By now almost every parent has heard of the new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, written by Amy Chua in which she describes her journey in what many are calling extreme parenting. The book has lead to a firestorm in the blogosphere of angry “western” parents calling Chua a dictator, Chinese Hitler even abusive for calling her daughter garbage after misbehavior, or perhaps it was forcing her daughter to play a piano piece until she got it right not letting her get up for water, food, or bathroom for hours. Experts have pointed to the deep insecurity American mothers feel and therefore the easiest thing for them to do is attack who they see as the bad mother, possibly explaining the death threats. Public comment is mixed some saying this is the type of parenting that used to be in the United States, we should return to others appalled that someone would do this to a child. Most interesting is the Chinese and Asian immigrants or second and third generation American Asians who say this is not how they raise children. Chinese in China itself or having family there are quick to say this is not how it’s done; ABC news found the same when they interview mother’s from both sides of the world.
Regardless why experts believe American parents are attacking the book, it could be because any human being worth the distinction of the term human being should be attacking a book, a philosophy, a parenting model that says it’s ok to call your children names in order to elicit better behavior, better school performance or for any reason at all. They should be attacking a parenting style that demands straight A’s above all else and engages in physical, emotional and verbal abuse to get it. Everyone should question a parent who has chosen to write a book, to jump into the spotlight, a defacto voice for her culture, ethnicity and country in such a way as to incite fear and distrust, especially someone who uses blanket, borderline idiotic generalizations saying people who believe in astrology have serious problems or drums lead to dugs. Other fallacies presented by Chua is parents are worried about children’s self esteem, worried how they will feel if they fail and therefore praise for mediocre performance. But it seems to be more parents here understand the importance of healthy self esteem and seek to foster that in their children through a variety of things not just academic success, not just getting an A, not just winning the contest, rather knowing who they are, what they like and discovering what positive virtues they value most in life.
It is the same with her arguments about American parents’ concerns with their childrenâ€™s psyches implying we assume fragility, they strength; again no, we understand that A- children have a psyche something she admitted in her extended comparison Chinese, Chinese type mothers ignore, and B- we know they are developing thus cannot handle the same stress, strain, pressure as a mature, adult psyche can. That being said, we avoid doing, saying things to damage something still growing. Our goal is not to see how much it, a psyche, can take before it collapses, which is illustrated to be what she is doing “I love being able to count on Sophia. She has wells of inner strength. Even more than me, she can take anything: exclusion, excoriation, humiliation, loneliness.” Author of course failing to tell us outright she experiences these things at home administered by her own mother to make her “strong.” Readers though have no trouble drawing accurate conclusions. She also insists that nothing is fun until you are good at it; unfortunately by good she means perfect. However the goal of painting, sculpting, singing is usually not to create stellar, exact facsimiles of works or to master a particular technique instead is used as a form of self-expression to convey thought or emotion. Similar cases are found with writing, performing arts. Ironically, or perhaps not so, in such competitions points are awarded, winners decided, based on who could bring something of their own interpretation to their chosen creative medium. People often do such activities as hobbies, find them soothing, relaxing, fulfilling no matter how good they are or not.
Despite Chua’s insistence that her book is a memoir not a how to guide, many see it as such and will try to raise their kids thus; so lets break down what said style is likely to gain any child. No play dates, sleepovers denies children social skills needed later in life, because getting a job, being successful in today’s world is all about networking, connecting with people who can get you where you want to go. Oddly enough Chua’s model robs children of the friends and chances to build a personal social support, which allows many Asians to live to be centenarians. Isolation created by 3 hours of piano practice, 3 hours of homework prevents learning of practical skills as well, how to talk on a telephone, how to order food at a counter in the mall or elsewhere. Extracurricular activities are a must to get into top schools today, are the mark of well-rounded students. You’ll get no disagreement from Chua per se; her sticking point seems to be in allowing the child to choose said activity, pointing out that Asian parents assume they know what is best for the child and it is up to them to act accordingly, overriding all their preferences because they don’t know what’s good for them and do not want to work. Commentators have linked “western,” American ideas of letting children choose their extracurricular activities to permissive, lax parenting, letting them choose everything else both projecting the falsehood that parents here don’t know their child cannot possibly understand what is good for them in more complex arenas meant for adults to decide on behalf of their children.
