Nature vs. Nurture: How Important Are Parents To Our Success?
Yale law professor and mother of two Amy Chua penned an incredibly fascinating article entitled, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” on the WSJ. Professor Chua is a first generation American who went to Harvard undergrad and then to Harvard Law School. As a tenured professor teaching at the most prestigious law school in the world, I feel for her kids first and foremost! Think about all the expectations that are put on them since her husband, Jeb, is also a tenured law professor at Yale.
Let’s say you had parents who walked 10 miles to school every day. Do you think there’s a snowball’s chance in hell that you will have a car in high school? You might, but you’d feel guilty every time you get behind the wheel and your parents will likely remind you as well. In the end, you’d probably compromise and either bike to work, have your parents drop you off, or walk yourself.
Here’s a non-offensive excerpt from her article where she justifies calling kids names such as “lazy”, “fatty”, “worthless”, “stupid”, and “disgraces” when they aren’t performing up to par:
“As a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.” Amy Chua
I agree with her quote, but I definitely don’t agree with calling one’s kids names to shame them into conforming. The main issue I have with Amy’s view is that she pits Asian mothers against “Western Mothers” who are by default deemed inferior. I would be incredibly insulted if I was a Western Mother because who is Amy to impose her dictator-like ways on me. Amy talks in stereotypes all article long about how Asian children always seem to be gifted in math & sciences and music. Amy argues that it is in fact no coincidence since Asian mothers are such master motivators and disciplinarians.
NATURE vs. NURTURE
I’ve always wondered how I’d turn out if my parents hadn’t been there for me. I got into a lot of trouble growing up because I had little regard for personal property or the law frankly. I remember my friends and I would trespass onto this farm in the mountains so we could have firecracker wars and sneak a smoke. We were in the 5th grade.
There were other times where my friends and I would skip school to go movie hopping and chase girls. We’d go around town with our illegal mopeds. Another time I remember punching my friend in the face because he pushed me over while I tied my shoe. That was in the 9th grade and I got suspended for a couple days.
My parents weren’t super strict, but they laid down the law when I didn’t obey. With enough disciplinary action, I grew out of my rebellious teenage stage and started hitting the books hard. They basically told me if I didn’t do well in academics and sports, I would severely lessen my chances of making a comfortable living for myself because no good school would accept me. They somehow instilled in me the absolute fear of ending up on the streets.
I’m almost certain that if my parents weren’t there to set me straight, I would end up struggling financially and be stuck in a job that I hated. Then again, I wonder if nature would have eventually kicked in to set me straight on my own. Perhaps it would, but if it kicked in at age 22 instead of 14, it may have been too late.
PERHAPS IT’S A LOT OF NURTURE AND A LITTLE BIT OF NATURE
I used to think that I would always send my kids to public school because I experienced both and didn’t feel private school was any better. I used to believe that my kids would be able to discern what’s right from wrong and not hang out with the bad crowd. Now I have my doubts.
Private school administrators know parent’s insecurities and therefore skillfully market to their fears. “Why risk your child’s future?“, is a favorite line to convince parents to spend $20,000 a year in 7th grade tuition vs. $0 for a public education. And you know what? I’m starting to get nurtured by their propaganda as well. If I’ve got the money, why risk sending your kid to a less nurturing environment, even if you have all the confidence in the world your kid is good. Why risk tarnishing your star?
Parental guidance, phenomenal teachers who inspire, and good peers are instrumental to the development of a child. Not everyone can be a success, however you define the world. But, with the right environment, there’s no doubt in my mind that a child’s potential will be maximized.
Readers, how were your parents growing up? Do you wish they pushed you harder? If they pushed harder, do you feel you would be more successful? What percentage does nurture play in the part of a child’s development? Are Asian parents superior as Amy Chua believes?