Tiger Parents Saving America One Child at a Time

At times, Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, looked as if she were expecting an eighteen-wheeler to appear and flatten her.

The Chinese-American Tiger Mother sat there on the Hillside Club’s stage in Berkeley, California reminding me of a graceful deer crossing a dark mountain road flanked by armies of tall sentinel trees and halfway across being startled by bright headlights rushing toward her.

How could anyone blame Chua?

I have read that she has received death threats for saying “no” to activities such as sleepovers, play dates, acting in school plays, and not allowing her daughters to watch hours of TV or play computer games until midnight or later.

Instead, she did the unthinkable and demanded excellence. Time magazine says, “Most surprising of all to Chua’s detractors may be the fact that many elements of her approach are supported by research in psychology and cognitive science.”

How horrible that a child would have all those “fun” activities restricted and be required to practice “boring” cultural activities such as learning to play the piano or violin and horror of horrors do homework, study and read to insure earning the best possible grades.

My wife and I were disappointed when Amy distanced herself as the possible poster Tiger Mother for Tough Love parents by reading the final pages of her memoir so the audience would discover how she has softened her parenting style except when it comes to grades.

She told us of the turning point when her youngest daughter Lulu shouted at her in Moscow saying how she hated her.

It was obvious that the real reason Amy Chua wrote The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was because she felt she had lost to the Self-esteem Nazis — those so-called parents and their children that probably felt sorry for Lulu because she couldn’t watch all the TV she wanted and party on weekends.

Chua wrote the book in two months soon after returning to the United States from the trip to Russia. It was a catharsis, a healing, and not a battle cry. I expect she felt much anger while pounding out the words on her computer keyboard in a relentless marathon.

That memoir was her way to heal from the trauma of defeat she faced in Moscow.

I know. My wife and I raised a Chinese-American daughter who also came home from school occasionally with the same resentment and said the same mean things Lulu said to her mother.

We discovered the fuel of that resentment was the misplaced sympathy from other children and parents.

While our daughter had to go to bed by 9:30 at night, she knew that most of her friends were up as late as two or three in the morning. In fact, the TV in our house was off most of the week and the content that was watched for an hour or two on weekends was controlled. There were no video games, no Internet connection and TV in her bedroom.

Gasp!

As a child, our daughter had to read books to fill the empty hours.

Amy Chua, to make sure the audience discovered how much she has improved as a mother, let us know that her rebellious daughter Lulu even had a recent sleepover.

However, Tiger Parents practicing Tough Love have her memoir and the facts I mentioned In Defense of Tiger Mothers Everywhere as a reminder that we are not alone. Other Tiger Parents are out there.

I was a Tiger Teacher for thirty years in the public schools. When students failed my class, I was blamed by parents and administrators for “giving” too many FAILING grades.

Often, I was accused by parents (without evidence except the complaints of FAILING teens) of being a boring teacher, being mean, prejudiced, losing homework and damaging the self-esteem of children.

Some parents even pulled children from my class and moved them to teachers that never “gave” failing grades.

In fact, I never “gave” a student a grade.  My students were required to “earn” grades and there is a HUGE difference between the word “give” and “earn”.

By the time I left teaching in 2005, about 5% of my students were doing the homework and required reading necessary for academic improvement, and when standardized test scores in the U.S. fail to measure up, who gets the blame?  the teachers — not the students or the parents

We almost didn’t get in to hear Chua. Although we bought tickets on-line, the Hillside Club oversold and there wasn’t room for everyone.  We had to wait in the foyer to see if there were seats available but my wife and I were fortunate to get in soon after the event started.

I discovered that in the audience was the vanguard of an army of parents and teachers that may have been the victims of what has become known as the soft, positive, self-esteem approach to Western parenting.  There were hundreds of us in that audience.

As Amy sat in that tall chair on stage above the audience with her feet dangling a foot from the floor, the audience laughed, applauded and gazed on her as if she were a hero.

I didn’t expect that.

Instead, I expected the Self-esteem Nazis to turn out in mass to make sure Chua would not be heard, which is the reason this former US Marine and Vietnam veteran went — to make sure someone would be on her side to fight in her defense if needed.

