Tiger Mom

Do I need to weigh in on the Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother mess? Do I have anything really original to say about the matter? Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way. First, she’s trying to sell books. Of course an article title like “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” is going to draw attention and boost sales. That’s why they chose it. Second, it’s a memoir, not a handbook. Just because it (kind of) worked for her kids, doesn’t mean it will work for all of them. Third, it’s a memoir. Try pretending it’s a reality show. It over exaggerates some parts and satirizes itself as it goes.

Let’s assume, for the time being, that this model works. That all children, regardless of natural ability or socio-economic advantages, can become high-paid, high-achieving wonders. Is this what you want your child to be? 4.0 scoring, classical music playing, aspiring corporate lawyers? If that’s what a child actually dreams of becoming, that’s one thing, but is that the highest dream you have for your child? To be respected by the world and make a lot of money?

The alternative is not lazy, mediocre children. It is not an “everyone is special and perfect just the way they are” system of praising children for doing anything. The alternative is a system that pushes youth towards critical thinking. Lawyers and doctors and engineers are great, but Asian parents pick those professions because they’re a sure way to find financial security, not because they are inherently better than other professions.

Youth need an alternative to Chua’s description of Eastern and Western parenting. One that rejects the idea that success is about money and materialism and awards. One that teaches youth to look critically at the world around them and question the status quo. If I were to risk sounding like a hippie, I’d say one that asks youth to recognize injustice and feel the need to fix them.

As a important side note, extreme pressure makes as many kids crack as it does succeed. Especially for Asian American women, extreme pressure creates people who are incredibly successful outwardly, but unable to cope with the mental stress of living up to expectations. And if all parents can do is put on pressure, it leaves kids to crumble without emotional support.


4 thoughts on “Tiger Mom

  1. been thinking a lot about the article. and i agree with mostly everything you said. particularly when thinking about the article as publicity for her book.

    i will say though, for myself and from my experience, that she’s right about chinese or asian perceptions of their kids. that their kids are culturally assumed to be stronger, and therefore more readily adaptable to pressure situations. now of course, this mutilates many times into terrible situations like the 22% rate of Korean-American students dropping out of ivy leagues. which is almost double the rate of chinese-americans. but perhaps i’m diverging onto a separate discussion topic since it seems much more unique to korean-americans than other immigrant communities.

    there is something very profound to be said about intention and foundational principles/understandings about the capacities of kids. and i think amy is very correct to view her kids as stronger and able to move beyond the confines of self-esteem. i personally think self-esteem is more often a barrier to one actually doing work and getting into the moment (which is when work is ideal, regardless of what the subject matter is). now i feel you on what you mean by critical thinking capacities.. and especially how so many asian-americans are shamefully lacking in those areas. and of course, by critical thinking i’m referring to community consciousness and not intellectual capacities (we’ve already proven that we can think and climb).

    to be honest, i think the place where i’m speaking from is the mental state where one tries to determine what one loves. and trying to find what that love is. and this is the ideal right? to love what one does. and to love the work that one does. but i’m coming to find that this is generally a dangerous idea. dangerous because who actually knows what one loves? love is momentary in that it is dynamic and ever-moving. and what one loves is more a journey than it is a destination.

    so when it comes to things like profession… i think parental sentiments are generally right when trying to push kids into secure financial situations, since i’m under the belief that many people are generally fickle about what they “want” to do. and whatever that “want” is, generally artistic in nature, could often be thought of as skills and creative mindsets that can and should be applied to all situations, not just painting. art, in this sense, is a posture of exploration.. the findings of which are meant to be applied and explored with all areas and doings of life.

    what am i trying to say? it’s about passing the encouragement, drive, and ambition to others and your children that you can re-make yourself… over and over again. that you can do what you have to do in order to survive (whatever that may be) and still jump gears at another point. and this skill, this critical capacity, is what i find most lacking among people. not that people aren’t talented or gifted enough.. but it’s that people lack the belief. people fail to recognize the profound possibilities that arise in those everyday ideas that flash across our minds, the ones we deem as silly and pass aside.

    what does this have to do with amy? she is that kind of woman, at the end of the day. let’s face it: she holds one of the most prestigious positions at the most prestigious law institution in the world. this is not to construct barriers.. but rather it is a statement on what she has to say ought to be heard, especially as asian-americans. whether we agree or not, that’s the judgement. but perhaps the undertones are that she’s pushing for the capacities of self re-making. and perhaps too many of think too lowly of ourselves.

    and at the very least, i respect how she views the strength of kids.

  2. Thanks so much for the thoughts!

    It occurs to me that parents like Amy Chua are very much trying to instill their children with a certain brand of self confidence, one based on the child seeing themselves succeed through practice, not words. The theory goes that if you possess tangible evidence of your ability to succeed, who cares what people say to you? And isn’t that worth infinitely more than an inflated sense of self that never pushes a child past mediocrity based on laziness?

    I agree that most people don’t really know what they want to do. And I think that’s a product of never being encouraged to think for ourselves. In Chua’s descriptions of parenting styles, there’s no shadow even, of the idea that children are strong or smart enough to make decisions for themselves, that they might have goals or ambitions of their own.

  3. Pingback: Look At Me! More Stuff That Doesn’t Deserve My Time, But Gets It Anyway « Movements and Moments

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