Friday, January 14, 2011

The Tiger Cub Speaks Out.

One advantage of sitting at home and nursing our family's battle wounds is that I also get to indulge in catching up on my newspaper reading. I don't know anyone who hasn't seen the essay that was published in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” by Amy Chua. It's taken over the internet like wildfire, and anyone with fingers and a keyboard has something to say about it (like me!).

I read the essay when it was first published and was truly flabbergasted. I didn't agree with anything Chua wrote, and to tell you the truth, I was also a bit embarrassed. I was raised in a strict, traditional South Asian Muslim household, and I felt as though Chua had peeked right into my own childhood. It was if she had dusted off the old memories that were well hidden away, and was now proudly displaying them for the world to see, twisting my emotions and confounding me even more. I grew up not being allowed to do many of the things my peers did, and I've always been embarrassed about it. It was a different time, one where being different wasn't something to celebrate, and reading that essay made me want to push all that pent-up repression back into the closet.

I think the reason Chua's essay has resonated (both positively and negatively) with so many people is because as parents, we see ourselves represented within. Whether or not we agree with the "Tiger Mom" approach to parenting Chua so boldly champions, we all definitely have a lot to say on the topic. Some are calling her essay a marketing ploy for her new book, while others are lauding her virtual cojones for telling it like it is.

Having experienced Chua's brand of Tiger Parenting firsthand, I can tell you that I definitely want my kids to succeed - but not at the expense of distancing ourselves emotionally from each other. I don't believe that berating my children will drive them to do better. And even if it does, what cost will I have paid for that result? For me and for everything I have been experienced, the price is simply too high to pay.

I am however, really loving all the intense discussion that has surrounded Chua's essay. I love that we are engaging in this topic as parents who CARE about the welfare of our children. The views on both sides of the "Extreme Parenting" debate are passionate and well-informed, showing how North American parents are constantly searching for a new path - which I think is wonderful. There is no one-size-fits-all parenting style, nor should there be. What there should be is a constant yearning to want the best for our children - and that yearning is what Chua's essay has taken direct aim at.

The result has been a fiery response from parents, experts, bloggers, and regular ole' folks (like me!). One fantastic discussion was published this morning in a NY Time's Debate entitled Is Extreme Parenting Effective? I found it to be a very thought-provoking read, and I'm sharing one quote from each of the eight contributors here. If you have a chance to check it out, please do so. It's definitely worth a read.

From Balancing Freedom With Discipline by Yan Sun, professor, City University of New York:
"There are decided benefits to a rigorous parenting style. Persistent drilling of skills can help children acquire proficiency in certain areas...But increasingly, Chinese and Asian Americans are paying attention to the downsides of this type of parenting. What often gets lost are individuality, creativity and leadership skills."
From When Parents Feel Out of Control by Karen Karbo, novelist and memoirist:
"We live in impossibly difficult times. I don’t think I need to make a list. Amy Chua’s child-rearing manifesto speaks directly to this fear...It presumes that we can prevent our kids from hurt, harm and disappointment. It’s a fantasy of control and protection in times that seem out of control and scary."
From What Menscius's Mother Sought by C. Cindy Fan, associate dean of social sciences, U.C.L.A:
"On the other side of the Pacific, where the history is different, parents’ desire for their children to succeed is equally strong. Many single children – products of China’s one-child policy – are overprotected by their parents who, having lived through the Cultural Revolution and periods of deprivation, would do anything to provide for and educate their children. But over protection breeds dependence."
From The Opposite of Extreme Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer, child development specialist:
"Laissez-faire parenting can be too laid back and detrimental to children. Children do well when they have plenty of parental time and attention, live within routines and structures, have positive role models, room to make choices and develop independence gradually, and have a strong sense of self-belief and high but realistic aspirations."
From Defining Success for Myself by Jennifer Cheng, blogger, Every Six Minutes:
" ideas about success were limited to conventional definitions. I was driven by wanting to make my parents proud, even though they never made me feel that I owed them for their sacrifice. I now realize that I had internalized their desire for financial security and equated success with gaining professional prestige...I became stuck on a StairMaster of life, steadily tracking along an upward career trajectory but finding no fulfillment."
From The Power of Conviction by David Anderegg, professor of psychology:
" 'Parents must not only have certain ways of guiding by prohibition and permission, they must also be able to represent to the child a deep, almost somatic conviction that there is meaning in what they are doing.' Amy Chua has this conviction in spades, and because she knows she is right, her children will turn out just fine."
From When the Goal Is Successful Kids by Hara Estroff Marano, author, "A Nation of Wimps":
"There is much to be said for encouraging children to follow their own natural find their own ways to master challenges and demonstrate competence. These are struggles that take place — must take place — within. No amount of parental pushing can make it happen. The problem is, too much can derail it."
From We Are What We Know by Meredith F. Small, professor of anthropology:
"As an anthropologist, I know that exposure to other belief systems can be upsetting. After all, hearing about some other kind of parenting brings into question one's own parenting. And we never really understand the true force of our own parental belief system until confronted with a vastly different approach; reading about or experiencing other ways can be self-reflective, even life changing."
So now it's your turn. I'd love to hear what you have to say. Do you see yourself reflected in any of these views?  Do you feel that extreme parenting is effective? Do the ends justify the means when it comes to challenging your children to succeed?

ETA: I was just linked to an interview that Amy Chua did with PBS earlier today. There are a lot of people who agree with her point of view, now that she has clarified where she is coming from. You can see the interview here. Let me know what you think!

Happy Friday, everyone. Don't forget that today is the LAST DAY to enter my children's book giveaway. Entering is so easy that you could almost do it blindfolded. Just leave a message at the end of Monday's post and tell me which of the two children's books mentioned you'd like to win. Seriously! That's it! Comments close at 5pm EST and the winner will be announced on Monday, January 17th. xoxoxmahreen
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts with Thumbnails