Why Greek Mothers Are Superior

I'm sure you've read it by now—the article in The Wall Street Journal called "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior", by Amy Chua, (exerpted from her new book called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother".) The writer lets us in on the secret of how Chinese parents raise such "stereotypically successful kids."

She says her children were never allowed to:

attend a sleepover;
have a playdate;
be in a school play;
watch TV or play computer games;
choose their own extracurricular activities;
get any grade less than an A;
not be the number 1 student in every subject except gym and drama;
play any instrument other than the piano or violin and
not play the piano or violin.

I had countless numbers of sleepovers, and playdates every weekend. I was in school plays, I watched TV, and I was allowed to choose my own extracurricular activities. I played the guitar, after a few years at trying my hand at the recorder and violin. Clearly, this mom would have disowned me.

Last summer, my four year old played soccer for the first time. Initially he didn't want to, but I told him to try first, and then decide if he didn't want to play. With each game, he got more comfortable on the soccer field. He never scored a goal, and he didn't bend it like Beckham, but I was still the proudest mom there, cheering from the side lines. After each game, I hugged him and told him I was proud. He felt like a soccer superstar, and I'm glad. It is very satisfying to see confidence grow in your children.

When I was growing up, I played soccer, too. I never scored a goal. I was more concerned about my hair, and my friends and I would huddle together, gossiping, as the other team scored against us. My dad was the coach, and he'd tease us after each game and we'd laugh along with him. After all, we were only playing for fun.

As a child, I was enrolled in many extracurricular activities: tennis camp, swimming, ballet, jazz, guitar lessons, Brownies and Girl Guides, Greek school, Sunday school, art classes and more. I was never forced to take anything I didn't love.

I remember staying up late some nights with my father, practicing my Greek school homework, and to this day I have a story memorised that I struggled with in grade four. I was pushed to do better, but I was never pushed to be perfect.

If I wasn't doing well in a certain class (always math) my mom would hire me the best tutor around. She wanted me to succeed and to do good, but I never felt immense pressure. I was allowed to be me, faults and all.

I watched as much TV as I wanted—it was never an exorbitant amount of television, because we were so busy doing everything else, but I didn't hear the word 'no' too often.

We travelled a lot, and spend our summers in Greece. Being a well travelled child taught me a lot more than the textbooks did.

Of course, I did have plenty of rules, coming from a Greek household.

Greek parents are strict, proud, and want the best for their children. However, their hearts are filled with love and acceptance, too. And that's the most important thing. To know that no matter how many B's (and C's) you get on your report card, you'll still feel accepted and loved. That's what makes a confident child, a successful child.

Greek mothers feed their children well. Greek mothers spend hours in the kitchen, making the perfect meals for their family, three times a day. (*with the exception of Loukia.*)

Greek mothers worry about their children all day and night.

Greek mothers insist their children don't move out of the house until they find someone to marry, and then they hint about how great it would be if they moved in the same neighbourhood.

Greek mothers are proud of their children's achievements but don't necessarily push them to the point of exhaustion.

Greek mothers would rather their child has a good night's sleep, rather than waking up tired after staying up too late studying for a test.

Greek mothers know that if you put your mind to something,you can make it happen and if it doesn't work out, it's okay, too.

Greek mothers yell and fight and make a big deal about every little thing, and scare you with stories of 'back in the day', but at the end of the day, all troubles are forgotten. And you're given more food to eat.

I can't imagine not supporting my children, even if they aren't perfect at everything they do. I am so glad I'm a Greek-Canadian mom and not a Chinese mom, if Chinese moms are, in fact, the way Chua describes in her article.

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Brittany at Mommy Words said...

You are an awesome mom and holy moly that woman would have hated me! Now thinking what a Swedish mom is like...I am not in the kitchen either (at least its the last place I want to be).

Anonymous said...

You make me wish I had a Greek mom! My parents always allowed us to try something and then if we didn't like it we could quit. Which I think is a good strategy, but I'm inherently lazy and sometimes I wish I was nudged along a bit more. BUT, I also know I was a total drama queen and would have acted like they were killing me instead of just driving me to ballet.

Sara @ Domestically Challenged said...

Society is so interesting, in the different ways we rear our children. I love to hear the different perspectives. Now, off to play violin and stuff.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I like: "I was pushed to do better, but I was never pushed to be perfect."

I read another blog commentary on this and I'll say the same thing her that I did there. How does this perfection parenting work with a special needs child? A very limited view if you ask me...

Avitable said...

I like this idea of more food to eat. Tell me more.

The Stiletto Mom said...

Sounds like my Irish Mom...who I am proud to say I think was the best Mom ever. If I am half the Mom she was, I'll count myself lucky.

I was a fat little kid (and by fat, I mean totally round) but I never knew it until mean kids pointed it out to me. I was a B/C student, which didn't please them much but I've done amazingly well in life. If they were alive, they'd be proud. My B/C status made me more open to hearing other ideas from people...which led to my career.

Most importantly, my Mom (and sometimes my Dad) never forced their views on me. They said, "Whatever you do, be happy doing it and you will succeed."

