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.