I try to avoid reviewing things which I haven’t seen or read, and I have not read this book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua, so maybe I should just keep my opinions to myself. But based on what I’ve heard during her many recent interviews and read in the reviews, I’m pretty convinced that reading this book would not be a good idea for me. Not that I have dangerously high blood pressure or anything, but this could be just the thing to set me off.
This woman reports, with great aplomb, the following parenting pearls of discipline and motivation:
1. Her daughters are not allowed to waste their time participating in plays or sports (apparently too much a waste of time),
2. Her daughters are not allowed to complain about not being allowed to participate in plays or sports (perhaps out of concern that they feel, or **gasp!** express any emotion of their own),
3. If her daughter does not perform perfectly the next time she practices her piece at the piano her mother will burn all of her stuffed animals (because motivation by fear has proven to be so effective),
4. Her daughters must be #1 in every subject except gym and drama (apparently striving to be an Olympic athlete or Lynn Redgrave is not an appropriate goal),
5. Her daughters are not allowed to have a play date (Fun?!? Who has time for fun?!?).
When I first heard about this book, before I had heard any of the specifics listed above, I was interested — I am constantly trying to find ways to stimulate interest, passion, motivation, discipline, consideration, and respect in my children. I thought she might have some useful suggestions.
But the idea of teaching my children these concepts through berating, humiliation, and threats just doesn’t jibe with my own personal philosophy.
Does it do my child any good if I push him or her constantly so that they can achieve achieve achieve throughout their elementary and secondary educations? Am I then going to go to college with them to make sure they aren’t wasting my tuition dollars? I could share their dorm room with them, vet their friends, cut up their food. Maybe this makes me a typical “American” parent (said with a sneer by one of the commenters on the Barnes and Noble website); lazy, coddling, unworthy, but I’d rather my children learn these hard lessons the “hard” way, when there’s less at stake, then have them flunk out of Harvard because I forced them to go to law school when what they really wanted was to be a novelist.
It hasn’t escaped my notice that most of the students winning the scholar awards at Second Son’s high school awards ceremonies are Asian. Nor that my Asian piano students are also top students academically, studying in Chinese school on Saturdays, participating in at least one sport, at which they excel, and that they speak to their parents with respect and a complete absence of sarcasm. But I have also had adult Asian friends who bemoan their parents’ disappointment when they fail to achieve a difficult professional benchmark or reach the advanced age of 30 and are yet to be married.
Is it “American” (sneer) of me to want “only” for my children to find their bliss, achieve what they WANT to achieve, strive for independence, find happiness/fulfillment in the area, or degree of success, of their choosing?
There is a really funny line from Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, when the father is sending his sons to school for the first time, and sends a note with them telling the teacher that they are stupid and worthless, and to feel free to beat them as much as the teacher deems necessary. I was actually so amused upon reading this, with First Son when he was in 6th grade, that I copied it out and sent it with him to give to his teacher the next day. We were kindred spirits, and both had a good laugh. But only because it was so ridiculous.
Hmmmm. . .I wonder if she thought I meant it.