Review for “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”

January 25, 2011

Any fool can be a parent, and the average American parent is a fool.

Amy Chua is not a fool.

I taught English, journalism and reading in the American public schools from 1975 to 2005. I experienced the decline of the American family while working 60 to 100 hours a week teaching, writing lesson plans and correcting the work my students turned in.

When I was born, children were still taught to be seen and not heard. Most of my generation was polite and respectful of our elders — not so today.

My mother taught me how to read and I was required to learn and play a musical instrument. For me that was the accordion. However, my parents weren’t as tough as Chua was, and I don’t remember how to play the accordion, which is something I regret.

In America, any semblance of a parent’s freedom of choice of how to raise a child all but vanished starting in the 1960s when the Self-esteem Arm of Political Correctness (SAP) became the only acceptable way to act, think, and speak as a parent.

Parents that deviated from the self-esteem model were driven underground and Chua was perceptive enough to see that.

Sophia, Amy Chua’s oldest daughter, shows what SAP has done to America’s children on page 191 (hardcover).  Sophia says, “Do you know what a good daughter I am? Everyone else I know parties all the time, and they drink and do drugs. And do you know what I do? Every day I run straight home from school.  I run.…”

What Sophia said is true. My wife and I heard much the same story from our daughter, and I saw this self-destructive behavior become the norm during the thirty years I was a teacher in the US public schools.

I suggest strongly that if you plan to be a parent soon or in the future, read Amy Chua’s memoir so you know what your parenting choices are.

For anyone who has a child already in school, it may be too late to reverse the damage that has been done by being a SAP

Changing a child’s unacceptable behavior can happen but the longer a child goes without being corrected, the more of a challenge it becomes.

In her memoir, Chua mentions that her husband and most Westerners believe we owe children since they did not ask to be born.

Where did this ridiculous concept come from?

The answer is SAP!

In fact, no one alive today or at any time in history asked to be born.  Adam in the Garden of Eden did not ask God to create him, and God used the “carrot and stick” method to control Adam’s behavior. When Adam broke God’s one rule, He threw Adam out of the Garden and took away his immortality.

If you decide to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, pay close attention and you will discover that Chua’s daughters did not suffer as much as some critics claim. When a Time magazine reporter recently interviewed Chua in her home, her oldest daughter was upstairs with her boyfriend and could be heard laughing.

Children don’t have to go shopping for the latest fashions or spend a day at Disneyland to have fun. If a child is raised properly, he or she will find enjoyment in things such as reading or learning how to play the violin or piano.

Sarah and Lulu, Amy Chua’s daughters, have lived an incredible life that most children never imagine and their mother gave them the best gift of all — values and discipline.

A real parent, like God with Adam, sets rules, goals and expectations for his or her children. This is what Amy Chua writes about throughout her memoir as she explores the difference between two methods of raising children.

Life cannot be all carrots and fun as the average American SAP parent believes.

In this brutally honest memoir, Amy Chua shows us the extremes of Tough Love.

Love, by definition is not abuse and Chua does not abuse her children when she set high goals/standards for them and demanded that her daughters achieve these goals. After reading the essay, Chinese Mothers are Superior, in the Wall Street Journal or reading her memoir, if you feel she abused her children, you are wrong and have no idea what abuse is.

By expecting excellence from her daughters, Chua demands more of herself and sacrifices much to see that her children achieve the goals that are the parent’s right to decide — at last until that child is a teenager.

The Tiger Mother Tough Love approach to raising a child that Chua writes of in her memoir is not the only Tough Love parenting model.

A Tough Love parent may also set the bar as low as earning D’s or better while only praising the best the child does such as earning an A on a major assignment or test or winning a gold or silver medal in a challenging competition where few win among many who compete.

In the Tough Love approach to parenting there must be a stick and a carrot (punishments and rewards) and there must be criticism and praise. How much of a choice a child has, at least until they are a teen, is decided by the parents — not the child.

The American SAP method of raising children is not parenting — it’s child abuse.