Bologna, American parents know exactly what to let their children have a choice in and what not. They know their child can choose which structured, after school activity or sport they want to be in, not to be confused with choosing unsupervised hangouts filled with drugs, drinking, sex, explicit films or constantly sitting in front of a TV, instead understanding non academic activities are good ways to discover both self and hidden talents. Also blown out of the water are the assumptions of “western” and American parenting contrasted here in excepts of what Asian parents are allowed too say to their children including, hey fatty lose some weight, while contending American parents have to tiptoe around the issue never using the f- word and talking in terms of health almost triumphantly pointing out said children still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self image. She relays the story of a father who complemented his daughter calling her beautiful and competent, her saying it made her feel like garbage. However, those the author calls western parents are starting to grasp, as is the nation, the detriments of calling kids fat, pushing them to lose weight because adult children speak out on the issue about how much it hurt, how it made them want to eat more, how the emphasis on food and losing weight created a toxic environment at home, hints needing therapy. Talking in terms of health comes out of what we know about obesity effecting a person’s physical well being, a far more receptive persuasion than calling someone fat and telling them to lose weight. Illustrating neither do we tiptoe, we simply find different methods of achieving the same goal, hopefully ones that do not make the problem worse, certainly not things scientifically, expertly proven to do so.
As for the daughter who felt like garbage after her father’s complement, there is far more going on than Chua could possibly be aware of; he could have only been saying it for show, having said other negative things in private, he could have been physically abusive throughout her childhood, even sexually inappropriate. And being complemented by that type of person would make nearly anyone feel like garbage in that context; he could have been a controller only praising her when she did what he wanted, even as an adult. Leading to the next glaring misconception presented. The author saying Chinese parents can order their kids to get an A; Chinese parents can say you lazy all your classmates are ahead of you. American parents, according to her, can only ask the child do their best, simultaneously handling their own conflicting feelings about achievement trying to convince themselves they are not disappointed how their kids turned out. “Western,” American parents absolutely have standards for children’s performance; they positively demand kids do their best, whatever the grade and they know what that is by knowing their child. Unlike Asian parents in this portrayal, they adjust expectations according to each child’s strengths and weaknesses, according to their natural academic ability; A and B grades seen as good C’s mediocre and D’s and F’s unacceptable. Parents here can sometimes have difficulty accepting who their children are, the inherent talents they possess, wished they possessed different talents, liked different things, as opposed to Asian parenting presented in the book that says fit into this mold or be excommunicated, shamed, punished, hated.
No TV and no video games is nothing new in recent years for American parents, though they have been shown to increase hand eye coordination, complex thinking skills, surprisingly improving dexterity and cutting down on mistakes for surgeons, it’s being coupled with the laundry list of other things Chuas kids were never allowed to do that causes problems, supporting the belief that all of anything is bad, illogical non fact based arguments such as alluded to before, drums lead to drugs. Forging the irony of a no TV mom now handing out interview after interview, if Ms Chua was concerned about stereotypical drummers and their possible influence on her daughter it was up to her, the parent, to find positive drum influences, providing her child was interested in drums. Same holds true for the other pop culture instrument, guitar, finding positive examples. Moving away from western or pop culture instruments, there are still plenty of classical music type instruments that she could offer her child woodwinds, horns, tuba trombone, depending on her child’s interest. One headline called Chua a wimp and there seems to be truth in that exemplified by the fact that instead of finding out how to manage gadgets, TV time and high expectations she opted to eliminate all but the latter. Instead of finding creative ways to motivate her child to succeed, inspire them to work hard, instill it as an intrinsic value, she resorts to verbal abuse, insulting them, belittling them, enforcing rules and regulations akin to prison no water or bathroom breaks during 3-hour piano practice for a young elementary school child and playing psychological games to force success measured by grades, test score an mimicry or musical pieces.
Questions have also been raised about why she would write such a book, questions about her mentality and psychological stability some calling her a narcissistic personality who needs constant validation hints her work in academia, gaining approval via her students; some wondering if she wrote the book to garner attention as one of her children quit the violin and this was her way of regaining control. Looking at a related article in the Wall Street Journal describing the aforementioned piano incident, everyone gets upset, but she is so manic in shouting about her dreams for her kids and does he (her husband) think of that, that she includes asking if he has dreams for Coco, their dog. Adding that scene to one Chua herself described in a Nightline interview, in both of which, according to her, when her youngest daughter got it she said “see it’s easy.” and in the latter story about a bad math paper and making practice sheets, drilling her and now she loves math put a shadow on Chua’s credibility or understanding of the situations, creating an argument her kids have been conditioned to master a difficulty then give that response, independent of their true feelings. She seems to misunderstand that it is wholeheartedly insulting to say your 7 year old is cowardly and pathetic for any reason, never mind not yet being able to play a piano piece, which she was still practicing, still trying to get right; then to call such insults motivation, is skewed.
