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
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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