Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother...

I loved this book. I found it incredibly inspiring. I wish I could find the quote I'm thinking of where Amy Chua explains her dreams for her children and how her children are an extension of herself. I feel that way. When my children do something well, I am more proud of their accomplishment than anything I do myself.
I'm not a Tiger Mother, not even close. I worry that Amy Chau's criticism of Western Parents fits me, even though I don't drink. Quoting the stereotypical Western Parent she says, "As much as it kills me, I just have to let my kids make their choices and follow their hearts. It's the hardest thing in the world, but I'm doing my best to hold back..." Then says Ms. Chau, "... They get to have glass of wine and go to a yoga class, whereas I have to stay home and scream and have my kids hate me."
Honestly, when I look at the time commitment and the extra-human effort Ms. Chau made, I know that I'm too selfish and too lazy to have done what she did.
But, where I have laid down the law, the book made me feel like I had a supporter. We don't allow sleep-overs either, for exactly the reasons Ms. Chau lists and a few others. Sleep overs are not good for children in my opinion. They need their sleep.
I don't accept less than best efforts at school. I wouldn't faint over a B, if I knew it were my daughter's best effort, but it probably wouldn't be, so I might be upset.
I understand where Ms. Chau gets some of her ideas about Western Parents, but her constant harping on it became somewhat offensive to me by the end. I don't judge Chinese parents only by the poorly behaved ones who make the news. Her comments may have been satirical, but enough already.
I also vehemently disagree with screaming, if that's really what it was and not an exaggeration. Children don't learn a thing from a screaming parent. They only try to survive until the screaming is over. And, while Ms. Chau seems to claim that this worked with her older daughter Sophie, I really don't believe "the screaming" is what worked for Sophie. The time and devotion, the interest, the real love and a desire to please, but insults and screaming don't encourage growth in children ever. Sophie excelled in spite of the screaming and insults.
From a faith perspective, light and knowledge have one source and it cannot be present in concert with a spirit of anger, contention and belittling a child.
An underlying theme of this book is the question: Where does self worth come from. Self worth comes from knowing you are a Child of God and behaving like one whether you are a concert violinist or a janitor. Self esteem comes from making a contribution, from doing your best, from devoloping and sharing your talents.
But, Ms. Chau is correct that undeserved praise, first place trophies for everyone and celebrating mediocrity are recipes for societal disaster. However, I would never push a child like she did. It's a glittering wonder to play at Carnegie Hall in the 8th grade, but where do you go from there? Many, many "prodigies" are never heard from again. You don't want to peak at 14.
I'm grateful for Ms. Chau's effort to write this book. It made me think a lot about time. It's a gift. We only have a certain amount to spend with our children. Childhood IS a training period. There must be studies and lessons. Until a child knows how to surround themselves with the best for them, they need direction in both their lessons and studies and in their leisure. Children need to be successful and productive adults, but they also need to be directed to watch the stars, blow on dandelion seeds and just play. That said, most could benefit from a bit of Chinese parenting.


Circe said...

What a great review! I love your balanced insights and the fact that you "got" what Amy Chua was saying! It seems like some readers missed the satire, and missed the point completely. The great thing about "Chinese" parenting is just what you said, the superhuman effort and time that parents pour into their children. It's a total sacrifice. That's the part I feel inspired by. The quote you used, I was looking for it for my review, but I couldn't find it! I loved it. I like your take on it! See you Thurs.

Jennie said...

Amen Sista! I agree whole heartedly. I'm glad you enjoyed the book. I thought the same thing... no yelling, but yes, we do need to be more engaged.

Janice said...

We don't allow sleep overs at our house either. I also don't belong to a gym and have never put my kids in any sort of day care, so I could go do my thing. Currently, our bus stop is a disaster (too many unsupervised kids) and no parent would stay there but me. That wasn't working (my kids being told, "Your mom makes things no fun") so I now drive my kids to school. Funny, I started getting calls from the other parents asking me why I wasn't there to protect their kids.

Alicia said...

I just want my kids to be able to get married in the temple and enjoy being married to the right person like I got to do. Also, be able to afford to pay their bills in adulthood, which means they'll need to get better grades in school than I did and I'll let them know that.

The rest is up to them. If they stay worthy to enter the temple throughout their whole life, they'll be a prodigy in my eyes. I think that devout, Mormon parents (which does not include all parents who happen to be Mormon)have something that Ms. Chau may not have realized in her generalizations (based on what you said she said): that is, there are similarities between us and her. We just want our children to be "prodigies" in God's eyes, not the world's.

A good parent will spend the same amount of time and care with their child as Ms. Chau does to help coach them in this direction. But the minute they yell or force, the goal is obsolete. I would say to Ms. Chau, "you get to yell and scream and threaten, while I have to learn to control my temper, have patience and understanding and prayer knowing that ultimately my child has a choice, even though for me and my beliefs, the stakes are as high as for you and your beliefs." Wouldn't it be easier if I could just "lose it" every once in a while and feel justified? Heck yes it would. But that would make me a child, just like my child.

Alicia said...

@ Janice: isn't that crazy? That other parents would wonder why you weren't there to protect their kids? I have felt a little dumped on by other moms in my neck of the woods.

@ Jennie: I completely agree. It takes a lot of self-discipline for me to be engaged with my toddler because I am bored by things that interest her. I want to do my own thing. I have to put on the calendar an "outing" each day for an hour or two that is specifically designed to be interesting to my daughter and make myself read and do puzzles and color. I know it isn't effort wasted, but sometimes it's just hard work to do those things.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for gracing my blog with your thoughtful comment! I must admit that your excellent review here was the impetus for writing my post today. (I should have left a comment then -- but I'm too shy!)

I read the book last week and loved it, but was unsettled by how she equated her daughters' value with such lofty, grandiose ideals. And ONLY if they reached them. I meant to write about it. But then I got swallowed up in the chaos of my non-tiger-obeying crazy household. It wasn't until I read your post that I remembered I also wanted to chime in ... So thank you for lifting me up a bit today as I exercised my brain. Rare, I know.

Thank you, too, for your reminder that light and knowledge can't coexist with anger and contention. That's powerful.

G said...

I didn't read the book yet, but read the articles about it in the Wall Street Journal.

One thing I got out of it is the belief that rewarding for mediocrity is damaging. I have thought about parents I know who push the scout leaders into giving their sons awards that weren't quite earned. One of the sons is a bully, but a black belt in Karate. I realized that he is a black belt as much as I am a black belt, that his parents probably pushed the karate teacher to give the status ASAP like they do the scout leaders (myself having succumbed to their pressure, because I was too uncomfortable questioning their integrity). How sad to go through life being pushed to the next award without ever experiencing true accomplishment. I wonder if these parents realize they are robbing their son(s) of the thing they are trying to give them--self respect.

love.boxes said...

G.. I agree. Childhood is a precious time and one to have fun.. but it is also an important training period and when parents fudge that... they cheat their children. I think that was one of the most important themes of the book.