RUSH: The Wall Street Journal had a story on January 8th. This kinda stuff fascinates me, by the way. ‘Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior — Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?’ Do you remember during the snowstorm that hit the Northeast, do you remember Governor Fast Eddie Rendell when he criticized the Eagles for canceling their game in the snowstorm, he said, ‘These Chinese kids woulda shown up at the game. They woulda shown up doing calculus on the way to the game and they woulda had the answers to all the questions before they got to the game.’ He said the Chinese are killing us. It is a theme of Donald Trump’s, by the way, that the Chinese are wiping the floor with us.
So the Wall Street Journal has a story, ‘Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. … A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids.’ I mean they show up at Stanford, University of California, they have GPAs that run rings around everybody else. They have to put limits on the number of ChiCom kids that can get in because all of them have such high qualifications. ‘They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them,’ writes Amy Chua, ‘because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.
‘I’m using the term ‘Chinese mother’ loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I’m also using the term ‘Western parents’ loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.
‘Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that ‘stressing academic success is not good for children’ or that ‘parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.’ By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be ‘the best’ students, that ‘academic achievement reflects successful parenting,’ and that if children did not excel at school then there was ‘a problem’ and parents ‘were not doing their job.’ Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.’ (interruption) I’ll get to that in just a second. Already the Western mothers are in revolt here at the EIB Network. (laughing) I’m getting screams on my IFB. ‘Yeah, Chinese mothers are only allowed to have one kid!’ We’ll get to that.
‘What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something — whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet — he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.’ This is true, by the way. That part of this is extremely true.
‘Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young — maybe more than once — when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me ‘garbage’ in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage. As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early.’ We’ve all known a Marcy out there. I’ve caused many Marcys in my life, by the way, proudly so. Have you ever been the reason a woman left something in tears, Snerdley? Yeah, me, too. That is an easy one, asking Snerdley. Now, Alec Baldwin did the garbage approach in the phone call to his child amidst the divorce. Of course the media crucified him for it.
Anyway, ‘My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests. The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable — even legally actionable — to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, ‘Hey fatty — lose some weight.’ By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of ‘health’ and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her ‘beautiful and incredibly competent.’ She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)’ Well, I’ve been there, too.
‘Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, ‘You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.’ By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out. I’ve thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do. I think there are three big differences between the Chinese and Western parental mind-sets. First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently. For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child,’ and buy him a house. I made that up. But at least promise one.
‘The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child ‘stupid,’ ‘worthless’ or ‘a disgrace.’ Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child’s grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials. If a Chinese child gets a B — which would never happen — there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. … Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them.’
RUSH: I am getting deluged with e-mails about the ChiCom mom story. ‘Well, what do you think about it? You didn’t comment on the ChiCom mom story?’ It’s all coming, folks. We have a caller that wants to know about it, whether I agree or not. I’ll give you a little hint. You know, I’m all for pushing kids. I believe you have to. If you leave a kid to his own devices he’ll end up a couch potato. Every human being will seek a path of least resistance. It’s just the way we’re wired. It’s the exception to the rule, I think, the self-starting kid that constantly runs around and does productive things. Nevertheless, remember the Olympics, the Beijing Olympics, and everybody marveled at the opening ceremony, with the precision of all those ChiCom kids in uniform?
That worried me. That troubled me. I said, ‘Whoa, my gosh. This is totalitarianism.’ What you get if you take it ChiCom mother thing too far, is you get people who never question authority,’ and if they are taught to respect a certain authority like Mao or Marx or what have you, it’s not always good. You can create mind-numbed robots this way. You can create brilliant, highly achieved mind-numbed robots trained to respect whatever you want ’em to respect. And if you look at what the ChiComs publicize — whether it’s the Olympic opening ceremony or some other military things, I mean it’s… (interruption) It’s… (interruption)
Well, freedom is the natural yearning of the individual human spirit, but if these kids don’t think they’re being denied freedom, if everything they’re doing is about pursuing the best, and their freedom is excelling for the state… (interruption) You can break a child’s spirit? No kidding. I’ve had it tried on me numerous times. To this day people still try to break my spirit, Dawn. Mean people everywhere out there are constantly trying to break my spirit. It’s part and parcel of my daily existence. Everybody’s always trying to break your spirit. Those that can’t do what you do. Those that resent you doing what you do. Everybody’s trying to break everybody’s spirit. It’s the natural human condition. Anyway, it’s the same thing with kids. Kids can be vicious to each other. They really are.
