Amy Chua has pissed off a lot of people. After an article she wrote for The Wall Street Journal, which the magazine – not Chua – named “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”, the 49-year-old mom-of-two found herself in a corner, with a lot of explaining to do.
In the article alone, Chua seemed to imply that kids who grew up under the strict rules of a Chinese “Tiger Mom” turn out more successful – in her words, math whizzes and music prodigies – than kids with lenient “Western Moms” – a statement many “Western Moms” (and dads) jumped so quickly to deem demeaning.
A “Tiger Mom”, according to Chua, is someone who doesn’t allow her kids to attend sleepovers, participate in school plays, watch TV or play computer games, get a grade less than an A, and engage in any normal activities for children.
Among the Western moms and dads, Chua’s article created quite the uproar. The controversial topic of Eastern versus Western parenting seemed to appear in every newspaper, magazine, blog and facebook post.
For those of us Asian Americans, who grew up under the rigid, suffocating rules of a “Tiger Mom”, the article was more of a painful reminder of how we felt growing up – the sinking, shameful feeling of getting a B+ among straight A’s on a report card – no, it doesn’t matter that English was my second language, and that the class was really hard, and my parents didn’t helped me at all – I got a B+ and therefore I was dirt!
Like a lot of the population, I too was enraged by Chua’s egotistical and self righteous tongue in the article. Based on what facts does the woman have the right to declare that “Tiger Moms” – and “Tiger Moms” only – raise math whizzes and music prodigies? And what exactly is she implying – that “Western Moms” raise beach bums and potheads? Can an American-grown, Harvard-educated Yale Law Professor be this narrow-minded?
But then I read a commentary from Chua, in which she explained that the Wall Street Journal article was heavily-edited to exude a condescending tone. And her actual book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, was not meant to give parenting advice, belittle anybody, or create debate. It was simply a memoir of her raising two American daughters under the “Tiger Mom” method and discovering a bitter clash of cultures.
To avoid being narrow-minded myself, I diligently read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom – a well-written, articulate easy read, by the way – and found the true message conveyed through the book: that there is no right or wrong when it comes to parenting, and we all make mistakes.
Described in her book, Chua’s “Tiger Mom” method exceeded the extreme: hours of piano with no water, bathroom or dinner breaks; violin practice through family vacation. But after many years of imposing her stringent rules, Chua was finally defeated by a defiant 13-year-old cub, who publicly humiliated her by shattering a glass in a restaurant – an embarrassing failure for a proud “Tiger Mom”.
Through such growing pains – and nothing else – was Chua able to realize that even the most austere, involved “Tiger Mom” can raise a disobedient child if she pays no attention to her kid’s interests and needs.
Someone once told me that being a mom is “the hardest job you’ll ever love” – boy was she right! Even my little 7-months-old, without the ability of giving opinions or defiance, requires every single ounce of my energy. And without expecting any type of reward, the simple gesture of her smile and witnessing many of her firsts were enough to keep me working around the clock.
For the hard-working parents aroused by Chua’s Wall Street Journal article, we can’t help but wonder the right and wrong of the “Tiger Mom” method. Though deep down, even without reading Chua’s book, we all know that there is no definite right or wrong. There is, however, a journey that every parent must take with their children, in which many lessons are learned a long the way.
For Chua, her lesson would be that not all “Tiger Moms” raise math whizzes or music prodigies. She tried making her 13-year-old a violin master, but instead she became a member of the JV tennis team, with mediocre scores – and that was, eventually, good enough for the “Tiger Mom”.
As for the people who were pissed off by Amy Chua’s article – by pissed off, I mean really pissed off, as in death threats – have they read her book or understood her message?