Scrutinizing said article also shortly mentioning the much hated time she called her child garbage, lends credence to her writing her memoir for attention as she stated she was ostracized at the dinner party (where this took place) when she told other guests what she had done, one leaving in tears, while the host tried to rehabilitate her with others. So why go on to write this? Another example, when her husband tried to pull her aside, during the piano practice gone wrong, telling her that her youngest child was not her oldest in addition to the rant on dreams for their kids, she martyrs herself saying she’s perfectly happy being hated (i.e. for doing the hard things) while he is loved because he makes them pancakes and takes them to Yankees’ games. Similar psychological conclusions have been made about her daughter’s avid defense of their mother one describing a time she ripped up her Mother’s day card and threw it back at them the daughter saying “it wasn’t my best I knew it, and I was busted.” Again the goal of a Mother’s day card is to communicate love not to be perfect, not to turn it into a competition between one child and the other; Chua admits to difficulty with the creative so how exactly could she judge the child’s best; not to mention with the devaluing of art at home, her child had little practice at such things.
Some bring up Stockholm syndrome, identifying with your abuser, traits likewise seen in children abused in other ways, victims of domestic violence; others accusing her of being an abuser using her culture as justification. Obviously instances are exaggerated of course, as is prone to happen in arguments and times of extreme emotion, but getting glimpses of an entire picture, indicates 2 things Chua wants sympathy for effort put into her extreme methods, and she does believe her way, what she calls the Chinese way, is superior; stating in the book she wanted to raise her children contrary to western standards. Much hay had been made as to the cut and paste job done by the Wall Street Journal; however it doesn’t change the fact she called her child garbage or the fact that a young child should not have been at a dinner party for adults in the first place. It doesn’t change what she said to her child to “motivate” her to play a ridiculously difficult piano piece correctly, nor does it change the shredded Mother’s day card or that all of it was in the book. Considering what she is willing to admit to, God only knows what else went on in that home. Now it seems Chua is engaging in interviews back tracking, explaining the harshness of stories given, giving even more validity to abuser using, seeking justification opinions.
Agree or disagree with how the author raised her kids, we have seen in America tiger models don’t work, and not because they haven’t been tried. Outcomes though are far less glorious; children may complete the riggers set by their parents until 18, get into a great college and flunk out because they are inundated with new and exiting things they don’t know how to manage; some become addicted to cellphones, blackberries, videogames, TV, and these could be called the lucky ones. What’s not talked about, in either culture, are the failures of the tiger-parenting model, ones who have nervous breakdowns, commit suicide, suffer depression, anxiety disorders, self-harm. Chua claims that there are a host of psychological disorders in the west that do not exist in Asia but she is sure American kids are not happier; the extended excerpt goes into things Asian parents are allowed to say to their kids pages above. More likely these disorders are hidden in Asia or attributed to laziness, stupidity, weakness possibly explaining both the cause of high suicide rates in Asia and of Asian college students in the US raised under said model. US children raised this way exhibit these symptoms, disorders, need to be perfect, need for control are the roots of anorexia, become even more destructive by turning to drugs, promiscuity spiraling far from the successful life their parents pushed them to; fringe cases have lead the children to kill the parents in order to get out of a hopeless situation. Just as if they had grown in a house with drugs or weren’t give proper boundaries, were neglected, ignored, hit or molested; benefits to person and society, zero.
Amy Chua’s detractors say there is no defense she is an abuser; what is most compelling against parenting this way is the number of survivor stories of people wounded, scarred, victimized by this type of “parenting,” who hated it, who did not succeed in life more because of it that its opposite, speaking out, commenting on blogs, telling their stories. We have fought in this country, in the United States of America to have mental, emotional, psychological and verbal abuse recognized, to alert individuals it can be just as damaging as physical or sexual abuse, perhaps more so due to its lack of recognition; people voicing their experiences across the globe, now proves that. Make no mistake this is abuse, and those who think child services should take her still underage child away are 100% right. Forcing a 7 year old to play piano until they got it right minus food, water or toilet breaks is physical abuse period; forcing them to do 3-hour practices daily without those basics is prolonged physical abuse period. Calling your child names, berating them, belittling them and insulting them is verbal, emotional abuse period. Making statements saying they are working themselves in frenzy because they secretly think they can’t do a daunting task and to stop being cowardly and pathetic is mental, psychological manipulation and abuse period, multiplied even further when your talking about the same 7 year old. To call this parenting, acceptable or a positive model to emulate is irreprehensible, to profit from it is a crime against decency if not humanity.
It doesn;t matter how many math whizzes, musical prodigies, business moguls it creates, because the cost is too high; the cost is mentally, emotionally unstable people engineered by design under the guise of success. Chua purports Americans wonder how Asians do it, what it’s like in such families; now we know and many don’t want it. The fear among mothers is not so much about their own inadequacies but fear this is what it takes to succeed, fear this will catch on, it will become the impossible standard for kids. Sadly it glaringly proves you can be well fed, clothed, have toys and wonderful experiences, be well to do, be an achiever, minus bruises, minus sexual trauma, all the while still being abused. And it should never be socially sanctioned for money, success.