RUSH: This is Nick in Chicago. Nick, welcome to the EIB Network, great to have you here, sir.
CALLER: Thank you. Greetings, Maha Rushie. I was hoping you would elaborate more on your commentary on Chinese moms.
RUSH: Where did I leave off?
CALLER: Well, you didn’t get into it too in depth.
RUSH: Well, here’s what I think I said. I’m all for pushing kids because they won’t push themselves, the vast majority of them won’t.
RUSH: I think if you ask any adult who their favorite teacher was, for example, in high school or college, they’ll tell you the teacher that got more out of them than they thought they had, a teacher they didn’t necessarily like. I think we all have to be pushed. Very few of us are self-starters. I am very wary of the self-esteem movement in this country. I think we have been conditioned to treat our children as fragile pieces of china, and I think we have too many parents who seek to be friends with their children rather than teach them, rather than guide them. A kid really is a genuine skull full of mush, and if we’re not careful they could end up running the show given the current societal trends in this country.
I don’t find anything wrong with high expectations. I love high expectations. What point is it in assuming your kid can’t get an A in anything? Why not push them to try to get an A? When they don’t get an A, if they’re genuinely trying, the ChiCom thing is you basically give ’em a bunch of swatches. I think the ChiCom way to me goes a little bit overboard because you can end up with total mind control where the parents or the state or somebody ends up totally dominating the kid throughout the rest of his life. It makes him an obedient rather than an independent individual. But there are things to learn from it. I don’t think that this country has the ability, we don’t have the makeup, and we don’t have yet the resolve to make all of our children identical. But we’re getting there, we really are. Regardless the outcome, everybody must be equal in this country because anything else is unfair.
CALLER: Well, that’s a bad thing, because under the Chinese mom system, an El Rushbo could never develop. You went against that grain. You did things differently and turned out the best in your field.
RUSH: That’s true. That’s true. But my parents were Chinese moms.
RUSH: I just defied them. My parents, there was no kid gloves. I’ll never forget my dad telling me how disappointed he was one time when he caught me lying to him, he’d never trust me again. I remember how devastated I felt. I remember he made me feel like garbage a number of times without saying it. You know, when I brought home an A in penmanship they were not impressed. ‘That doesn’t count for anything. Sit there and practice handwriting? Where’s the A in history?’ My dad was constantly on me. I’ve told the stories. My dad, until he died, until a year before he died was determined he was a failure because he couldn’t have convinced me to go to college. So my parents were far more like ChiCom moms than parents of today are.
CALLER: Yeah, yeah, the ChiCom moms are too extreme, but you’re right, they’re correct about a few things such as fun follows mastering an endeavor and you shouldn’t enable or coddle a child to be a quitter.
RUSH: Yeah. That really is true, that things do become fun when you get good at them.
RUSH: Which is one of the reasons that I decided to do this Haney Project, I want golf to be more fun. I’m not that good at it.
RUSH: There is a tremendous amount of wisdom in that. Once you do get good at something, you’re prone to do more of it on your own than to have to be instructed to do it. As I was reading that ChiCom mom story, there’s a book, I think it was Malcolm Gladwell and Outliers. The people that really succeed at what they do worked 10,000 hours, hours that nobody ever saw to get to the point where they were, people with various skills and talent. I think it was Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, I might be confusing it with another book. But it was a situation where all this hard work was done, and the thing that I have found, and I even peppered my dad with this growing up, I would see the result of hard work, but I never saw the hard work in people and I always said to my dad, ‘Well, they don’t work that hard.’ ‘Son, you’d have no idea what it took them to do to get there.’ I’ve learned that. We never do see the hard work that people do, particularly with athletes, we just assume that comes naturally to them and that they’re born with it, that they’re born champions, and they don’t have to work very hard at what they do. And nobody, nobody, other than people who inherit their money and station in life, but outside of that, nobody gets where they are without hard work, and really committed hard work to it. And that takes a passion. That requires a passion.
CALLER: I believe that’s true, and you’re certainly evidence of that.
