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Tiger Mom – So what can we learn from Amy Chua

Jan 26, 2011 - 1 comments

Tiger mom


Why Chinese mothers are better


Amy Chua

This is the continuation of my previous blog - Tiger Mom, Let's get the facts straight .

          There are several good points brought up by Amy and I feel as many did not get enough air time in all the discussions about her book. So I’d like to focus on the things I took away and agree with.
- You often don’t enjoy doing things when you aren’t good at them – It is hard to decide if you really like an activity until you get good at it. This is equally true for children. If you get a child to decide if they decide if s/he likes an activity soon after s/he starts it there is a good chance that s/he is basing that decision on what it is like to do that activity badly. I think children should achieve a certain level of proficiency at an activity before deciding if they want to drop it. My younger son hated swimming when he started; he would cry and try him best to get out of it. I didn’t let him quit and he got good at it. Now he says it’s his favorite sport.
- It takes hard work to get good at things –We’ve heard about the 10,000 hours needed to master an activity and getting an appreciation for that early is important. My older son enjoyed soccer but noticed that some kids were really good at it. I told him that if he wanted to get good it would take a lot of hard work. He put in the hours and has become a really good player.
- You need to learn to work hard – Realizing that it takes a lot of work to get good at something and being able put in the hard work are two very different things. Learning to work hard at an early age is very important and will serve children for the rest of their lives. My wife or I study with my children for 1-2 hours every morning every day of the year. We started when they were 2 and never miss it. It is part of our philosophy that every day you need to feed your body, heart, and mind. This habit is now so engrained in them that it is easy to get them to focus on activities for extended periods.
- Some things in life are not optional – There are certain skills that we know we want our kids to have and if we allow our kids to quit early they may never learn them. When my children were young I told them that in life there are things that are optional and those that are not optional and if they are optional I would let them know. Learning math – not optional, watching TV – optional, learning to swim – not optional, playing on the computer – optional, etc.
- Parents need to help guide their children – As parents we need to make the best decision we can about skills that our children will need for the future. Leaving it up to our children to decide could result in them getting a skillset that may not be that useful to them. Being pros at watching TV and playing video games may not serve them as well as other skills they could learn.
- You need to maximize the expected educational value of your children’s activities – There is a potential to learn from a variety of activities / situations (for example, David Brooks points out how cognitively demanding it can be having a sleepover with 14 year old girls) but as parents we want to maximize the chance of them learning something. This is why corporations pay so much to facilitators to ensure that their employees learn things through fun activities. So while a sleep over has the potential to teach my sons something, I’m not banking on the sleepovers to teach them what they need to know.  
- Don’t aim for mediocrity – Many children are thought that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and instead should be happy with the level you’re at. I want my children to dream about being the best at whatever they enjoy doing and believe that they can be the best. If they want it enough and are willing to work hard enough at it they can be the best. They won’t be the best at everything but the can be the best at something.

Now even though I agree with many of Amy’s high level tenets I differ in how I implement them with my children. However, what is important to take away from what she wrote is do you agree that as a country we need to better educate our children and do you agree with the lessons above? If so then then we should each find a way of educating our children that works within our beliefs, our culture, and our values. Let’s not get distracted with the details as I’m sure each of us has flaws in the way we bring up our children and that people could criticize us. The question is understanding what we are trying to teach our children and having a clear plan as to how we are going to achieve it.

Tiger Mom – Let’s get the facts first……..

