There's a lot of buzz about a new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy Chua, a Yale law professor, wrote this memoir to her Chinese style parenting. I haven't read the book but I've read alot of the hype. My Dad sent me an article yesterday from the Wall Street Journal that was titled something like if not exactly, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." I was expecting ten ancient Chinese secrets for rearing children to be happy, healthy, and loyal family members. Instead, I read a monument to abuse. I'm sure that the reviews include only the most sensational elements of the story, so I spent more time reading up on Amy Chua and her methods. I will read the book before I cement my views, but here's my impression. Her basic premise is that Western parenting has gone soft. Children that are not at the top of their class and rising are virtually dunces. Children who do not spend two to three hours on instruments (piano and violin only) are doomed to mediocrity. Her theories are odd but her practices are offensive. She threatens to burn her children's toys, withold birthday parties and gifts, and calls them garbage-all this if they can not master a particular piece on the piano. The children, unsurprisingly, conform and perform. This is a totalitarian regime and mama means business. Amy pats herself on the back as a successful parent. After all, she believed they were capable right from the start, even when there hands slipped clumsily over the piano keys. There are no play dates, no school plays, no television. There are instead performances at Carnegie Hall and Ivy League futures. But does that make a child successful? What about the magic of childhood, the only time when you can paint pictures, kick a ball, or sing operettas all day even if you are lousy at it ? And at what point do we allow our children to discover what they are passionate about? Why not buy a dog to train if it is only hard, certifiable results that we are after? Success-or happiness for that matter-isn't always about a showy performance and a stellar resume. It's about figuring out who you are, what you love, how to be kind and connect with other human beings. It's learning that you are good enough, even if you never make it to America's got Talent or land on the Fortune 500. And if you're good enough, then everybody out there is good enough. And you'll treat them that way.
Here's what I wrote my Dad about the article: Pop, I read the article with interest but in the end I concluded that her style is abusive. Many Chinese mothers are decrying her system, stating that it does not represent their methods or philosophies. I'm sure that her girls will grow up to be conventionally successful, but I worry that they will be unkind, unfeeling, uncreative, disconnected and unresponsive to conventional displays of affection. What do you think, Dad?
Then my Dad wrote me a kind email and came over for ice cream. That's the kind of Dad he is. Soft and Western and absolutely perfect. I hope your parents were just like that too.
"Above all else, children need to know and feel they are loved, wanted, and appreciated. They need to be assured of that often. Obviously this is a role parents should fill..."
Ezra Taft Benson