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.
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.”
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