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.