I’m sure by now you’ve heard all about the Tiger Mom controversy. If not, no worries, I’ll get you up to speed. Yale professor Amy Chua just released a book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In it she talks about her harsh, no-nonsense tactics for raising her two daughters. Chua maintains that her daughters successes (straight A’s and winning musical competitions) are the result of her “Chinese mothering.” Her rules for her daughters included not allowing them to attend sleepovers or have play-dates, they weren’t allowed to be in school plays or watch tv, they had to get straight A’s and had to play the violin or the piano – no exceptions. From my perspective the rules were the easy part – the way she enforced them is what made them uber-harsh. She notes at one point calling her daughter garbage for being disrespectful to her. One of her daughters came in second in a math competition and was forced to do 2,000 math problems a night until she was again number 1. In another instance her daughters gave her birthday cards that didn’t meet her standards so she rejected them and demanded that they make new ones. The list of corrective measures goes on and on. Here’s what she had to say about her methods:
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. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle.
She asserts that Western parents are too soft and that we tend to worry about our children’s self-esteem and therefore accept mediocrity. She makes the point that a Western parent wouldn’t call their child fat and wouldn’t tell them that they are stupid. These terms apparently aren’t off limits in a “Chinese” household. As I read an excerpt from her book and the commentary that followed, I found myself a little… well, disturbed. I couldn’t see telling my child that he’s fat, garbage or stupid. I couldn’t even imagine thinking it let alone letting it fly from my lips! I think that there is a world full of people who will do their best to try to demean him and break him down and break his spirits. I, his mother, don’t need to be one of those people. When the world tears him down, it’s my job to affirm him and build him up. I didn’t bring him into this world to make him feel small. I also don’t plan on coddling him and accepting mediocrity. I know he’s capable of great things, there are other ways to pull them out of him that don’t require him to suffer the lifelong scars of my tiger paw. Then again, I’m just a Westerner. What are your thoughts about Tiger Parenting? I’d love to hear other viewpoints. I know Chua only represents her view on “Chinese” parenting.
image via theatlantic.com