I’ve been hearing a lot lately about this “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua, who wrote a book, entitled Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother. I have yet to read the book, but I definitely will check it out. This commentary is based solely on what I’ve read & heard about this apparent controversy.
For those that haven’t heard about it, Chua’s book is her memoir recounting her decisions of how to raise her children. She went for the “tough love” direction where discipline and obedience are demanded of her kids, and in the end was humbled by her 13 year old daughter.
I had been contemplating whether (and when) to comment on this or not, but upon reading more articles criticizing her and seeing her interview on The Colbert Report last night I felt I wanted to get my two cents in.
While bringing me & my younger sister up, although my mom wasn’t a “tiger mother” necessarily, she definitely could be tough at times. Coming from a very musical family, I was (of course) made to learn piano as a child. I remember my 6th or 7th birthday having to perform for all my little friends, as if the birthday girl had to be the entertainment too! I studied piano up until Grade 4 Royal Conservatory, and while practicing for the exam, I sat at the piano crying because I didn’t want to practice any more. After that year, I never wanted to play again. So I quit piano lessons, and thankfully my parents allowed it. Little did I know, I would end up picking it back up anyway – but on my own terms. As soon as I stopped being FORCED to learn, I would sit down every now and then and teach myself songs from popular music songbooks I’d save up money to buy.
Being the first generation to be Canadian-born, and my parents had been in Canada since their teens, they were a bit more assimilated than maybe many of my other Chinese friends’ parents. I heard stories from other friends about how strict their mothers were, not letting them do this or that unless they got amazing grades, all this pressure to excel. Thankfully my parents cared about my sister & I getting good grades, but it was never a punishable offence if we got a B on a test or project. Our parents were always proud of us as long as we tried our best.
I remember hearing news stories about kids in China and Hong Kong who would commit suicide because they didn’t get 100% on a test, for fear of the wrath from their parents. That’s obviously quite the extreme, and I think there needs to be a balance in terms of how strict to be as a parent. I’ve seen kids (and have had friends) whose parents are SO lax about everything and let them do anything. There was absolutely no discipline, with the parents fear of angering their child and possibly feeling like they’re stifling them. As Chua mentioned in her interview with Colbert, at a young age, the children need a bit more discipline. She doesn’t regret being strict with her kids’ activities when they were between the ages of 5-9 because if she let them loose, they’d play video games all day. There were several moments during her interview that the Colbert audience booed things she was saying. It almost seemed like they weren’t even listening to her when she was saying that her book is a MEMOIR of her own experiences. It’s not touted as a “how-to” parenting book.
A lot also has to do with the kids’ personalities. There’s only so much parenting that can happen without the child’s own personality taking into effect. If this wasn’t the case, then siblings would all behave exactly the same way everywhere. I’ve known friends who have had “tiger moms” and many are well-rounded, disciplined (and still fun) people where others have taken on the complete opposite effect, being selfish and rude. That being said, their rudeness could also be because that’s what they know; what they’ve been exposed to from their parents.
Between my sister & I, we have similar basic values that we were taught from our strict-but-fair parents, but we also have very different personalities that had us react and accept the parenting differently. Where my sister is quite mild-mannered and happy-go-lucky, I’ve got a more fiery & rebellious personality. She accepted, for the most part, whatever my parents would say and not question how strict (or not) it might be. I, on the other hand, constantly questioned everything. I questioned why we never all sit together as a family and just “chat” like my Caucasian friends do with their families. (“That’s not what we do.”) or why she never seemed excited or pleased with some great news I had (“I am pleased. I just don’t outwardly show it as much as you do.”) There were even times in my teenage years where, in the midst of an argument, I’d say how she’s never affectionate with me – only my sister. To which she brought up a good point, that I myself am not really that affectionate towards my family either. We don’t say “I love you” because we just know we do. Goes without saying. I distinctly remember her telling me that. (Still, wouldn’t hurt for it to be said every now and then!)
Chua mentioned in her interview that maybe it’s because our parents and ancestors came from hard times to get us to where we are – living in North America. So be grateful for the opportunities that we have been given. If they went through so much hardship to give their families a better life, then show that you appreciate it by working hard and earning it! I’m genuinely quite offended at the backlash that Chua’s been receiving from her book. When she tries to explain that it’s a memoir and not a parenting manual, they accuse her of backpedaling. Just doing a search of her name alone on Google brings back links to all the outraged stories & articles. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not “defending” her for the sake of defending the Chinese culture. In this case, I’m not “excusing” this just because I’m Chinese. I’m commenting on it because I can sort of see where she’s coming from. I’ve experienced it, to a lesser extent, and know people who have experienced tiger moms. Chua’s style of parenting isn’t new. As many point out, it’s an “old-fashioned” style. Therefore the only reason it might be such an outrage now is because she’s written about it and brought it forward in an open, candid and honest way. Many are so used to letting their kids have such free reign that they’re shocked at children being disciplined so strongly.
As much as my mom isn’t as “tiger” as other Chinese mothers could be, I believe that “tough love” mentality of parenting was probably passed down from her own upbringing in Hong Kong. I, being completely Westernized, find it hard to accept even though I really didn’t have it as rough as other friends of mine. Although when I was young, I completely fought my parents on their tough love parenting, but now that I’m older (and wiser!) I see that it was for our own good. My sister and I are well-rounded, disciplined, kind people. Who would’ve thought that sometimes… our parents did know best!