Studies show the average American child spends about 10 hours a day in one or more of these empty activities — watching TV, playing video games, socializing on Internet sites such as Facebook or sending hundreds of text messages on a mobile phone.

Studies also show that watching TV stunts the growth of a child’s imagination.

SAP parents seldom if ever use a stick just as the word “NO” is seldom heard or enforced if used.

Amy Chua started out tough and mean and that was the right decision. She was also right when she said, “All those Western parents with the same party line about what’s good for children and what’s not — I’m not sure they’re making choices at all. They just do what everyone else does.…”

She was right.

In thirty years of teaching, I worked with more than 6,000 children and teens and met with and talked to hundreds of parents. It is sad how the SAP parents all sounded and acted the same. They were broken records.

It is easier for a tough parent to go soft than a soft parent to become tough. I learned that from my master teacher the year I was earning my teaching credential.

Children are born wild and it is up to parents and teachers to tame them and show them the proper way to behave and live his or her life. SAP parents often fail at this job.

A parent or child in a SAP family never takes the blame when the child fails a test or a class or behaves unacceptable in public. Instead, the blame goes to the schools and teachers even if the child or teen never reads, doesn’t do homework or never studies for tests.

To a SAP parent, it is always the teacher’s fault.

To a SAP parent, depriving a child of his daily dose of fun is evil.

As a teacher, I was often the victim of SAP parents and children.

When my son was born, I practiced Tough Love and his mother was a SAP.  When I punished him for not following the rules, his mother accused me of child abuse.

We divorced when he was three.

After that, his mother raised him as a SAP 90% of the time. He spent the other 10% with me. When he was with me, I made him do yard work and other weekend chores while I was also doing them. I also made him read and do his homework.

During the week when my son was with his SAP mother, she called and asked me to tell him to do his homework.

My son’s SAP mother helped him become the successful waiter and bartender he is today at thirty-four. His dream, which his SAP mother encouraged, was to become a famous actor but that did not happen.

After my son’s first year out of high school, he told me he went to Disneyland thirty times. He did not earn a college education or degree. His SAP mother must be very proud of him.

I remarried and my wife is a Tough Love parent. She is also Chinese but not as tough as Amy Chua is.

In fact, every Asian and Chinese mother I’ve met was a Tough Love parent as Amy Chua points out in her memoir. I’ve read some of Chua’s critics accusing her of stereotyping Chinese mothers.

Those critics were wrong.

Most Chinese mothers practice a form of Tough Love and I often laughed while reading Chua’s book since the images were so vivid and real. Since most of my wife’s friends are Chinese mothers, I’ve seen how they are similar to Chua as parents. The mother depicted in Amy Tan’s book, The Joy Luck Club, was modeled after Tan’s Chinese mother.

When my wife and I raised our daughter, who is 19 now, we were always on the same page as far as discipline.  Unlike Chua’s husband, I never disagreed with my wife’s Tiger Mother methods.

There was no problem restricting TV to a few hours on the weekend with content controlled by us.

Our daughter grew up reading books and there were no video games in our house. When I bought our daughter a mobile phone after she was in high school, I told her she would lose the phone if she used it for texting or used all the minutes that came with the plan I paid for. In four years, there was one 25-cent text message on the phone bill for her phone.

It wasn’t our daughter who used up the minutes talking on the phone. It was my wife.

I convinced my Chinese Tiger Mother wife that our daughter should be a scholar athlete, as it would help her get into a top US college.  Our daughter was urged to select a sport, and she excelled in Pole Vault where she was listed as one of the top five girl pole-vaulters for her age in California.  She seldom missed a practice and continued to earn A’s in her academic classes.

Both her mother and I tried to get her to go easier on herself, but she refused.

We allowed our daughter to attend a few school dances with a strict curfew. The one time she tried to get me to let her stay out later, I said no and did not back down.

She also was allowed a few sleepovers. However, at home bedtime was 9:30 with a stern rebuke by her mother if she wasn’t in bed on time.

