"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tiger Mother

Have you heard of this book: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua?

I'm sure you have. I'm usually the last to know about books that launch an international firestorm among mothers, child psychologists, journalists, and readers everywhere, as this one seems to have done. The buzz first began when excerpts of the memoir were printed in The Wall Street Journal before the book had been published. Since publication, the author has appeared on The Today Show, the issue of the Tiger Mother is spotlighted on the current cover of Time, and playgrounds and playgroups everywhere are on fire with talk/discussion/debate about the virtures and vices of the Tiger Mother.

But I missed all of that.

I discovered Tiger Mother when my three-year old almost bulldozed down the display of the book in Barnes and Noble today en route to the train table. As I helped him to pick up a few copies of the book from the floor, I thought, "Hm. Tiger Mother? I'm kind of an over-protective 'tiger mother,' maybe I should check this out..." So I brought one of the copies back to the kids' section to peruse while Evan hung out with Thomas the Tank Engine.

Turns out I am So Not a Tiger Mother. Apparently, "Tiger Mother," in the Chinese sense, refers to an authoritarian style of parenting so harsh, unrelenting, and demanding of excellence that Western parents (and more modern, cosmopolitan Chinese parents) are cringing in shock and sadness for those poor, tortured Chinese kids. And yet, Chua defends her parenting style, saying that, ultimately, we all want our kids to be happy. Western parents work to achieve that happiness by supporting their children and allowing them to follow their own interests. Chinese parents demand excellence and hard work from their children because, "nothing is fun until you're good at it." And being good at something requires a lot of hard work. And kids don't want to work hard. So you need to make them. By insulting them, punishing them for anything less than excellence, and requiring hours and hours and hours of practice, memorization, and study. Sounds like fun, huh?

I'm, like, the opposite of a Tiger Mother, as it turns out.

But, I think it's interesting to hear all sides of a story...all opinions and points of view, ESPECIALLY those that differ so dramatically from my own. So I'm reading the book. (I bought it through my iBooks app on my iPad and am deciding whether or not I like reading in this medium. So far there are several items on both sides of my mental pro/con list....Damn. More lists.)

I may come back and post some opinions on the book as I read. I'll definitely write a little review of the book when I finish and have formed a solid opinion of the book, the author, and the Tiger Mother, which, believe it or not, I have not yet formed. I'm keeping an open mind on this one. I bet she'll be able to teach me, the anti-Tiger Mother, a thing or two.

If you've read it, or want to join me, I'd love to hear what you think!

Lesson Learned:
This comes at such an interesting point in my life as a mom. Over the past few weeks, I have been making a concerted effort to Teach Less, Worry Less, Stress Less, Plan for the Distant Future Less, and Play MORE, Have Fun MORE, Be Present in Now MORE, and let my kids be Little MORE.....and here is a book that suggests that I am moving in the complete wrong direction. (I know I'm moving in the right direction for us. I'm not worried that this book will sway me to the Tiger Mother camp, but it'll be an interesting read nonetheless.)

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