Many years ago, my wife and I were driving somewhere with our three young daughters in the back, when one of them suddenly asked: “Would you rather that we were clever or that we were happy?”
I was reminded of that moment last month when I read Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” which sparked more than 4,000 comments on wsj.com and over 100,000 comments on Facebook. The article was a promotional piece for Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which has become an instant bestseller.
Tigers lead solitary lives, except for mothers with their cubs. We, by contrast, are social animals. So are elephants, and elephant mothers do not focus only on the wellbeing of their own offspring. Together, they protect and take care of all the young in their herd, running a kind of daycare centre.
If we all think only of our own interests, we are headed for collective disaster – just look at what we are doing to our planet’s climate. When it comes to raising our children, we need fewer tigers and more elephants.