Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How much do parents influence their children?

Bryan Caplan and Amy Chua debate parenting styles....
Chua:  Some people don't need parental commitment, they will still come out great, but for others, parents can be critical in providing moral and academic guidance....
Caplan:  ...what the adoption and twin evidence says is that the feeling that parents are changing their kids is based on an illusion. There is a big short-run effect, but the long-run effect is very different....
Chua:  Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. I tried to find the balance between the strict, traditional Chinese way I was raised, which I think can be too harsh, and what I see as a tendency in the west to be too permissive and indulgent.
Caplan:  Parents seem to think their kids are like clay, that you mould them into the right shape when they're wet. A better metaphor is that kids are like flexible plastic – they respond to pressure, but when you release the pressure they tend to pop back to their original shape.
Chua says her book is "a bit of a spoof", and my opinion is she purposefully went for the exaggerated tone as a way to sell more books.  But it's clear her perspective is one where a parent needs to exert more control and dominance than is typical among American families.

Most children need parental commitment, but to varying degrees.  Some kids need a heavier hand than others do, and we should keep in mind that our personal parenting experience may be vastly different from others we may criticize.  I never thought my own kids would benefit from corporal punishment, but I've seen others who seemed to respond well to an occasional whack to the behind.

Found at Instapundit


  1. I loved this book! I inhaled it in one big gulp, and then I wanted more. I had never heard that she was being self-depricating; all I'd read about was that she "abusive" I read one chapter in and I called a friend and said "how come no one pointed out that she's being funny?" I couldn't believe that that was lost on everyone (unless I just didn't catch that coverage, which is highly possible).

    My favorite thing about the book was that she was SO HONEST -- shockingly honest. She was brave, fearless, and funny, imho. I haven't stopped thinking about it since I put it down. It really stuck with me.

    I loved that meta ending too. LOVED.

  2. I don't know, but I wonder why she didn't promote it as a "spoof" initially. Maybe she did, but I and many others missed it because it was taken so seriously.

  3. I'm sure the promotion of the book was a beast that was out of her control -- probably some 22 year old publicist wrote the press release and screamed in the headline something hyperbolic. Plus, the media can latch onto something and then it's like being in high school and a rumor starts and there is no stopping it.

    I don't think I'd call it a spoof. I'd say it was self-depricating and deadpan. I think her humor is very subtle, and maybe she didn't even realize that people wouldn't pick up on it. I didn't think it was all funny though. It vacillates between deadpan and brutally honest.

    I will never forget those last chapters about Lulu. I thought they were very moving.