Friday, January 28, 2011

What's Up, Tiger Mama?

Golf claps to Amy Chua and Penguin Press for creating such great buzz about her unusual parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published earlier this month.  And the buzz has only snowballed.  Just yesterday, I heard people talking about this book at my gym, grocery store, on television, and in my local newspaper.  It's impossible not to have an opinion, or at least a reaction, on this subject. 

Amy Chua, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and her Jewish husband decided to raise their two daughters in the "Chinese" way with strict, uncompromising, old world values where academic success, musical excellence, and respect for authority is expected, not hoped for.  She did not want to raise "soft, entitled children" and equates Western parenting with failure.  Suffice it to say that the "everyone gets a trophy just for showing up" practice would not go over well with her.  As a result of her parenting methods, she claims that her daughters, now teens, are the envy of neighbors and friends.

I have mixed emotions about Chua's parenting decisions.  On the one hand, some of her actions (e.g. keeping her daughter outside in the cold when she didn't practice enough piano) border pretty close to abuse.  Yet, on the other hand, it's far better parenting than a lot of the clueless parents I see today who seem far more interested in their text messages, cell phones, and reality shows than they do in raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted children. 

In my opinion, the answer to good parenting doesn't lie in the extremes but somewhere solidly in between.  I do agree with some of Chua's methods, like a respect for authority and having high expectations for her children, although perhaps I might cringe at her methods.  And, seriously, if I ruled the Galaxy Far, Far Away, I would require all potential parents to demonstrate basic parenting competencies (e.g. maturity, the ability to nurture, care, and afford children) before they could procreate.  But that's just me and a pipe dream.

Have you heard of this intriguing memoir? What do you think about Amy Chua's parenting methods?

13 comments:

Danette said...

I haven't heard of it yet but our new books are a little slower trickling in right now as they've slowed down on purchasing. I'll look at BnN the next time we're there. But I agree, I think the trick is somewhere in the middle. My son has pretty firm boundaries and people tell me we're pretty strict in our house (Maurice had two older boys and had pretty solid ideas on what boundaries we should give me son), but he's a good kid with very good manners. No one ever complains about his behavior.

Elena Solodow said...

I haven't heard of it yet. It sounds like an interesting read, tho I agree that not all of her methods seem like the best ones.

Marianne Arkins said...

I haven't heard of the book either ... wonder what rock I'm living under? I have to admit to really hating our society's ideas of making sure our kids "feel good about themselves" over and above anything else. Disallowing games like tag from the school yard is ridiculous, and allowing everyone who tries out for a sports team to be allowed on (and then to force the coaches to play everyone equally) is stupid.

That's simply not real life. Our kids should learn where their strengths lie, and focus there. Not everyone can play basketball or be an actor or excel at science. And we shouldn't pretend otherwise (and award everyone with a trophy just for showing up).

Um. Yeah. I'm a little passionate about it. And will have to pick up the book... I'm intrigued.

Shirley Wells said...

I haven't heard of the book. Perhaps it's slow coming to the UK. I'm intrigued now and will have to check it out.

While I agree that respect for authority should be expected from children, I'm not so sure about the musical excellence. Why make some poor child stand out in the cold for not practising enough piano when said child could be engrossed in a book and learning about the world? It sounds to me like a) abuse and b) stifling a child's natural talents.

There has to be a happy middle ground in parenting.

Colette said...

I have heard of it -- haven't read it yet. We live in area where there is a high population of oriental families -- and most of the children are very successful academically. What I have heard about the book rings very true. Like you, I give these parents credit for caring and striving to help their kids achieve. But there's always another side.

Sherri said...

I haven't read it, probably won't, but saw an interview with her. As you said there should be a solid middle ground in parenting. I have 4 and each one requires a slightly different approach. My oldest for example is extremely lazy and I do demand good grades from him because I knew he's capable of them when he applies himself. I know we aren't the strictest parents out there but we do get the "but so and so can do this, has that, etc." enough that I feel we're on solid ground.

Elizabeth Bass said...

I saw a documentary about a Chinese family called Last Train Home, and it made me understand why Chinese parents might be so exacting. When failure means a life of sweatshop drudgery (making jeans for Americans), and living in a bed-sized cubicle with a shower curtain for a door, getting results from education is more important than building self-esteem.

To use that style of parenting in a North American setting seems a little crazy, though. I hope the author of that book puts aside some of the proceeds for her kids' therapy fund. Sounds like they're going to need it.

Kristabel Reed said...

I read the Time cover article on it. Fascinating. There was also a lot of psychological info in the article that backed up Chua's theory if not methods.

All in all, very interesting

Liz Fichera said...

It would be interesting for her daughters to write a memoir, "Growing Up with A Tiger Mother" or something. While she claims that they are the envy of their neighbors friends, I wonder if there are parts of their childhood they will miss--like simply being able to be children. Will they have solid self-esteem because they are so good academically and musically? Or will they suffer from poor self-esteem because they will always want to excel at everything and that's just not humanly possible. Believe me, I've tried. :-)

Angelina Rain said...

I haven’t read the book, but I’ve heard of it. Although I think her methods are very extreme, I think some of them could be incorporated (and tuned down a bit) into modern parenting. It seems like today, parents are more concerned with talking on their phones then talking to kids. I have a ten year old step daughter and before my hubby and I got married, she was allowed to do whatever she wanted. There was no such thing as discipline. She was growing up so unruly that relatives wouldn’t invite us over at the fear of having her in their house. My husband felt like since he doesn’t get to see her that often that he should spoil her when he has her, but she was overly spoiled. His ex-wife would rather talk on the phone then parent her child, so she wasn’t getting any discipline from there too. All the mom ever did was either ignore her or yell at her so she would purposely get in trouble to get her mother’s attention. When it came to talks about the “monthly visitor”, she found out from her friends rather than family. And rather than going to her mother for answers, she came to me instead, because I actually talk to her. Now my husband is starting to actually parent her for a change too, and although it’s hard on him to yell at her and ground her when she does something stupid, he knows that it’s the only real parenting she gets as her mother couldn’t care less about raising her own kid. She’s still not a perfect child, since my husband deluded her into thinking that you don’t need to try in school because Daddy will fix all your messes. She gets straight D and F’s, but together we’re trying to now re-teach her and make it clear that Daddy can’t fix ALL of her messes, so she needs to put more effort into it herself.

Sorry this comment is so long. I just had to put my two cents in it, and then I started rambling.

Monika Michalak said...

I have heard of it. I think the basic premise is good but she is extreme in her ways to get the the desired results. I have good kids and they are a little spoiled. They are the only grandkids on both sides. It is so difficult -- for me-- not to try to make your kids happy and do what ever you can to achieve that. Like running to the store on a him, etc. I think I am doing a good job, but I know I am too soft some times, but I could never be as penal as Tiger Mama! Did her kids feel loved and secure? I don't think she was demostartive in her affection and that is the saddest of all!

Linda Leszczuk said...

I've heard some of the furor over this book and caught part of an interview with the author. Neither gave me the slightest desire to purchase/read the book.

Liz Fichera said...

Angelina, how kind of you to take on such a responsibility. Sounds like you're going in the right direction.