Monday, March 14, 2011

Confessions of a Non-Tiger Mom

Parents, answer these questions truthfully:

When your child breaks down and cries because she is reprimanded by you or your partner do you sometimes feel sad too because they are hurt or feeling demeaned?

If your child tells you they want to withdraw from a certain lesson or practice or sport because they dislike it or are by bored with it do you, at times, tend to agree with them and think they should?

Do you think your kid should do her own homework without your assistance/interference?

Do you offer unconditional praise and support when your kid presents his or her report card and you are sure that the grades are representative of his or her innate abilities even if the grade is not at the highest level?

Do you think your kid should choose her or his own extracurricular activities?

If you answered yes to all these questions, you, too, are a non-Tiger Mom. Mothers, you all must know about this woman Amy Chua, the Yale law professor who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom about the superiority of Chinese style of parenting? This it epitomized by this graphic image above.

May I tell you how annoyed I am with her? I can't figure out if this is just a very clever way of marketing the book by pushing people's buttons or if she really believes this stuff. Her rules in raising two daughters (as in things they were never permitted to do):
• attend a sleepover
• have a play date
• be in a school play or complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin or have the choice not play the piano or violin.

Read her account of trying to teach her youngest Lulu a complicated piano piece here. Ech...already my blood is boiling.

I will admit that R is more stringent than I am regarding academics and extracurricular activities. And he is more demanding of good grades. So this is what I have noticed: J is much more concerned what her father thinks about her grades. She will walk right past me (and has often done this) to show dad a particularly good grade on a paper or exam. When I asked her why she said this, "Well you are happy with anything I do but Daddy is a little tougher." A little? Try alot. And then I begin to wonder if I am too soft. R would say I am.

But here is my personal problem with this Tiger Mom approach and why I don't think it is effective for everyone, meaning most kids. I was a smart kid in high school - mostly got mid to high 80s in many grades, worked part time in our family business - including twelve hour shifts on Saturdays and numerous chores throughout the week - was elected to the student council for three years in high school and eventually became President of my high school. 

When I was 15 and brought home a 90% report card my mom said to me with the obvious intent of encouraging me, "That's good but you can get a better grade." So my emotional response was to shut down and do less not more. And, I felt that my family still treated me like I was a lazy underachiever despite my achievements.

I knew that her response was illogical and not helpful to my development - academic or emotional. I knew that instinctively. So intense pressure doesn't work for everyone. The sad thing is that the technique that Chua advocates will work "successfully" on a certain kind of child but...not everyone. But at what cost to their happiness and self esteem (yes that dirty word that Chua despises)? 

Because happy and non-resentful of one's parents is better than high achieving. Happy is better than highly successful but miserable. Happy and well adjusted is infinitely better than bragging about your kid's grades or mastery of the piano. Any kid can tell you that. 


Cheryl said...

This woman is disturbing. Is she raising children or robots???

Michelle said...

Literally, Cheryl, when I hear her speak I feel like my head will explode.

Chris said...

Chua keeps claiming the book is a memoir, not a parenting guide. She points to various episodes toward that prove her methods have limits.

I dunno. I haven't read it. But it disturbs me how easily teenagers can drop a course or muddle on through their studies these days, all for the supposed sake of their emotional health. If they were qualified to make these decisions for themselves, they'd be adults.

Anonymous said...

The Tiger mom is a classic piece of conservative propaganda.


1. Identify a perceived problem: Kids get away with too much in the name of self-esteem.

2. Present a radical solution that seems to solve the problem: Don't give your kids any freedom whatsoever.

Yes, it may be true that some parents have gone too far in ensuring that their kids are happy. What is really called for is more work on behalf of parents to get down to the truth of when their kids are truly miserable and when they are trying to get away with something. But just like conservative-types always do, the tiger mom says, "if we allow self-esteem to enter our thinking, we are subject to being tricked." So, she prefers to be totalitarian and control all the variables. The same principles are applied when cutting welfare, restricting immigration etc. It's the easy way out. It is not helpful and it making us all black and white thinkers with no compassion or ability to discern subtlety in making important decisions.