December 29, 2011

The Fundamental Error Of Parenting: What's The Difference Between a Tiger Mom and A Wolf Dad?

wolf dad.jpg

apparently, the secret to success is single parents

From NPR:

Tiger Mom Amy Chua... became an overnight sensation in the U.S. this year when she wrote about her tough parenting style. But she looks like a pussy cat next to her
mainland Chinese equivalent, "Wolf Dad" Xiao Baiyou.

"Wolf Dad" wrote a book called Beat Them Into Peking University.

Xiao, 47, describes himself as the emperor of his family. As such, he's laid down an extraordinary system of rules for his children.

"I have more than a thousand rules: specific detailed rules about how to hold your chopsticks and your bowl, how to pick up food, how to hold a cup, how to sleep, how to cover yourself with a quilt," Xiao says. "If you don't follow the rules, then I must beat you."


The last parenting book I read was The Road.  I'm not sure that counts.  I only got a quarter through it, but its principle advice appears to be to take all of your instincts and the collected wisdom of every movie ever made and do the exact opposite. This is terrible advice.

For my money: this Xiao Baiyou is a nut.  But whether this guy is a nut or not is not as important to you as what the media constructicons want you to think he is.

I.

What you noticed first about this story is that he beats his kids and they go to Peking University.  You did this because you assumed the story was a news story and were looking for information, and not a media construction showing you a facade.  What does the journalist want to be true?

Instead, what you should have noticed first, right off the bat, is that the story explicitly juxtaposes this man with Amy Chua. That's the fulcrum of the story, it tells you what your frame of reference is supposed to be. The point is NOT that he beat his kids into Peking University, the point is for you to compare him to Amy Chua and no one else.

Amy Chua was called a terrible mom for being hard on her kids, but if she had been a dad the state would have sent in the police and Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Dad would not exist.  It doesn't exist, which is my point.  She was able to publish because her audience-- e.g. the readers of the WSJ where she first and exclusively published an excerpt of her book-- like to hear the words "college" and "success" and "how",  but to soften it from mean parenting to tough parenting you have to make it all come from a woman, especially a non-American one.  Rule #1 of stupid people trying to make sense of the world: the culture you know nothing about has all the answers.

Then to reinforce Amy Chua's methods as the gold standard for all the other demos who previously hated her, an alternative standard that goes too far must be created to appall everyone into agreement.  One year after Chua went platinum, here it is.  "Well bless my heart, beatings?!  I know I don't like that method of Chinese parenting!  And Amy's daughters are all so poised and pretty, not like those porphyria drones he has solving Hamiltonians in the basement."

Note the four key differences in the story: 

1.  He's physically abusive, so the audience understands him to be hatable.
2.  Not American, but Chinese, in China.  China = uncivilized.   Hatable.
3.  His story appears on NPR, Slate, mommy blogs, not on the WSJ.  This is not an audience weighing the merits of a yardstick to the knuckles, they prefer passive techniques like evolutionary psychology and chemical coercion.  Man acting like a man, father like a father?  Hatable.
4.  Amy Chua is a Harvard law professor, while Xiao Baiyou is a real estate mogul.  Hatable.

With this information, the reader is now invited to choose which of the two images represents an American success story:


a.

amy chua daughters.jpg

b.

wolf dad scary.jpg


II.

Question: what kind of a person reads parenting books?  I'm not being critical, I'm asking.  Do the readers feel they are failing and need some advice?  Or are they just looking to hate someone and are willing to pay $23.95 for the ammunition?   I can see that someone might see the book and say, "hmm, I'd like my child to get into Peking University, let's see what he has to say," but that thinking betrays a cognitive error that both makes these books useless to you and is the reason you need such books: you don't think there's anything wrong with your parenting, you think you just need some helpful tricks.

Hence the popular parenting books/blogs aren't for special populations like Raising The Autistic Child or My Kid Saw A Gorgon, What Now?  These are ordinary kids being raised by parents who are worried about what shows are appropriate for kids, but not about the commercials.  "What?  He's 7.  It's not like he's actually going to go buy an Acura."  You've failed.

"Good" parenting, apparently, is trying techniques on your kid that were never used on you, even though you still turned out just fine.  "I think TV is bad, I won't let my kids watch it."  Outstanding.  But how do you explain how you watched 5 hours of TV a day for thirteen years straight and still turned out ok?  Think it over for a moment.  You'll never admit the answer: because you're different.  You succeeded despite the TV.

But look around: everyone you know over 30 also did fine despite the TV, no lawyer ever says, "Your Honor, my client saw every episode of Bosom Buddies and McHale's Navy, I move for dismissal."  Which is why I am telling you:  TV is bad for the kid, but that thinking is much worse.  

So too: sugary cereals, bullying, Playboys.  None of those things are good for kids, I am not saying to expose your kids to them.  But thinking that they will be worse for your kids than they were for you is the fundamental, narcissistic error of parenting.  "My kids are weaker than me."  Then humanity is doomed.