Research shows that during the growing years, the brain does all of its development while sleeping, which required at least nine or more hours a night, and if sleep is missed, brain growth suffers.

Our daughter always had a nutritious breakfast before going to school. Each year, I asked my SAP students if they ate breakfast. Few did.

In addition, her mother and I used standardized test results to discover our daughter’s weak academic areas and strengthen them. She told her friends she had more fun at school than at home where the work her mother and I provided was often more challenging.

Of course, our daughter’s SAP raised friends felt sorry for her and this led to the same sort of rebellious behavior that Amy Chua’s youngest daughter Lulu demonstrates throughout most of the memoir.

Since our daughter had free time on her hands without video games and TV to soak it up, she taught herself how to play the piano without pressure. However, she will never play with the skill that Sophia and Lulu have for the piano and violin.

Graduating with a 4.65 GPA, our daughter was accepted to Stanford. I don’t think she will end up as a waiter or bartender as a lifelong career.

I wonder if my SAP raised son is happy knowing he may spend most of his life waiting on tables or mixing drinks for the low pay that comes with a job such as that. Then again, maybe he will win the lottery and have more time to visit Disneyland and have fun partying.

I urge everyone that reads this review to buy and read Amy Chua’s memoir. That doesn’t mean you have to be the parent she is but hopefully it will help you avoid being a SAP.

Learn more from In Defense of Tiger Mothers

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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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Confucius with Chow Yun Fat

August 6, 2010

When my wife and daughter made their annual summer pilgrimage to China, I asked them to bring back a DVD of the new Confucius with Chow Yun Fat. Unfortunately, the copy they brought would not play on any of the American DVD players we have at home. The world is divided into regions and each region has its own DVDs that won’t play in other regions.

Determined, I resorted to e-bay to find a DVD for the US and Canada.  It cost me about $10 plus postage. The above link will take you to Amazon where you may order one.

The movie’s visuals are stunning and Chow Yun Fat does an incredibly convincing job of playing Confucius, who, no matter how much he was abused by the rulers of his homeland, he still honored them.

If you don’t speak Mandarin and must rely on the English subtitles, be warned that most of the subtitles are mangled and do not stay on screen long enough.  The challenge is to read the subtitle while keeping an eye on the stunning visuals.

This movie is an epic equal to Cleopatra, Moses and Spartacus.  However, if you expect a potboiler, you won’t get one most of the time. Yet, the battle scenes were amazing no matter how brief they were.

It’s obvious that this movie was filmed for a Chinese/Asian audience and their tastes are not as shallow as what most Americans prefer. I’m sure the Chinese didn’t want to ruin the movie by letting Hollywood get hold of it.

Confucius with his students

The DVD I bought and watched had a photo of Confucius with a beautiful woman on the cover. They must have added her to the cover for that Hollywood sexy touch to appeal to an American audience. In the movie, she plays a minor role and is assassinated for wanting power in a violent world dominated by men busy killing each other.

From what I know of Confucius, the movie showed him close to who he must have been—an honorable man wanting to bring peace to a war-torn land and end the people’s suffering.  He spends more than a decade homeless wondering the land in search of someone who will listen besides the rag-tag band of students who stuck to him like glue.

If anything, we could learn something about dedication and loyalty from this band and their master.

At the bottom of the DVD box, it says, “His teachings were banned under Mao Zedong, who oversaw the destruction of his family home during the Cultural Revolution.”

Ironic, considering that Mao stayed in power his last decade because of what Confucius taught the Chinese about piety.

Discover more about The Life of Confucius

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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Not One Less (1999)

May 8, 2010

In the movie Not One Less, a thirteen-year-old girl is asked to be the substitute teacher in a small Chinese village.  The teacher tells her that when he returns, if he finds all the students there, he will pay her ten yuan—less than two American dollars.

Although money is involved, it isn’t much. When one student, Zhang Huike, stops coming to school, Wei Minzhim, the thirteen-year-old substitute, follows him to the city.

