success. As a result, I lightened up a bit on screen time and even responded to my eldest’s declaration to “just enjoy the art of learning” with “just do the best you can honey.”

I hate to think that I go with the wind, grabbing one parenting style then tossing it to adopt another. My final stance? Exercise global affinity, adopting the best of worlds, including mine!

What I have settled on as my own style of parenting?

1. Sleepovers – infrequently
2. Screen time – only 2 hrs during school week
3. A or Better – I know you are capable
4. Behavior – the best, at all times…can’t help it

About the Contributor: Gina Parker Collins, Founder & President of RIISE, is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of diversity.

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