Thank you Confucius for a culture that values education so much that the Tiger Mother, Tough Love method of raising children hasn’t died in China as it almost has in the United States. The bully tactics of Self-esteemism and Political Correctness almost succeeded in destroying America–then Amy Chua’s essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

When Amy’s parents came to America as immigrants and sacrificed so much to raise their daughter the same way she was struggling to raise her children, Confucius may have saved this country, because it might be possible that being a Tiger Parent will become acceptable again.

In Time magazine, Chua said, “‘I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too.’ The tiger-mother approach isn’t an ethnicity but a philosophy: expect the best from your children, and don’t settle for anything less.”

______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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2 Responses to Tiger Parents Saving America One Child at a Time

  1. Andre M. Smith says:

    Why is the art of music required to endure the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua? Her lust for fame as an old-fashioned stage mother of either a famous violinist (yet another mechanical Sarah Chang?) or a famous pianist (yet another mechanical Lang Lang?) shines through what she perceives as devotion to the cultivation of the cultural sensitivities of her two unfortunate daughters.

    Daughter Lulu at age 7 is unable to play compound rhythms from Jacques Ibert with both hands coordinated? Leonard Bernstein couldn’t conduct this at age 50! And he isn’t the only musician of achievement with this-or-that shortcoming. We all have our closets with doors that are not always fully opened.

    And why all this Chinese obsession unthinkingly dumped on violin and piano? What do the parents with such insistence know of violin and piano repertoire? Further, what do they know of the great body of literature for flute? For French horn? For organ? For trumpet? Usually, nothing!

    For pressure-driven (not professionally-driven!) parents like Amy Chua their children, with few exceptions, will remain little more than mechanical sidebars to the core of classical music as it’s practiced by musicians with a humanistic foundation.

    Professor Chua better be socking away a hefty psychoreserve fund in preparation for the care and feeding of her two little lambs once it becomes clear to them both just how empty and ill-defined with pseudo-thorough grounding their emphasis has been on so-called achievement.

    Read more about this widespread, continuing problem in Forbidden Childhood (N.Y., 1957) by Ruth Slenczynska.
    ______________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

    • Mr. Smith,

      Thank you for the comment but not for the ignorant, emotional, ad hominem rant on Amy Chua’s character when you said, “the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua” and then went on to label her as “an old-fashioned stage mother”.

      I doubt that Amy Chua is an inartistic imbecile or an old-fashioned stage mother, but she is a mother influenced by Asian-American, Chinese culture.

      How much do you know about China and Asian-American cultures? My wife is Chinese, and we have a piano in our home so does my wife’s Chinese sister. My stepdaughter started playing piano as a child. She also took ballet lessons for years in Southern California in a class of about thirty that was almost all Asian/Chinese children [I recall one Caucasian in the class]. Today, our daughter is a student at Stanford majoring in biology, and she loves to dance and play the piano, and she learned those talented skills thanks to a Chinese mother that was not an old-fashioned stage mother.

      In fact, my wife discouraged our daughter from majoring in any of the arts in college.

      Besides living in the US, we have a three bedroom flat in Shanghai, China where we often stay in the summers when visiting our daughter’s grandparents. In the afternoons and evenings, the sound of Chinese children practicing piano or violin come through the walls and windows. In fact, my wife’s sister has two sons and they both play violin but her oldest son is graduating this year from Stanford with a degree in (I think) environmental political science (or something similar).

      Amy Chua is an Asian-American with strong roots in Chinese culture. Both of her parents were born and raised in China and then immigrated to eventually arrive in the US where they earned university degrees. Chua’s father teaches math at UC Berkeley and her parents probably made her learn piano or violin when she was a child, yet she graduated from Harvard with a law degree.

      Many urban, middle and upper class Chinese parents believe that it is important to build character and discipline in their children and often do this through having the child learn ballet, piano or violin, etc. When a child is not allowed to give up learning how to play the piano, violin or dance ballet, that instills discipline and cultural values that transcends the self-esteem, have fun and the follow your dream mentality of many American parents that are not Asian Americans.