I know many white doctors who have their kids in Mandarin classes.  Did that help them become doctors?  "I want them to be able to compete."  With whom?  Mandarins?  Seriously, what world do you envision in which Mandarin is the deciding talent, except working in Mandaria?  Which is great if that's what they want to do, great if the kid is interested, but otherwise is this really how you're plotting excellence?  "It also teaches you to think logically."  So does actual logic.  "It looks good on a college application."  Everyone hates you.



Part 2 here.


My Amy Chua post

http://twitter.com/thelastpsych







Comments

First... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 6:27 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

First

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -28 (58 votes cast)
Nice, TLP. I understand th... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 6:38 PM | Posted by Judge Wilhelm: | Reply

Nice, TLP. I understand the narcissism of "my kids are weaker than me." That's why we've raised a generation of little shits. This topic already covered by Palahniuk and 100 years before him, Nietzsche. But it'd be nice if you provided some hints as to what's a better alternative, without social ostracization. Maybe that's in part 2...

So, should I beat my kids or not? Ha! I'm J/K. No, really should I kick the shit out of them?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 5 (27 votes cast)
TLP: please please please d... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 6:51 PM | Posted by Kristina: | Reply

TLP: please please please do a post on Ocean Marketing?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: -6 (10 votes cast)
Excellent post. I really en... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 7:12 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Excellent post. I really enjoy your work.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 3 (3 votes cast)
Mandaria. Heh. ... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 7:41 PM | Posted by AP: | Reply

Mandaria. Heh.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 18 (18 votes cast)
"But how do you explain how... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 9:03 PM | Posted by SeanM: | Reply

"But how do you explain how you watched 5 hours of TV a day for thirteen years straight and still turned out ok? Think it over for a moment. You'll never admit the answer: because you're different. You succeeded despite the TV."

Depends what you mean by succeeded. That's a very vague word. Now, you mean these last few generations survived watching TV, got jobs, and managed to have relationships and/or kids. Well, if that's what you mean, that seems like an awfully low bar for success.

80% of the people in the US are either illiterate or functionally illiterate (figure from one of Hedges's books, IIRC). Where's the "success" in the political system, which is all for show? Politicians speak like actors or like folksy morons, trying to make little sound-byte points. There's no fact-checking on TV after/during debates, you have to go online for that. Where's the "success" in our mostly-TV generated culture which relies on capitalizing on and deepening people's insecurities? Plus, there's the narcissism.

Yes, we weren't killed by TV, but we've had to spend a long time trying to unscramble our minds from it. And no doubt once you've spent the time, you will find yourself at odds with a TV society. We're "special" to the extent that we have evidence to back that claim up.

Anyway, I don't watch TV, won't raise kids on TV, and tell people to stop watching. It's not designed to kill you, it's designed to manipulate you -- so consider "success" on that metric and almost everyone fails.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 40 (46 votes cast)
<a href="http://www.ncbi.nl... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 10:03 PM | Posted by Z. Constantine: | Reply

Differential fertility by intelligence: "An inverse relationship was found between fertility and IQ, caused by the fact that low IQ women had more unwanted births than high IQ women. It was also shown that low IQ women had an elevated failure rate with any contraceptive method, and that the best way to control their fertility was to utilize exclusively permanent contraceptive methods administered by a physician."

For every Madison learning Mandarin in America, there are Katelyn, Caytlinne, and Caitlyn watching little more than commercials - questionable plotting toward excellence or well-considered exit strategy?

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Most of the parents I know ... (Below threshold)

December 29, 2011 10:14 PM | Posted by TheUnderwearBandit: | Reply

Most of the parents I know what their children to be better than they were. So the parent wants the student to go to Harvard while the parent went to Western State Tech. So the narcissism isn't that the parent thinks they are stronger than the child, but that by the child going to Harvard, the parent becomes associated with Harvard. The parent can then determine that they are better than all the other parents who did not get their kid into Harvard.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 37 (39 votes cast)
As long as you're talking a... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 1:35 AM | Posted by Cato: | Reply

As long as you're talking about parenting, care to take a stab at Stefan Molyneux' Philosophical Parenting? 'I turned out fine' might not be the yardstick you're looking for; one might want kids to turn out better.

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Being associated with Harva... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 2:23 AM | Posted, in reply to TheUnderwearBandit's comment, by Arno: | Reply

Being associated with Harvard is certainly a plus to that kind of parent, but parents know their kids are just an extension of themselves: having their kid get into Harvard shows that the parent could have gotten into Harvard too, if they'd had the right circumstances.
The kid getting into Harvard vindicates how the parent raised them, but it also invalidates any failures the parent had growing up.

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Right on the spot.... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 9:07 AM | Posted, in reply to Arno's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Right on the spot.

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Great work, as usual. Mayb... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 9:48 AM | Posted by Nando: | Reply

Great work, as usual. Maybe he should be them if they decide to attend law school.

http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/

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On the prior comment, I mea... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 9:50 AM | Posted by Nando: | Reply

On the prior comment, I meant to write:

Maybe he should beat them if they decide to attend law school.