You know what? They were right. I'm happy and set backs in life don't freak me out, I don't need to be number one. I just need to be me.

Thanks for giving me an idea for a blog post beautiful Greek you! xo!

Suzanne said...

I just read the article. This is a tough one. While I don't agree with some of the things she says, I understand where she's coming from.

We are currently raising a generation of fat, lazy, over-sensitive children. I see it every single day - I work with these kids!!!

As parents, why do WE have to tiptoe around our children? You have to agree that even our parents did it differently. My father was very strict when it came to academics and my social life. While he didn't expect me to get straight As, I was questioned when I got Bs. He knew how very capable I was to do better.

These days, we make too many excuses for not only our children, but for our weaknesses as parents.

All I think Chua was trying to say is that the bottom line is the same for all parents - we all want to raise happy, successful, and confident children. How we do that is different for everyone.

Krystyn said...

We all have very different perspectives, don't we.

While I think she's doing some things right, others I don't get. Yes, it's great to get something, but at the expense of not eating, drinking, peeing, etc? That's just too much for me.

I think you can figure out if you enjoy something way before then.

And, no choices? I'm not for total freedom, but a choice every now and then would be nice.

I like your take/spin on it.

Lady Mama said...

So, what you're saying is, Greek mothers shower their kids with love and let them have a life? Sounds wonderful. Your upbringing sounds very similar to mine. Food was always a big deal, and I was encouraged to do well at school (and had tutors for the sciences) but never put under that kind of pressure to succeed. Actually my parents were more interested in the arts. I feel bad for those kids who are told they mustn't get anything less than an "A". Childhood should be fun! Great post.

Lisa said...

Not to generalize but...every Greek mama I've had the pleasure of knowing has always been exactly as you described. Nurturing, kind, enthusiastic, supportive, loving. My friend Virginia moved home to Greece to raise her two boys and we've stayed in touch via Facebook. Even from afar, she's one of the most supportive women in my life. And have you even met Angie from Disney? That woman oozes warmth. In my next life, I'm coming back as a Greek baby. ;)

Marinka said...

Perfection is an impossible goal. Personally, I don't think it's worth it.

Christy said...

I LOVED this post. That article made me so sad...what a tragic way to live. Bravo to greek mothers everywhere! And to my own - western - upbringing and parenting style!

The Mommyologist said...

I think this lady is definitely the extreme for sure! Can you imagine not letting your kids be KIDS? That would be the pits!

Mommyfriend Lori said...

You had an awesome childhood which helped shape you into such an awesome mom! It is so interesting how different cultures are, I see it with my own husband. One of my best friends is Greek and her story is much like yours. The warmth in her family is contagious!

Nenette AM said...

Wow, girlfriend, I wish I had your childhood!
Filipino moms, from what I've heard, are great, but I didn't have a typical Filipino mom. :(

Mom2Miles said...

I haven't read the article. I'm still reeling from the one about the woman who said she regrets being a SAHM and is now broke and divorced. Yikes.

I used to wish my parents pushed me to excel at one thing, like an Asian classmate who was a top tennis player. But I see now that they wanted me to be happy and well-rounded. And that's what I want for my kids, too.

ModernMom said...

Oh I missed that article and shall choose to skip it.
I have, and will continue to expose my children to sciences, arts, maths, athletics, travel. Everything and anything in which they are interested. I aspire to make them happy, well rounded, content, self confident women. Sleep overs are included in this plan!
Great post Lou:)

white collar | green soul said...

Great post! This issue has been at the forefront of several conversations I've head with my sister recently, as she is finishing up her year teach English in South Korea. It is a VERY different world over there. It makes you appreciate what we have here and the childhood we were allowed to have.

- agata.

LisaDay said...

Frightening would be the way to describe that article.


Anonymous said...

I thought that I was of German descent, but after reading this it is clear that I'm actually a Greek mother! Very sweet post!
Heidi (visiting from SITS)

NovemberSunflower said...

I strongly believe Greeks do many things better! And I'm Italian. LOL. Seriously, though, we lived in a similar home to yours, just Italian and in the states. However, I wasn't allowed at sleepovers until I was in 7th grade I think. But anyway, I'm right there with you. Glad to be an Italian Mom, rather than a Chinese one if this is how they do it.
Congrats on your SITS day and also, read your lump scare. VERY glad you got a clean bill of health! Hope you went out and celebrated after that scare of a lifetime.

Mad Housewife said...

One of my favorite movies is "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." After watching that, and now reading your blog, I wanna be Greek! Holy crow, you people know how to have a family!

Anonymous said...

I am a greek mom and I am proud of it!!! I like the way that you describe greek mothers. Everything that you write is true!!!

Anonymous said...

Gee where did I go wrong ? One son is an orthopedic surgeon, one son is a company VP at 30 and a self made millionaire, One daughter is a lawyer another daughter is a stay at home mom of 4 kids with a rich husband and two degrees. I am a greek mother. Everything in Loulou's blog is precisely right. We feed kids, scold, encourage, take them to church and tell them that they are amazing and geniuses. The kids believe us. I watch my 6 grand kids being raised the same way. I am delighted :)