Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
A few months ago I was asked to review an upcoming book. By now you have probably heard about it. It was the positions on parenting that brought Family Volley and The Tiger Mother together. When I agreed I had no idea how controversial this book would be.
The root of the controversy is easy to see. As I started to read about Chua and her Chinese ways, I couldn't help but wonder in what chapter of the book Social Services would make their appearance. Her story about putting her three year outside to stand in weather with wind chill of twenty below because she wouldn't practice the piano, struck me as abuse too.
I thought I would continue reading with outrage. I thought I would be mad. I wasn't. Tiger Mother has left me with so much to think about that I am having trouble organizing my thoughts. I am not going to give you a Tiger Mother history. Google the book and you will get all you need about the fact that she is a Law Prof. at Yale and a second generation Chinese American. You can also read all the yay's and nay's.
According to the book, the Chinese Way is extreme parenting at its finest. Chinese parenting believes "schoolwork always comes first, an A minus is a bad grade, you should never compliment your children in public, the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal, and that medal must be gold." Different than the Western parenting philosophies that "believe in providing children with a nurturing environment where individuality is respected and kids are encouraged to pursue their passions."
This said...After reading the book, here are a number of things on my mind...Food for thought...
The way we were raised has a huge affect on how we raise our children. If we liked the way our parents did things, if we are comfortable with what we have become, then we will do things the same way. If we don't like the way our parents did things we are more likely to do things differently. Tiger Mother was raised the Chinese Way. So were her parents and their parents. It worked for them. It is all she knows. It is important that as parents we develop our own way of parenting. We should work with our spouses to do what is best for our families.
There are plenty of Chinese children that are not math whizzes, gold medalists and piano protégés. Just like there are plenty of Western children that are math whizzes, gold medalists, and piano protégés.
In my opinion, Chua's extreme Chinese parenting practices are outlandish and ofter ridiculous. There is yelling and force and many many threats, coupled with more yelling. Her daughters are required to practice piano and violin for hours on end. They are given zero opportunities to have friends or play. I don't agree with any of this. Many a successful child has and will be raised in nurturing environments where they are encouraged to pursue their passions void of yelling and force.
We have to be careful when we stereotype. Not all kids who like the drums will become drug addicts, and not all Western parents have low expectations for their children.
Studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend roughly 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. It has been said that love is spelled T-I-M-E. As parents we all need to spend more time working with and helping our children.
The Chinese way of parenting is void of choice. Children have no say. Children need choice. Sometimes as parents, when faced with a little opposition from our kids, we fold. As a result we live in a time where kids expect, and assume they should have what they want when they want it, without working for it. As parents we do need to stand strong. There are times when we do know best and we need to stand our ground.
As parents we often want our children to do certain things and act certain ways because it will make us look good. Good grades mean a good parent, as do good manners. We have to be careful not to manipulate our children just so we look like great parents. In Tiger mother it is all about how the parents look. Disobedient children are a disgrace to their parents. Although we want our children to love and respect and obey us. We have to realize that it is not all about us.
This is not a parenting book filled with "you should's" and "how too's. Chua simply gives us a glimpse into why Chinese parents do things the way they do and how a Chinese parent understands and views Western Ways.
Don't look at it as a parenting manual. Chua is not telling anyone how parenting should be done. Her views are stepped in tradition, history, habit and expectations.
It is easy to be taken a back by Chua's stereotypes and assumptions. She makes harsh statements about Westerners lack of drive and vision for their children. It can be easy to be offended and put off. She does feel her parenting style is best.
At the same time, I was able to evaluate the type of parent I am and am trying to become. I have struggled to keep our son practicing the piano for 30 minutes. I know what it is like to face the homework battle. Each time we have a situation I have to decide how I want to handle it. Do I want to yell and threaten? Or, do I have the knowledge that can help me handle the situation without the force? I do, and I believe that will produce the same results, if not greater ones.
We do need to expect great things from our children. If we don't, who will.
We do need to make sacrifices to help them succeed and improve.
Because of the Tiger Mother's parenting style she almost looses her second daughter. There is an instance when Chua realizes this and makes changes to save the relationship. She cannot abandon her Chinese ways altogether, but she tries to find some compromise. This applies to all of us. We need to be humble as parents. We need to recognize when what we are doing isn't working and modify. We are not perfect.
Each of our children will be different. They are not cookie cutters. What worked for the first, might not for the second and third. The sooner we realize this, the better parents we can be.
I really enjoyed reading this book. It was quick to get through, easy to follow, and left me with so much to think about I am considering starting a weekly post on Family Volley were we address some of the topics I have touched on above. Read it, evaluate your feelings and address your own parenting style. It does what any good book does, sends you through a whirlwind of emotions. All centered around one of the most important things we can do, raise children.
This is the story of a mothers journey to raise her children. I am a mother on the same journey.
HAVE ANY OF YOU READ TIGER MOTHER?
DO YOU THINK PARENTING CAN BE DONE WITHOUT ALL THE YELLING?