Mothers superior

One day, while driving through the suburbs of Los Angeles, my French husband noticed a bumper sticker on a car that read: “My child is a superstar at Kester Elementary School.” He turned to me and asked: “What’s the point of that bumper sticker?”
We’d just returned to Los Angeles after living in France for over ten years, where I’d had two children and become a French citizen. Somehow in that span of time, America had gone from being a culture of trophy wives to a culture of trophy kids. An unsettling but unspoken emotion seemed to float among parents. That emotion could be summed up in one four letter word: Fear.
Volumes have been written about that fear – fear, among other things, that in the global education race American kids will be left to bite the dust of Asians. No wonder Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” is every American parent’s worse nightmare: a Chinese icon of steely perfection and punishing taskmaster whose obedient, high-performing uber-academic offspring seem poised to take on the New World Order. Chances are that New World Order speaks Mandarin. And chances are, your kids do not.
Chua’s celebration of Chinese parenting and her bizarre assertions fly in the face of everything beholden to Western parents. Take the notion that for kids “nothing is fun unless you’re good at it.” You can basically kiss childhood away with that statement. Ditto for the conviction that “the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.” And yet in being so ridiculously extreme Chua is, in fact, perfectly American, because in our culture of extremes — Extreme Politics, Extreme Home Makeovers, Extreme Sports, Extreme Cooking, Extreme Dating, Extreme Adventures  (the list goes on) — we can thank Chua for ushering in a perfectly American new idiom: Extreme Parenting.

When Chua’s pre-book launch Wall Street Journal article “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” went viral, countless parents the world over had something to say. One of them was French mother Elisabeth Guedel Treussard, whose piece “Why French Mothers are Superior” (in French) included a list of things her children, à la française, are never allowed to do:


  • YR65

    Bravo, bel article

  • Kmcompagnon

    Nice article. However, the Bac and the SATs are not at all comparable; 8 AP exams might be. And it should read the French equivalent, not the American.

  • Mamatdunet

    Hello, Thank you for your article.
    As a twenty-two years old French young man, I have appreciated to read it.
    All these debates of child education is very interesting but when I see your article, I doubt about the existence of a proper model of education in France.
    I have a lot of different friends from different social categories and what I can conclude is that there’s not a typical model of French education.
    Some of my friends (boys or girls) have been very protected/ « couvés »by their mum. Others, not.

    Concerning myself, I think that I have both parts of what represent french and american education because in my family, for example, I’ve been given an education with strict rules and also, a lot of love.
    This combination, I think, is very important if the second one don’t disturb the first one. And I’ve been encouraged a lot by my parents during my childhood (but I know that’s not the case for everyone).

    Through theses two articles ( and ),
    the thing that I retain is that Americans seems to educate children in a collective way in an individualist country instead of in France, we seems to be educated more individualists in a collective country. What do you think about it ? Thank you. Matthieu

  • Xrayit

    Great piece, fun to read, thank you. I still wouldn’t have let my pre-schooler go on a field trip!, ha,,ha. When we were in France I was still told by my 3 yr.old’s teacher that since I took my kid to school only when she felt like going, she would be queuing at the ANPE (unemployment office)… my daughter is now accepted at an ivy league…

  • French in the US

    Nice try at putting in your 2 cents in this endless debate…. but isn’t it time to put the whole thing to rest and admit that each culture has its own way of rearing its young and, as far as I know, no one has come up with THE perfect solution, otherwise we would all know about it…

  • Loopy74377

    pas tout a fait vrai…mais bon, acceptable dans sa forme …

  • Patriceay

    For a more incisive and deeper commentary, google Patrice Ayme Why Are French Mothers Superior

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