Friday, January 21, 2011

"Tiger Mothers"

I recently came across this article, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," via a Facebook friend's link.  In it, author Amy Chua explains the differences that she sees between Chinese and "Western" mothers, and the reason that she feels Chinese children turn out to be more successful.  Chua sites one example of how she was able to degrade, demoralize, abuse and insult her daughter into playing a perfect piano recital piece, if you can believe it, in support of her methods.

In reaction to this article, Lac Su, author of "I Love Yous are for White People," writes about the deep scars that he has from being raised by two "Tigers."
 I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir (P.S.)

I'm pretty sure the debate over who has the best mothering methods has gone on for as long as there were at least two mothers on the earth. I always hate to hear moms comparing and cutting each other's parenting methods down, but when I hear someone bragging about how emotionally and even physically abusing their children has turned them into more "successful" adults, it makes my stomach turn.

There is so much I'd love to write in response to this article, but alas, being in the midst of raising two boys with a husband out of the country at the moment, running 3 businesses, getting ready for a birthday party and packing to move in a week have left me with less time than I'd like to blog.

I am especially leery of any mother who looks back and says they would not do a single thing differently if they had it to do all over again.  We all have our parenting regrets and no mom is perfect.  Anyone who thinks they are is living in a fairy land of denial.  It leads me to believe that this poor woman was raised the same way, and in her pursuit to carry over her parents' forced "perfection" into her parenting methods, she is living a life of deep-down denial, struggling to overcome her own feelings of failure.  If she were to admit that even the smallest thing she had done in raising her girls was a mistake, it would throw off her entire theory.  It would question not only her own parenting methods and those of the generations before her, but would require her to admit that even SHE is not perfect.  And that is not acceptable.  Seeing her girls excel in music and academia is still not enough to feed her self esteem, so she has to justify her method of parenting with the world in a desperate attempt to gain approval of other "tiger mothers," to justify everything she has feed her own self esteem which deep down is clearly low. 

I think the main difference in opinion lies in the fact that we have different definitions of "success."  Personally, for me, success does not mean getting straight A's and playing flawless musical pieces.  Really, in the end, is God going to care if you got good grades, performed a flawless piano recital, or climbed to the top of the corporate ladder?  To me, I will know I have been a successful parent if I see my boys turn into young men of character and integrity, who fear God and treat women with love and respect, become contributing members of society in a profession that they are good at and they enjoy doing, and in the end, are happy.  Yes, happy.  I know that probably sounds really pathetic and foreign to a "tiger mother," but they don't know what they are missing in life if they have not enjoyed true happiness.  I am sad for them and their children.  And if, along the way, my boys excel in music or art, math or science, I will of course foster that and be beaming from ear to ear with pride just like any mother, not just because of their skill or talent, but because they are enjoying doing it out of their own free will...because they are developing their own skill, confidence and pride in something they truly are good at and have earned, not because I spent countless hours abusively forcing them to memorize or repeat something to perfection.

Of course, I most definitely agree that we should challenge and push our children to excel where they have talent, to work hard and experience the pride and satisfaction that can only come from really earning something.  But I feel so sorry for this mother and for her girls. They are caught in a cycle that has gone on for countless generations.  I can only pray that one day, one of her girls will wake up unhappy, and like Lac Su, realize the pursuit of perfection is not worth the damage done by her "tiger mother" upbringing, realize that there are much more important things in life, and cut her own children a little slack. 

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