Ridley’s mascot is a tiger, although that descriptor is a bit fierce for my daughter in grade four. But this week, she and her class, some Tiger cubs, responded to the Tiger Mom who has been making news.
On Wednesday, when I was at Bishop’s College School, my daughter was working on her homework assignment: research a current event and make a presentation to the class. Thanks to Kevin, our family’s source of all good ideas, she chose to present a video interview with Amy Chua about her new book: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
I am intrigued by Chua. I like her emphasis on perseverance and excellence. She believes that her two daughters are capable of more than they think they are and pushes them to be their best. I think there is nothing wrong with that. Granted she goes to extreme measures, but she argues that when there is a basis of love, parents shouldn’t allow their children to be anything less than their best. She pounces on American parents who let their kids waste time sitting in front of the tv and playing video games and who don’t expect kids to excel – she says they are the irresponsible ones. And I actually think she is on to something.
Chua is certainly in the opposite corner of Wendy Mogul. In Blessings of a B-Minus, Mogul argues in favour of “compassionate detachment,” defined as “viewing the upsetting aspects of adolescence as normal and necessary — as blessings that represent healthy growth, parents can put them in perspective and react thoughtfully instead of impulsively. Thus, bad grades, emotional outbursts, rudeness, breaking the rules, staying up late and experimentation become signs that a teen is on course, not headed for disaster.”
It is Chua, though, who has touched a nerve with today’s parents, and many reviews of her book are quite critical of her “Chinese style” of parenting (for instance, she didn’t let her daughters have play dates, or go to birthday parties or sleepovers). In this week’s New York Times, columnist David Brooks makes the point that Chua was in fact indulging, not challenging her girls, because, in his opinion, going to a birthday party was more of a challenge than practicing piano for hours on end, because at birthday parties children learn how to relate and get along with others.
When Kathleen told me that she was presenting her views of parenting to her class, I forwarded Jim Power’s blog, The Power Point, to her teacher. Miss Lewis encouraged her class to respond to Jim Power’s question: “Is Chua just being honest about a reality (most of us coddle our already indulged children) we’d rather not think about? Or is she too narrow in her definition of success? Or is there something else in the air that has sparked this reaction?”
You can find the class response to the blog here, but this is what Miss Lewis reported to me from the mouths of her cubs:
“I am glad she is not my mother.”
“They were forced to do it … if they just did it themselves they would enjoy it more.”
“She should let her children have more friends because they could always rely on them to help out if you are having a tough time.”
“Parents should push kids but not over the top, they need to know what the boundaries are.”
“It is good to play an instrument but kids should practice because they want to, not because they are forced to.”
“Her kids got hurt, like they got broken hearts because they could not meet her expectations.”
“Kids need balance in their life and to experience all different sorts of things to find out what they are good at and what they enjoy.”
“You cannot be perfect at everything because you need to learn from your mistakes to get better.”
Maybe what is great about Chua’s book is the conversations that are happening between parents, teachers, and children – how to strive for excellence while letting kids be kids.