Monday, January 24, 2011

"Tiger Moms"

When I got my Time magazine in the mail I couldn't wait to read the article "The Truth About Tiger Moms." To fill you in, there has been an uproar over a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, a professor at Yale University, made buzz-worthy by a follow-up article in the Wall Street Journal further launching spits and spats nationwide. In her memoir she explains her parenting techniques, pushing her two daughters to, as most Americans would agree, utmost extremes. For example, she called her oldest daughter Sophia "garbage" after she acted disrespectfully and had her youngest daughter Lulu, at age 7, practice a violin piece "right through dinner into the night" more than once.

But, as the Time article is quick to ask, can we learn something from Chua's parenting ways?

As a daughter of a tiger mom, I can honestly say yes. My mother was nowhere as bad as Amy Chua, of which some things she's done she regrets, like calling her daughter garbage. But my mother is very stern and critical. To most American parents, she would be considered too harsh (at the same time, it is easy to see how much my mom loves me, she's nowhere short of affectionate.) I remember when I was in third grade my mother locked me in my room with a multiplication chart until I could recite it backwards and forwards. This may seem close to child abuse to those rather lenient parents, but believe me (I was a very stubborn child) if she hadn't done what she did I would have struggled even more in math growing up (especially considering the lousy math teachers I had later on in life). I was a fast learner when it came to words but a slow learner when it came to numbers. Likewise, Chua's daughters, now in their late teens, admit that they too will raise their children in the same fashion, although perhaps not as harshly (i.e. allowing them to have sleepovers, etc.)

Why has this particular story caused such a stir? Time writer Annie Murphy Paul offers that it hits close to home because of the current ranking of the U.S. versus the rest of the world in education (17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math). As for the Chinese, Amy Chua's ethnic group? First in all three. Amy Chua is not the only tiger mom in the world. Most Asian mothers are tiger moms. I haven't met one who wasn't yet, and that's coming from a person whose own mother is Korean. Being a child of a tiger mom is challenging - the only praise offered is when you succeed. And that's probably why their children are such success stories. Like the article explains, the American way of parenting is to offer praise for the smallest of obstacles. “You got a certificate for effort? GREAT JOB, LITTLE BILLY! You're so smart and amazing!” For a tiger mom, a certificate for effort is as good as dirt, and you are not praised for it whatsoever. But this is the stark difference between these two cultures; in this case American and Chinese. Chinese parents, Chua explains, "assume strength [in their children], not fragility, and as a result they behave differently." This is one of the truest statements I've ever read. My mother treats me "harshly" because she sees me as being a strong person. I am her daughter. And she's no weakling. Life is hard, parents know that, but tiger moms prepare their children for it. My mom lived a life in which she saw her parents struggle to make a good living for her family. She pushes me to my limit because she knows I can take it, and when I can't we get into cat fights that raise the roof and then we compromise. But NEVER have I doubted that my mother loved me or wanted the best for me. In fact, her pushing me reaffirmed both those truths. Although I agree there is a limit and that you can push too far or too much, I also agree in having a firm hand and helping your child reach the best of their abilities. Each individual has so much potential, imagine having a parent raise you knowing how much you have? How much even now you could have gained? I'm not harping on anyone's parents or how they raised you or how you may raise your child but instead I'm backing up the idea that being a tiger mom is not necessarily a bad thing and that I intend to be one myself. Because even though that's in the far off future, if I have children I will assume strength, not weakness, and expect nothing but the best from them in whatever they decide to pursue.

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