Monday, March 5, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Oh, man.  Tiger Mothering is intense.  Amy Chua's book about parenting the Chinese way is very funny at some points, very enraging at others.
Being a tiger mother involves making sure your children follow these rules:
-no playdates.
-no grades less than A (A minus included).
-must be first in class in every subject but gym.
-no participating in school plays.
-must play piano or violin.
As Chua will tell you, though, these rules are difficult for both child and mother.  This Eastern parenting style is heavy on setting the bar high for your child, and believing they can achieve it.  Mother and daughters (in this case) are expected to practice on either piano or violin for several hours a day (Chua listened and gave advice, while daughters practiced); grueling, yes, but necessary to have your child play at Carnegie Hall in their early teens, which her older daughter did.  Chua went on very little sleep (definitely on her own accord) while helping her children, not just achieve the goals she set for them, but surpass them; in repayment, she expected total obedience and dedication to the tasks she put forth.  The sections on her older daughter, Sophia, show that this style worked well, which her younger daughter, Lily, struggled with the system and eventually made her mother give up on Tiger Mothering.
Okay, all of this sounds unbearably difficult, almost tedious, and counterintuitive to the American/Western parenting style.  I mean, she refused homemade birthday cards from her children because she knew they put very little thought into them and she expected more.  Harsh, much?  On the other hand, is it a bad thing to teach your children that hard work is necessary in life?  Very few people are able to coast through life solely on good looks or common sense- there is a degree of effort involved in succeeding. 
My mom, Summer, and I saw Amy Chua at the National Book Festival last year, and Summer and I agreed that being able to hear her voice and inflection in the pages in the book helped turn it into a humanizing look at a family's foray into Tiger Mothering.  Chua is able to step back and see that she's being overbearing, although that doesn't stop her from expecting the very best from her children.  Some of the book in tongue-in-cheek, and it's a memoir, not a parenting guide. 
I'd definitely recommend this book, and can see how it sparked such heated debate in parenting circles when it was released last year.  Go into the book with an open mind, and try to find someone you can discuss with afterward; I promise, the conversation will be worthwhile.

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog. You might like this poem about mothers.