So unless you’ve been under a rock (or possibly you have an actual life) you probably have heard about the Tiger Mother. Also known as Amy Chua, she has a book that came out this week, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In case you haven’t heard of her or her book, you can read an excerpt here in the Wall Street Journal. Or you can read a review here in the Washington Post. All over the Internet people are talking about her and her book and her parenting methods.
One thing is for certain.
Amy Chua has a great publicist who organized one fantastic marketing campaign.
I haven’t actually read the book so I can only base my opinion on the excerpt and the review. From what I’ve read, I would agree with those who think Chua’s parenting methods border on or downright cross the line to abuse. On the two homeschool message boards I visit there have been long discussions about the articles and for the most part people are vehement in their opposition to her. She had to have known that titling an article in the Wall Street Journal “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” wasn’t going to win her a lot of friends. And I’m pretty sure she was looking for that controversy. It sure has gotten her a lot of buzz.
I think the unfortunate thing about all the controversy is that it sounds like the book raises some interesting questions about different cultural views of success and happiness. Chua’s methods are extreme but judging all Asian mothers by one woman who refused to give her seven year old daughter a bathroom break for seven hours while she was practicing the piano is like judging all unschoolers by the one family who lets their kids watch video games all day. I might not think unschooling is right for us but there are things about the method that I can learn from. Likewise, if we can just agree that virtually none of us are going to parent like Chua then maybe we could discuss the broader ideas in her book.
When H. read the Washington Post review the part he found the most intriguing was when they quoted Chua: “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.”
That is intriguing.
I can see that it’s often true. When H. and I were first dating we played golf a few times. It wasn’t very fun for me, mostly because I was terrible. I could see that it would be more fun if I put the time in and got better but it wasn’t that important to me so I didn’t.
On the other hand, there are times I can think of when something was fun precisely because I wasn’t good at it. Or maybe to be more exact, because I didn’t care very much about it and could just do it without worrying about if I was doing it right. I went swing dancing once and was pretty terrible. It was a blast though because I had no idea what I was doing and could just enjoy watching all the people who were good at it. I took an oil painting class my senior year of college and it was incredibly relaxing because I wasn’t very good at it. My days were filled with science classes that I loved (and was good at). I found science class and lab research fun. But it was also stressful because I wanted to be the best. Oil painting was something I knew I wasn’t ever going to master but it was just really fun to do. I didn’t have to worry about being the best, but could appreciate the experience.
I think most of us as parents walk the line between pushing our kids to be the best they can be and wanting them to know they are loved and accepted for who they are. In the suburbs where I live, I think most parents struggle with the notions of ambition and success and happiness. Most of us want our kids to be happy, but if forced to admit it would have to admit that we have some model of traditional educational and career success in mind as part of that happiness. I plan on reading this book eventually, when it’s available in the library. If nothing else, it may help me think through some of these struggles, even if it doesn’t serve as a model for how I want to parent.