There are several themes in this movie. The most powerful to me were the value of an education and not losing face. If Wei loses Zhang, she will fail the responsibility the teacher gave her. To succeed, she must keep all the students and teach them.

Confucius taught the Chinese that an education was the great equalizer and the key to leaving poverty behind. Most Chinese believe this with a passion.

Zhang Yimou was the director. He says, “Chinese culture is still rooted in the countryside. If you don’t know the peasant, you don’t know China.” Because of this, there is a strong message in this movie about the urban–rural divide, which is being addressed as China sews the nation together with high-speed rail and electricity.

This a powerful movie about children, education, and poverty that shows the challenges China faces in lifting the lifestyles of almost eight hundred million Chinese, who don’t live in the cities. The challenge is to do this without losing the values that made China what it is.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel, Running with the Enemy, was awarded an honorable mention in general fiction at the 2013 San Francisco Book Festival.

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Pain, Pollution and People

February 14, 2010

It’s difficult to write when I’m gasping for air and blowing my top. When I was still teaching, walking into a classroom in the morning made me sick—and no, I wasn’t allergic to my students, but I should have been.

Then I retired and for five years, I have been free of wheezy lungs and sinus infections that always arrived with the start of each school year when I worked in those old buildings at the high school where I taught. Have you heard of sick building syndrome? I lived it. The last time I was sick from air pollution was in Shanghai.

This new, peaceful world changed several weeks ago. Workers came with power tools and mud-caked boots. I should have fled, but I stayed at my computer as a stupid, stubborn, former United States Marine would.

covered office furniture

My office has three doors. One that leads toward the other rooms and one that opens to the outside. Then there is the door that opens to the space under the second story and the foundation. That crew drilled, pounded, cut and tracked dirt from room to room—always in my office. I had trouble concentrating. I suffered from memory loss. Plastic tarps covered most of the furniture, and I couldn’t find things. When I left the office to find a moment of peace, I covered the computer and printers with a bed sheet. The noise reminded me of combat but worse, because I was nineteen and then twenty when I was in Vietnam—noise did not bother me as it does now.

Concrete dust floated through the air and my sinuses and lungs rebelled, so I put on a 3M mask with two pink HEPA filters attached. The last time I wore a mask like this was when I was teaching. I searched the garage and found the noise suppresser to help mute the pounding and drilling.  I looked like an explorer to Mars or a survivor of trench warfare struggling to write while the frigid air froze my fingers.

The crew had arrived to bolster the foundation against future earthquakes that might never arrive. Even if a hard tumbler did visit, I doubt that all that work would hold our sixty-year old hillside house together. It still might slide down the hill into the middle of the street blocking traffic.

I could have moved, but I didn’t want to disconnect all the cables and cart the equipment to another room for a few days to escape the dust and noise—something (I soon discovered) that would have been impossible without checking into a hotel.

Even with a noise suppresser covering my ears, muted sounds intruded and the last place I wanted to be was in this chair writing about China, the Vietnam War or being a teacher in the tortured American public schools. I stuck with it for days as my suppressed anger fueled by PTSD started to simmer and fume.

It was a relief when the workers finished. I thought I was going to have the tranquility back where the only noise would be the click of the keys as my warmed hands flew across the keyboard meeting my Blogging goals.

But the workers left something behind.

I started sneezing. My sinuses ran hundred mile marathons. I went to the doctor and he prescribed medications that didn’t work. The sneezing went volcanic—like Mt. Saint Helena blowing its top.  One time, I sneezed so bad, I blew the 3M mask off my face—so much for a mask that’s supposed to protect you from every gas and plague Islamic terrorists can brew. Upstairs or outside, I was fine. But in my office, I was a goner. “Blam, blam, balm,” my nose exploded like rapid shots from a fifty-caliber submachine gun.

I could have opened windows, but it’s been raining for weeks.  The sky has been overcast.  The air breezy and cold.  Then today, the sun came out and I finally let the outside in and the sneezing stopped—I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on wood. I’m afraid to close the windows, but night will come and with it lower temperatures. I fear that whatever industrial poison is haunting my once tranquil office space might return.