Jan 25, 2011 - 7 comments





Chinese mothers are superior


Amy Chua

        The morning after Amy Chua’s article “Why Chinese mothers are superior” I received a barrage of emails and phone calls asking if I had read the article and what I thought about it. On the surface of it I wasn’t sure why they were so interested in what I thought as I’m neither Chinese nor a mother. Filled with curiosity I pulled up the article and read it and quickly saw what was brewing - my friends thought of me as a Chinese mom!
I’ll get back to my thoughts on the article but first let me make my perspective (read agenda) clear. I live in the US and have a vested interest in ensuring that the US remains competitive in the global economy. I'm concerned that we may be losing our edge and want to do my part to help us succeed long term. I agree with President Obama's comments that countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow.
         As I read the debate about the article there are two levels in which you can approach it; a micro-level about Amy and her parenting style or a macro one about what the US needs to do to stay competitive in a global economy. I'm going to tackle the latter in this post.
        Education, just like healthcare, is universally relevant, evokes visceral reactions and can be polarizing. To understand the issue I think it is important to look at some of the commonly held misconceptions I read in the comments and what the data tells us and just like many others I will use “Chinese” very liberally.
- Chinese kids are good at rote memorization but really poor when it comes to application of that knowledge to practical problems. In the US we value understanding and not memorization. The data doesn’t support this. The PISA exam which tests this sort of understanding showed that we are about average and that China is at the top of the table. Take a look at the NYT article Top Test Scores From Shanghai Stun Educators. If you look at the table you will find the US in the middle of the pack. On a side note, I’m surprised educators were stunned at the results as I could have rather easily predicted it.
- In the US we are great at innovation and creativity. Well in 2011, China is projected to outpace the US and Japan in patent activity. You can read more about it in the article China patent filings could overtake US, Japan in 2011.
- Chinese kids do not learn the leadership and other soft skills to lead organizations. They will be relegated to middle management. Asians (not just Chinese and Indian) make up 20% of the bay area population but start and lead about 30% of all startup companies in the area.
- China’s communist system will stifle creativity and prevent them from being successful. Women in particular are not given equal opportunities. Of the 14 self-made billionaire females in the world 7 are Chinese. Good article in Forbes about why china is an incubator for billionaire females.

.      The data should be a wake up call to the fact the Chinese are out-educating their children and that if we don't do something we'll be at a competitive disadvantage. Now you may be wondering what this has to do with Amy Chua's article but I view it as a proxy for how we educate our children. Sure there are things that we can do to refine the tactics she uses but strategically there is a lot of value in where she is heading.


Knee surgery - Make sure you are fixing the real issue

Jul 30, 2010 - 0 comments

knee surgery


lateral meniscus


physical therapy


lisa giannone




I've posted about my knee injury while playing with my kids on March 22, 2010. While putting weight on my right leg my knee seemed to give way. The knee swelled up like a balloon after a few hours and when I got an MRI the diagnosis was a radial tear of the torn lateral meniscus (i've posted pictures of it on MedHelp (, The prognosis was that I would not be running or playing squash on this knee without surgery and that conveniently they could accommodate me for surgery that week. I asked about trying rehab first and was told that I could but that with high probability it wouldn't work and that I would be relegating my self to doing rehab twice. Once to try and fix it and the second post surgery and that it would be easier to do them together. In addition, if I had my surgery before the muscles atrophied it would shorten the recovery. Having torn my lateral meniscus before (in the other knee) I just didn't feel as if the pain this time was a result of the tear and opted to try physical therapy. I started working with Lisa Giannone, whom I cannot recommend more, and she quickly agreed that even though there was a tear in my meniscus it was pretty asymptomatic and that the location and movements that cause the pain didn't mesh with the meniscus tear being the issue. She started me on physical therapy and after 3 months of it I have no symptoms on a daily basis and  can now run with no issues (completed a 12 mile pain free run). I'm still working on the lateral motion and am about 60% of the way recovered on that. I'm going to continue working on it and will post another update soon.

Blood in Urine? Maybe not

Jul 29, 2010 - 0 comments

blood in urine







I went to the bathroom at night and thought I was not seeing properly as my urine looked pink. I rubbed my eyes hoping it would change but sure enough I was seeing properly. I knew that blood in the urine could be a symptom of kidney stones, infections or even cancer. Before running to the ER I decided to get on MedHelp and look it up. Well I did get a list of infections but also read something else that triggered my memory.

Earlier in the day I had gone to lunch and ordered a Tuna Nicoise. Well the seared tuna was brown and tasted fishy so I opted to get a salad instead. The it was a chicken salad with walnuts and beets and tasted very good.

Well on MedHelp that gross hematuria (when there is sufficient blood in the urine that it is visible to the naked eye) looks similar to what urine looks like after you eat beets!! Since I normally don't eat beets I was unaware of this.

Safe in the knowledge that it was just the beets running their normal course I was able to go to sleep without a trip to the ER.

MedHelp rocks!