RUSH: Well, yeah, in a convoluted way. (interruption) Snerdley, wants to know if I agree with the parents picking the extracurricular activity. Look, I don’t like play dates. I don’t like the whole construct of play dates. (interruption) No, Dawn, I when I say I don’t like play dates, I never had one. We just went out and played. You have to make a freaking appointment for it? Well, why don’t they let their kids play? ‘Cause they’re worried Sarah Palin’s out there with a gun or whatever hell the media is scaring. Play dates? That’s another liberal creation. Oh, gosh, I could tell you a story about play dates and how it made somebody turn out the wishy-washy wuss that they are. But picking extracurricular activities, I mean there weren’t too many: piano or violin for the ChiComs. That’s what it was. Guess what? You’re asking me what I think about it, my mom picked the piano for me. I had my hands slapped with a ruler by some ancient grandmother type person teaching me piano lessons and I ended up playing the trombone. When I didn’t work on the piano, it didn’t get me outta playing an instrument, I had to play the trombone.
I was rebellious. Okay, trombone, you got the long slide. Well, in junior high marching band they had to move the trombone to the front row ’cause I kept poking people in front of me with the slide on purpose, just to agitate ’cause I really wasn’t crazy about being there. In band practice I would routinely, during trombone solos, hit flat notes just to ruin the whole thing, the conductor would look at me. I was rebelling in my own way, but the point is my parents were not — football, baseball, the things I was interested in I got to do as well as the things I was forced to do. Foreign language, my dad said, ‘Son, forget French. You’d better learn Spanish. It’s gonna be the language of this country before you die.’ (interruption) Abbey and Wellesley, the dogs do not have play dates. Oh, for crying out loud. I got no way to win this. I mean they’re just so popularly accepted now as part of childhood rearing, I don’t even know why I’m bringing it up.
RUSH: Randy, a trucker in California on the open road. It’s great to have you on the EIB Network. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Rush. My God, I’ve listened to you since the very, very beginning in Sacramento when you had that fascination with chocolate-covered doughnuts.
CALLER: But I’m so blessed to still have you in my life, and I appreciate your hacking in there all these years, and Happy New Year, happy birthday to you.
RUSH: Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate that.
CALLER: But I took some offense when you started reading the story about the Chinese moms.
CALLER: Because I live here in one of the most leftist countries in the world, the country of California, and I’m a very conservative, blue-collar guy. And I’ve raised two daughters. I live in Clovis, California, and they both graduated from high school there. Can I name the high school?
CALLER: Buchanan High School. In 2001 and 2004. Both daughters are extremely exceptional. I gave ’em nothing extra other than my love and told ’em where the line was drawn, and they couldn’t cross it. And they were average to just above average students. One of them… They both give their lives, put their lives on the line today. One of them is a firefighter, my young one, and my eldest, the 27-year-old, she’s a Navy fighter pilot.
CALLER: So they’re extremely well educated and I’m so proud of them, and I just want you to know that I’m in part of that flyover country, California, conservative; ’cause once you leave the coast out here it becomes very conservative.
RUSH: Yeah. Well, not quite. I mean, you still got places like Sacramento to put up with.
CALLER: (chuckles) And Rio Vista. (sic) You’ve mentioned that so many times.
RUSH: Rio Linda, but you can’t really categorize Rio Linda politically. That’s more of an IQ problem, but what were you offended about in the comparison to ChiComs?
CALLER: Well, you started reading the story how the… I guess I could be a ChiCom mom ’cause I raised my kids that way.
RUSH: Oh. Oh, oh, oh.
CALLER: They knew who the rules were. I didn’t let them get away with things. They did not have cell phones.
RUSH: The fact of the matter is that most American parents were closer to ChiCom moms a generation or two generations ago than they are today, there’s no question. You probably were more like a ChiCom mom than you know.
CALLER: Well, I was certainly raised that way. I come from a… My dad was a police officer all his life. We were very conservative out in the state of Virginia out in the country and we knew where his boot leather started. (chuckles) You know, they raised me well, and I tried to raise my kids that way.
RUSH: Well —
CALLER: But Jessica —
RUSH: Now I understand. You were offended that the ChiComs seem to do a better job raising their kids than Americans do, and I think the point that the authoress was trying to make was just the differences — and not just the differences in how strict parents are, but the whole attitude about parenting and the whole attitude about children. At any rate, I’m glad you called, Randy. You’re very nice. I appreciate your kind comments.