So much rawr-ing in the last few weeks about Amy Chua’s shocking mothering memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother!
The explosion began with Chua’s piece in the Washington Post called “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” where she proudly announced her strict parenting regimen of three-hour violin and piano practice sessions, shame-inducing insults and a no-sleepovers-or-anything-fun-EVER policy for her two daughters. Chua insists that the kind of cruel discipline present in first and second generation Chinese (and other immigrant) families is necessary to produce skilled, responsible adults—or at least avoid raising the kind of bratty, entitled shmucks who seem to be overtaking our country.
Folks, especially Jewish mothers, are pissed. The New York Times reports Chua has been called a “monster” and received death threats for her provocative support of a parenting style that’s put many into therapy for life.
Personally, I’m impressed Chua has enough confidence in her parenting skills to share them as if they’re actually working. I mean, how do you know? When they get into a good college—but then binge drink and screw the debate team? When they score a fat job after graduation but develop a secret heroin problem? I want my kids to be happy, productive citizens, and all I know is that they absolutely cannot be trusted to figure how do this on their own.
While I worry terribly over their self-esteems, and El Yenta Man cannot seem to give up his penchant for getting a little too involved in science fair projects, I kind of believe in Chua’s philosophy of demanding they do their homework, respect their elders and work their little tushies off to excel:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up.
Fundamental stuff, no? Not that anyone would ever accuse us of being Tiger parents: Last night at 10pm, one kid had literally have his iPod pried away from him because he said he wouldn’t go to sleep until he surpassed Level 16 on “Angry Birds” while the other one was riding a broom around the house in her underwear pretending to be Witchy Lady Gaga.
You’d think we could count ourselves as doing something right since Yenta Boy practices piano for hours a day without being asked. Yet this does this not puff my pride up like a mother peacock whose progeny has scored with every hen in the yard. Why? Because instead of tackling the simple arrangement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” that his teacher assigned him months ago, he gleefully bangs out the same damn jaunty three chords of Cee Lo Green’s “F*ck You.”
At least he sings the clean lyrics?
Apparently that spin was all the WSJ, which wanted controversy for ratings.
The headline and choice of excerpt was all theirs.
Chua herself describes the book as a memoir, not a parenting manual, and the tone is supposed to be “tongue-in-cheek,” since she later gets her comeuppance when her 13 year old pushes back, as documented in subsequent chapters.
I saw that, Tzipporah—though Chua has certainly defended her position publicly, probably because it’s selling books! Have you had a chance to read it?
LOL for real here! I thought I was in danger of being tarred and feathered for agreeing with some of Chau’s methods. I learned of the article from my daughter. She sent it along with a one-liner about how she knows she’s Blackanese because I raised her like we were Chinese.
Was I insulted? No. Why not? Because I wasn’t the Dragon Mom From Hell. It’s true we didn’t own a television for most of her life. It meant we read a lot, spent a lot of time outdoors in the mountains, and we had a lot of hobbies.
She went to camp for Gifted and Talented children, she could read and write before she was three, she played the piano without us ever owning a piano. Today she has two degrees, speaks French, vacations in France when she saves up for the trips, has been to Greece, speaks Mandarin . . . Oh! She is not a single unwed mother. She has a career and not just a job to pay the bills. She is self-sufficient, pays her bills and she is a law-abiding, tax paying citizen. 😀
Tongue-in-cheek? That’s fine. Many a truth is said in jest, and with tongue in cheek. 😉
I would never use the methods that she promotes since her approach lacks the balance between the aspirations of a parent and the actual capacity of a child to perform well under so much pressure. What is really concerning is the fact that she can damage the reputation of those Chinese parents who don’t use her methods.
No, haven’t read it, have no intention of doing so. I have enough doubt about my (moderate) parenting methods without reading critiques from both extremes. 🙂