Are You a Tiger Mom?
So it’s all over Twitter-scape, Face-net and The Google now: Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom diatribe, and the myriad reactions to it. It’s making my head hurt…maybe I should just give up and call my own inferior-in-all-ways American/Western parents and cry like the inner failure I am.
Just to re-cap, Amy Chua wrote a parenting book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (not really, it is a “memoir” that chronicles her walk-about on the parenting highway and how her daughters taught her a little something along the way) on Chinese mothering. Think rigid, pounding, relentless parenting until the kids “get it right.”
And by right I mean perfect. Perfect piano. Perfect grades. No after school plays. No sleep overs. No playdates.
An obvious criticism is that Chua is a despot and that by enforcing her own code on her children she removes the child’s ability to think for herself. Hard work=success but where is the creative thinking, the emotional intelligence, the je ne sais quoi of real living?
Then there is the camp that says that all that forceful parenting creates sullen, suicidal sickos who do not know how to deal with any small failure except to ram through it until they reach perfection. Oh, that sounds healthy, now doesn’t it?
And my favorite response comes from David Brooks of the New York Times who says that Amy Chua is too soft and indulgent (and he’s not being facetious). That her children, with all that piano practice and studying, are missing out on the necessary practice of navigating the ins and outs of a 14-yr old sleepover. How better to prep them for the ever-present group dynamic in the work world? I mean, have you seen a gaggle of 14 year olds together? It takes some ingenuity and real street smarts to survive that.
Since parenting is really a slippery game of chance, I can see how the “Chinese” way offers some certainty in an otherwise uncertain world. It’s like a playbook and, if followed, children will be “successful”. What parent doesn’t want successful kids? Further, what parents don’t want a little certainty? Most parents I know try to do the best they can for their kids, even if the definition of “best” varies wildly.
And yet my first thought was, what does successful really mean? How Western of me, to question that success could mean something different that professional accomplishment and all that goes with it -money, status, reputation. I don’t know. But I do ask myself, to what end is all this Tiger parenting being directed?
For me, as a parent, I want my children to feel successful, sure. I may even want them to make money, achieve professional status and be regarded as the being at top of their fields. But I see a separation between my girls and myself. One sure fire way to instill in them a solid work ethic is to embody it myself, to model it, to live by example.
So, while I have some serious problems with calling your kids “garbage,” throwing away their home-made cards because they aren’t good enough, and not allowing a child to get up from the piano until her fingers robotically pound out the perfect technique of “The Little White Donkey,” (all things Chua has admitted to doing) I do agree with her on one thing.: she puts her money where her mouth is.
Chua lives, with every part of her, that solid, ever-achieving, never give up till your fingers bleed and even then don’t give up work ethic that she believes will bring her children “success.” She lives her own lessons. She embodies her own parenting style.
I wonder, is there anything to this Tiger Mother style? I can unequivocally state that it’s not for me. I’m altogether too Western for that. But still, it makes one think, and just the act of thinking may affect how we, as parents, approach parenting. If for nothing else, at least I can thank Amy Chua for introducing a new word to my lexicon.
photo credit: Wikipedia