      NPR reported, “When Chua married her husband, fellow Yale law professor and novelist Jed Rubenfeld, they agreed that their children would be raised Jewish and reared “the Chinese way,” in which punishingly hard work — enforced by parents — yields excellence; excellence, in turn, yields satisfaction in what Chua calls a ‘virtuous circle.’ The success of this strategy is hard to dispute.”

      Source: http://www.npr.org/2011/01/11/132833376/tiger-mothers-raising-children-the-chinese-way

      Quora.com says and then asks, “There is some research that says that playing musical instruments helps brain development for mathematics, but that can’t account for all of it. At this point, it just seems to be part of the “identity,” i.e. this is what you do when you’re trying to raise a kid well. It’s not like Chinese people do this in China – learning musical instruments is no more a part of Chinese culture than it is in any other culture. So why is it a part of Chinese-American culture?”

      The first answer to the Quora question says it all, “The point of learning the piano is NOT about acquiring the skill of playing the piano so that the student can earn a living as a pianist. It is about building the character of the person. Here is the thing about character — you can’t build it by explicitly setting out to build it. Character is not a skill like tying your shoelaces. If it must be put in terms of “skill”, character is a “meta-skill” — a foundational human skill that is necessary to perfect any number of mechanical skills. And the only way to develop this meta-skill is to develop at least one highly sophisticated mechanical skill, such that the student may acquire the meta-skill in the course of building the mechanical skill.”

      Source: http://www.quora.com/Parenting/Why-do-Chinese-parents-make-their-kids-learn-musical-instruments

      In addition, it appears that many parents in China agree with Amy Chua’s parenting methods.

      From an issue of the China Daily, we have “Tiger Mom’s Popular in China” published April 15, 2011

      http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/language_tips/cdaudio/2011-04/15/content_12331882.htm

      The China Daily says, “The strict parenting style advocated by Amy Chua, the Yale law professor, in her latest book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is still popular in the country today, according to a recent survey.

      “Among 1,795 people polled online by China Youth Daily’s social research center, 94.9 percent said they know women who are strict mothers, and 55.1 percent said they see merit in Chua’s parenting”

      Do ‘Tiger Moms’ make the best parents? published in China on April 22, 2011
      http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-04/22/content_12375169.htm
      “Unlike in the West where children are encouraged to experiment and develop their own individual talents, Chinese parents believe the child is an extension of oneself. Chinese parents believe they know what is best for their children and therefore override the child’s preferences. Chua concludes that it may come down to a matter of choice. Westerners believe in allowing children a large measure of freedom to choose their own paths while the Chinese parent makes choices for her children.”

      Aftermath of Tiger Mom published April 28, 2011
      http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-04/28/content_12413125.htm

      Then Amy Chua wrote this two-part piece for the China Daily in early June.

      http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-06/03/content_12634106.htm

      http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2011-06/03/content_12634106_2.htm

      Amy Chua writes for the China Daily, “I was raised by extremely strict – but also extremely loving – Chinese parents, who arrived in the United States in 1960 as poor graduate students. My parents were very tough with my three sisters and me.

      “Today, however, I adore my parents and feel utterly grateful to them. I realize how much they always believed in me and how much they sacrificed for me. They gave me extraordinary opportunities – I went to Harvard, and I love my job as a Yale law professor – and made me proud of Chinese culture and and values.

      “That’s why I tried to raise my two daughters the same way. However, it was not easy. I was in the US, where parenting attitudes are very different. In the US, raising an “obedient” (guai) child is seen as negative and two hours of violin practice is considered abusive by many.”

      ___________________________

      The results of these cultural values speak for themselves. Asian-Americans have the lowest unemployment rate, the highest average family income, the lowest rate of STDs among teens, the lowest teen pregnancy rate, the lowest drug use rate among teens, the highest high school and college graduation rates, the lowest divorce rate and the highest marriage rate, etc. In addition, there is a myth that the style of parenting Amy Chua practices leads to high rates of suicide among Asian-Americans, but this isn’t true. Suicides among Asian-Americans are among the lowest rates in America while the suicide rate of Caucasians is much higher.

      You may believe whatever you want, but that does not mean you are right!

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