Education Chinese Style – Part 5

February 11, 2010

In America many children are bored with school and use excuses to not study or read. This has led to high drop-out rates.

Here are the most common complaints heard over the years:

“I don’t like to read.”
“Why do you give us so much home work?”
“This class is no fun.”
“The reason I don’t do the work is because this class is boring.”

An American High School

“You failed me.”
“You are boring.”

It was bad enough to hear this from students. The parents of many failing students I taught made the same accusations. Not once in thirty years did I hear one parent take the blame. It was always the teacher’s fault when their kid didn’t pass a class or improve their reading ability.

A lot of the blame for this attitude is because of the self-esteem movement that was based on flawed logic proven with research to be wrong. It seems, that once the Titanic was on course, there was no stopping the ship of education from hitting the iceberg.

See Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart.


Education Chinese Style – Part 4

February 11, 2010

In America, liberal minded professors talk about ways to limit entrance to the qualified and allow the unqualified in. I witnessed this dumbing down of America many times during my thirty years as a public school teacher, and I refused to take part. I challenged my students and was always under attack from parents and administrators. Some parents demanded that their children be removed from my class so the child’s self-esteem wouldn’t suffer.

In China, students spend most of their school years intensely studying to take exams that will allow a few to get into college. The universities in China  have room for only a few eligible students. For that reason, after school, many students are tutored or take private classes to get ready for the next school day.

Chinese elementary students where the pressure starts.

My wife told me a story about a boy she knew when she was growing up in Shanghai. His grades were horrible. When his parents found out, they took off their shoes and started to beat their son to death. The teacher had to step in and save the boy. The parents did not blame the teacher for the boy’s lack of success. They blamed themselves and the child.

 See Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart.


American Hypocrisy

January 28, 2010

 

The American Hypocrisy and Multicultural Respect

Why am I writing about China? Simple—many Americans do not respect the differences between cultures. They say they do, but I don’t believe them. During the 2008-2009 school year, our daughter returned home one day to tell us that her history teacher talked about China and said the people had to be very depressed to live under a totalitarian government like the Communists.

Retired citizens playing Chinese chess in a Shanghai park.

When our daughter attempted to disagree, the teacher and the entire class put her down, so she shut up. Now it is January 2010 (another school year), and she came home recently and said the same thing happened during another class discussion, but this time she stayed quiet and fumed.

 I taught English and journalism in American public schools for thirty years. The high school where I taught was a spicy multicultural soup where I learned that teachers should know what they are talking about or keep quiet.

Our daughter, a senior in high school now, was born in Chicago and grew up speaking English. Her mother was born in Shanghai and survived Mao’s Cultural Revolution (which caused the deaths of at least thirty million). My wife came to the United States in the 1980s when she was twenty-eight. Our daughter has been to China sometimes twice a year during her eighteen years, and she speaks fluent Mandarin with no accent. She has also been learning Spanish since Middle School.

I wanted to educate that ignorant teacher with facts about China, but my wife and daughter said not to stir the pot (very Chinese). I’ve been to China many times and have never seen the people depressed as I’ve seen in the country of my birth. I was born in Southern California soon after World War II. My ancestors come from Ireland, England and Europe.

When in China, you hear little about the government unless you listen to the official, government media. The people are too busy enjoying life to be bothered by a government that is doing all it can to raise the standard of living for 1.3 billion Chinese. I see more depression and anger in America during more than six decades of life than I have seen in China the last ten.

There are seventy million communists in China and more than a billion people that love life and live it to the fullest without chasing one material thing after another with credit-card debt.  

My wife has an American-born friend who broke into tears once because she couldn’t charge a two thousand dollar jacket–her credit cards debt was maxed out. I’ve never seen or heard of that type of behavior in China. I’m sure it happens, but I haven’t witnessed it. Most Chinese live simple lives in simple, but crowded, surroundings. Over the years, I’ve discovered that family, friends and gaining an education are more important to most Chinese than buying material junk.

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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. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.