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It's funny how many white A... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 10:49 AM | Posted by Jay: | Reply

It's funny how many white Americans fear and envy the Chinese, when there are nearly a billion Chinese squatting in rice fields making $2 a day. There are exceptional Chinese achievers, but there are also exceptional Albanian achievers. Of course, there are far more Chinese than Albanians, so by the law of large numbers you're going to see more conspicuously successful Chinese.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 18 (18 votes cast)
god, please never stop writ... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 11:50 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

god, please never stop writing these things. amazing.

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But thinking that ... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 12:59 PM | Posted by TheCoconutChef: | Reply

But thinking that they will be worse for your kids than they were for you is the fundamental, narcissistic error of parenting. "My kids are weaker than me." Then humanity is doomed.

Man, I've been struggling for over a week about an article I read in which some lady was going apeshit over the fact that kids were watching a reality show and I didn't know why. Way to spoil part of it for me.

Now how will I know that I'm smart? Bummer.

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Nando you dumbass... haven'... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 2:26 PM | Posted by none: | Reply

Nando you dumbass... haven't you realized we don't give a shit about your stupid blog so quit spamming this blog for fucks sake.

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 11 (13 votes cast)
Nando you dumbass... hav... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 2:29 PM | Posted, in reply to none's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Nando you dumbass... haven't you realized we don't give a shit about your stupid blog so quit spamming this blog for fucks sake.

I second this comment!

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 8 (12 votes cast)
"-you don't think there's ... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 2:34 PM | Posted by meistergedanken: | Reply

"-you don't think there's anything wrong with your parenting, you think you just need some helpful tricks."

Jesus, stop being so Manichean all the damn time. Isn't it POSSIBLE that a parent might think, "Hm, I think my parenting is decent, but there could be some room for improvement. This guy's written a book on it - he might be an expert, so let's see what he has to say. He might have some insight that I lack."

I guess you think you're perfect, so the concept of self-improvement doesn't make sense to you (especially since you are a psychiatrist; if people could improve themselves, they wouldn't need YOU, would they?). "Improve myself - how does that even make sense?!? The very notion smacks of narcissism - it can't be about ME!!"

And, as a commenter already noted above, most parents want their kids to do BETTER than they did. So maybe TV didn't totally screw us up, but we could have perhaps done even better without its corrupting influence (yes, that includes the commercials). So it's not a matter of thinking the children are "weaker" than the parent.

I realize this doesn't fit well into your entrenched narrative, but at least some other commenters might this a useful antidote/palliative to your entertaining bile.

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The question in the whole, ... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 3:16 PM | Posted, in reply to meistergedanken's comment, by sam: | Reply

The question in the whole, "I want my kids to be better than me," that I think is asked in reference to the narcissism is simply: Why are you the immediate and defining measuring stick to your child?

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"I second this comment!"</p... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 3:38 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by Elisabeth: | Reply

"I second this comment!"

*hurls self under bandwagon*

Yeah!

I can't imagine he's even getting many visits from his spamming. Any chance he could get blocked or banned?

Vote up Vote down Report this comment Score: 3 (7 votes cast)
Your writing is overly deci... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 5:37 PM | Posted by Meh: | Reply

Your writing is overly decisive, like you're on testosterone or something. You're always banging on about the same thing, and, not thoughtful, jumping to one of a few conclusions that don't ring true via the same few concepts. I haven't gotten anything from your last few pieces; I read you on momentum, hoping ever more thinly that you'll write something insightful or interesting. Sorry, I'm sure it's hard being a writer, but readers need novelty. Luckily you've got a day job I guess.

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MehIf you are readin... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 5:50 PM | Posted by Doc: | Reply

Meh
If you are reading it, then it is for you.

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How about rejecting both of... (Below threshold)

December 30, 2011 11:04 PM | Posted by Mark T: | Reply

How about rejecting both of these atrocious stereotypical tropes and how about we embrace actual learning - lifelong, self-directed, high-value learning, not for someone else's sake or to get into "brand X" good school , but because 20 years later, 40 years later the ground will shift, the heavens re-arrange and we will need to adapt.

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I don't get about half of t... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2011 12:25 AM | Posted by bogarty: | Reply

I don't get about half of the commenters here. Maybe they should go back to the "same 5 websites, looking for and finding exactly what they want, like a baby playing peekaboo in a mirror over and over and over and over and over and over and..."

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Does the fact that China ha... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2011 1:02 AM | Posted by Call me skeptical: | Reply

Does the fact that China has a one child policy have any bearing on this guy's claims?

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I am almost positive you ha... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2011 1:08 AM | Posted, in reply to Meh's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

I am almost positive you have missed the point of what he says.

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None of those white America... (Below threshold)

December 31, 2011 1:52 AM | Posted by longwinded: | Reply

None of those white American doctors want their children to speak Mandarin so that they can communicate in China? That would be the benefit of learning Mandarin, as opposed to, say, Esperanto or Klingon.

I assume all these doctors want their children to go into overseas finance or some such--Chinese isn't going to do you much good while practicing medicine in the U.S., I would think Spanish would be more helpful overall.


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