Nature vs. nurture is an ancient debate about determining a child’s future success. Success is often defined in terms of money, career, and status. Personally, I think there is an unhealthy desire for prestige and money that is ruining many people’s lives.
I think it’s much better to get rich and then get off the radar. Being famous is often a prison of your own making! But that’s just my thoughts after working in finance for 13 years and leaving for good.
Let’s rewind to 2011 when Amy Chua and her tiger mom ways was a big hit after her book came out. Her kids were still in grade school.
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 one of the most prestigious law schools in the world, I feel for her kids! Think about all the expectations that are put on them since her husband, Jeb, is also a tenured law professor at Yale.
I mean, what if her kids attend Harvard and end up doing the same thing as the rest of us? Then what? At the very least, her kids should rise up to become tenured professors like their parents. But gaining tenure at any university, let alone Harvard, is an almost impossible task.
Setting proper expectations and beating them is the key to happiness.
Tough Love Nurture
Here’s a biting 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. Building up long-term determination and grit is important for getting ahead. But as a parent today, I definitely don’t agree with calling 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.
If I was a “Western Mother,” I would be insulted. Amy also talks in stereotypes 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.
These types of stereotypes bring about undue anxiety for all parents.
The Nature vs. Nurture Debate
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. As elementary school kids in Taipei, Taiwan, I remember my friends and I would trespass onto this farm in the mountains so we could play firecracker wars and smoke cigarettes. We were in the 5th grade.
In high school, my friends and I would sometimes skip school to go movie hopping or just hang out at the mall. One year, 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 years and started hitting the books hard. They basically told me if I didn’t do well in academics, I would severely lessen my chances of living a good life because no good college would accept me. They somehow instilled in me the fear of ending up on the streets.
I’m almost certain if my parents weren’t there to set me straight, I would end up struggling financially. I would have likely ended up working a dead-end job I hated. Then again, I wonder if nature would have eventually kicked in to set me straight on my own. Perhaps it would have. However, if it kicked in at age 22 instead of 14, it may have been too late.
Nature vs. nurture certain isn’t an all or nothing proposition.
Perhaps A Lot Of Nurture Is Required
I used to think 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. As a parent, now I have my doubts. Who you associate with can significantly influence you behavior.
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 $35,000 a year on private grade school tuition.
And you know what? I’m starting to get nurtured by the propaganda as well. If you’ve got the money, is it worth risking sending your kid to a less nurturing environment?
For example, the San Francisco Board Of Education (SFBU) was incapable of coming up with a plan to re-open schools in person for a full year. We’re only talking about just a plan here. Only in April 2021, has the SFBU agreed for schools to open in person in Fall 2021.
Parental guidance, phenomenal teachers who inspire, and good peers are instrumental to the development of a child. Perhaps private K-12 really is worth the money. Not everyone can be a success, however you define the word. However, with the right environment, a child’s potential will be maximized.
What’s also worth noting is that you can always pull your child from a private school or public school if things are not working out. You can have your child reapply to another school or homeschool as well. If you have the time and patience, homeschooling might be the most nurturing environment of all!
The Percentage Split Between Nature vs. Nurture
In conclusion, I believe nature is the predominant factor in determining whether our children turn out OK or not. I assign a 65% weighting for Nature and a 35% weighting for Nurture.
We can do everything possible as parents to educate our children from right and wrong. We can send our kids to the best schools. But at the end of the day, Nature is going to win out.
A 35% weighting for Nurture is still huge. As parents, we should never give up on our children. We just need to recognize we can only do so much. And if we’ve tried our best to educate and spend time with our children, we should be at peace with the results.
I’ve come to this Nature vs. Nurture percentage split after speaking to dozens of parents since I started coaching high school tennis in 2016. I’ve also had this discussion with over a hundred parents since becoming a father in 2017.
Obviously, I’m no childhood expert. The percentage split is only my opinion after also doing a self-analysis. My personality hasn’t changed much since I was a kid. However, I strongly feel my classmates had a strong affect on my behavior, both bad and good.
What Happened To Amy Chua’s Kids?
Now that it’s 10 years later, whatever happened to Amy Chua’s kids? Are they great successes after so much nurturing? Let’s take a look at their public LinkedIn profiles in 2021.
Sophia Chua-Rubenfield – Is now a JAG lawyer since August 2019 after graduating from Yale Law School in 2018 and Harvard University in in 2015.
Lulu Chua-Rubenfield – Graduated from Harvard University in 2018 and is currently at Harvard Law School (2022 graduating class).
To have both your kids go to Harvard is quite impressive! Supposedly ~57,000 people applied to Harvard in 2021 and less than 4% were accepted.
Therefore, let’s give credit to Amy Chua for her tiger mom ways. Without extensive nurture, it seems improbably for one, let alone two children to get into Harvard. That said, as we learned from the Harvard lawsuit, children of alumni and faculty have preferential treatment.
Let’s hope Sophia and Lulu go on to do great things and change the world!
What do you think readers? Nature vs. nurture? What do you think is the percentage split?