This is an article by guest writer Anne.
Insight from another CBC (Canadian Born Chinese)
After having read the way Amy Chua raises her two daughters, I thought to myself how incredibly lucky I was to have been raised the way that I have been by my Taiwanese parents. I am not criticising her way (OK, maybe just a little), but I will tell you the story about how my brother and I were raised, and you can see that there are differences in a ”Chinese Upbringing”, and that there is not just one single formula.
Let me start out by briefly explaining my parents’ story of when they first came to Canada. My mother was young when she married my father; she was about 23 years old. Her mother had already passed away and she had seven siblings of which four were younger than her, so she felt the need to have to take care of them.
She started working since she was 16 years old and was continuing to do so at 23 in order to care for her family. When she finally met my father, they soon had my brother and were living a good life in Taiwan. Because they were young, my father’s mother, who was never very caring of my dad, talked them into moving to the other side of the world for a ”better life”.
My mother didn’t feel like she had the need to move elsewhere to lead a better life, since her life in Taiwan was already very good, so she refused initially. Soon after, she did think about her son and how he would have more opportunities knowing other languages and getting exposure to more diversity in Canada.
Traveling to the other side of the world
They then soon packed up their things and brought their life savings with them, moved into a humble apartment and gave all their money to my father’s mother, who promised to take care of it for them since she was already accustomed to Canada and would help them out while they stayed there.
Long story short, my paternal grandmother made my parents lives a living hell here, took all of their money, bought a piano for my cousin with it, pushed them down when they really needed help, looked down on them because they couldn’t speak English nor French, and obviously favored my cousins over my brother (I wasn’t born yet).
After a while of saturating verbal and mental abuse, my mom said enough was enough, she packed up her family and left the apartment that was introduced by my grandmother, found another place and started from scratch. She wanted so badly to go back home to Taiwan, but she didn’t want to give up. My dad soon found a very good job and so did my mother, they were both working hard, and soon after, I was born.
I was very lucky; I was born when their lives were taking a turn, they had saved up enough to buy a small house and lived very comfortably – distanced from my grandmother – both my brother and I were sent to the best bilingual private school, but my parents kept their language with us at home. This is the reason that today, both my brother and I are fluent in three languages.
A firm yet loving hand
Now flash forward a decade or two on how they continued to raise us: although my parents have kept strong to their roots and have infused a lot of typical Taiwanese culture upon my brother and I, such as sending us to piano and violin lessons, sending us to the best private schools, encouraging us to become doctors or lawyers, and going to Chinese school every Sunday, they have been very open-minded and have not forced us to do things that we did not want to do.
I now understand that all they wanted was to expose us to as many opportunities as possible and let us decide on our own whether we wanted to continue pursuing a certain path or not. We both did not continue on the path they had hoped, but we did not disappoint; we are both successful consulting professionals, we’ve each bought our own condos recently and are very well-rounded individuals, and we understand how to be independent, respectful and how to strive for success.
We got to this point, not because my parents forced us to play piano until we got a piece right, and not because we were deprived of going out to parties or not allowed to watch TV. On the contrary, we were encouraged to go to friends’ houses, we were encouraged to go on school trips – plain and simple – we were not banned from living our childhood. Life is not all about being perfect, it’s about experiences and memories; you don’t want to look back at when you were a child and say that you didn’t have any fond memories. Sometimes simple reminiscences about a childhood show can be very enlightening.
Allowing your child to aspire to their own dreams and desires
The way my parents raised me was the best they knew how, they continuously used their Taiwanese ways but also fused it with a bit of Western influence and if you ask me how I feel about it, I would have to say they did the best job they knew how and succeeded with flying colors. They’ve given us more than we can ask for, not just material-wise, but experience-wise. They brought us back to Taiwan several times already to expose us to our roots, but they’ve also brought us to many other countries to open our minds about other cultures. They taught us to use Mandarin with them at home, so we are fluent in Chinese as well as English and French. We’ve had the chance to play piano and violin, but it wasn’t for us, my parents were disappointed that we didn’t become musical prodigies, but they got over it and let us pursue what we wanted to.
I have nothing but good memories growing up with my family, and I feel very close to them; I see them very often and talk to them almost every day. They never had to impose anything on us to make us want something. My brother and I both want success for ourselves, we want to go on to higher education, and we want to have the best life we know how. This includes not only working hard, but also enjoying life, such as travelling the world, taking on hobbies, hanging out with friends, etc….
A parents’ love does not mean to whip your child into a machine, you should definitely guide them, feed them what you think is best for them, but if you have to fight to get them to do something that they are clearly not fit for, is it still love, or is it borderline torture!
I can’t say that the ”Chinese way” is superior to any other way of raising children, on this I don’t agree with Ms. Chua, for I have known many other Chinese parents that have failed with their children and many Western parents that have successfully raised their children in a different way than the Chinese way. I don’t even think Ms. Chua’s raising children is the Chinese way, it’s just a different way, but if it works for her children, then who are we to judge? All I know is that the way my parents raised me with a fusion mix of Chinese and Western influences was a good formula and that I will do the same with my own children.
This article was written by Anne, who guest-writes at Invest It Wisely from time to time.