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Posts Tagged ‘Tiger Mom’

The first time I encountered the term “tiger mom” was a couple of weeks ago when I still had a Facebook account. One of my “Facebook friends” posted on her wall saying that she seemed to be a tiger mom because she wasn’t happy getting a 90% on one of her postgraduate evaluations. “Tiger mom” I thought to myself… and quickly went to the pantheon (a.k.a. Google) to get an answer. I was in shock. The media had done an amazing job in covering Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”. ABC, Time and New York Post among others have rated Chua’s memoirs. I started reading the reviews and could only think how was it possible for a human being to be so cruel with her own daughters and have the guts to publish it. I simply wanted to exterminate this woman.

And then, the light. Something had to be wrong with all the reviews. Just as I said before, Chua published her experience raising her daughters. She was making public her life and the life of her family. In the worst-case scenario, if Chua were the complete monster the media was telling me she was, I would have the chance to know the other side and make sure to never enter those boundaries with my own children. Eagerly, I went to my number one bookstore and purchased my e-book copy of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom”.

In the first chapter Chua tries to explain the differences between American and Chinese cultures. In few words, she says that the parenting model followed in America is completely different from the one followed in Asia. In America parents try to establish a dialogue with their kids. They encourage them to take their own decisions. They want to be nurturing and supportive and, above all, never ask more of the kid than what he says he can take. The Chinese, on the other hand, believe that parents are the ones who must decide for their children since they know better. There is really no dialogue between parents and kids and only in adulthood can a son or daughter make his or her own decision. Above all, and maybe here lies one of the biggest differences, Asians are constantly demanding more and more of their kids because they believe they are capable of perfection.

So far, so good.  It is in the subsequent chapters that the nightmare begins. The media are right when they write about the horror stories that Chua made her daughters go through. Practicing their instruments non-stop. Achieving only A’s and A+’s. Never having play dates. Going on family vacations and being forced to practice their instruments even afar. Criticizing most of what they do (and yes, here we can include the famous birthday cards Chua rejected from her daughters) and only on special occasions telling her daughters how great they are. Chua also describes some of the times when she would call names to her daughters in order to make them do what she thought was best for them.  Only with the above, we can easily considered this woman a monster if we don’t take the time to fully read her story.

Many may consider Chua an abusive parent. But, here’s the thing: most abusers exceed their power over their kids in order to control them in a selfish ambition to have complete power over the little ones. What Chua tries to do is control her daughters but not for her own satisfaction but for the benefit of her kids. We even see she has to make huge sacrifices in her personal life in order to attend her daughters and ask of them all she asks. She is a Yale law teacher and has to balance time between her career, her publications, her husband, her dogs, her house and her daughters. She doesn’t have any time for herself and she doesn’t complain about it. Chua simply accepts the choice she has made of raising her daughters the Chinese way even if that means not being understood in the society she lives in and renouncing to her own commodities.

Another point to consider which I didn’t have the chance to see on the on-line reviews and criticisms is Chua’s conclusions of her parenting style. Chua finally admits that the Chinese parenting model sometimes works to perfection. Sophia, her older daughter never questioned her authority and is thankful of what her mother did. Lulu, the youngest, is the opposite. She simply decides to rebel to her mother’s expectations. Although Chua gives a fight during many years, she finally decides to back off and let Lulu take her own path (in a very American way). The author recons that this wasn’t easy for her to do and that somehow she keeps on being a Chinese mother. But at the end she understands that every child is different and that she must learn how to treat them with their differences.

Finally, a little of my own. I could never be a Chinese mother. Being no expert, something in my guts (maybe we could call it my maternal instinct) tells me that kids need to play and value the experience of learning by being fascinated by it and not by force. I want my kids to be happy not only as kids but also as adults. I want them to learn the significance of important things in life and to live according to certain values. And all this, I want them to do it because they are convinced of it and not because it’s a law they must follow. Yet, there are some things I rescue of Chua’s parenting style and that makes me question the American way of raising our kids. For example, the importance of a son or daughter to respect his or her parents. The need for parents to sometimes take the decisions for their kids because, after all, a child is a child and he won’t always have the ability to make the right decisions. Above all, I agree with Chua that being a parent requires dedication, effort, love, persistence, patience and will. Giving up on a child is not an option. Maybe Chua wasn’t the perfect mother (how many of us are?) but she dedicated 100% of herself to raise her kids according to what she considered was the best path and her memoirs are here to demonstrate it. Maybe we shouldn’t condemn Chua, at least not before reading her book.

 

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