Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Baby Book Report - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

First, take a deep breath.  I did not pick up this book with the intention of getting serious child-raising tips from it.  I think it came up on a list when I was browsing for something non-baby related to read, and I thought, "let's see what all the fuss was about".

However, it ended up being entertaining (in a "gnarly car crash where no one is actually hurt" kind of way), and there were a few points that came up as I was reading that I thought were worth thinking about and mentioning.

If you don't know/don't care/don't remember when this book made headlines back in the early spring of 2011, it's written by a mother who is determined to raise her two daughters the "Chinese way" (read: dictator) rather than the "American way" (read: Mr. Rodgers).  Amy Chua, the author, caught a lot of flack when the book came out because she talks about how she never let her daughters have play dates (When would there be time for them to learn algebra in the 1st grade?) and documents raging, screaming battles where she forces them to practice the piano and violin while on family vacation.  As crazy as she comes across in the book, it's definitely more along the lines of "I'm glad she's not my mother" crazy rather than "call child protective services" crazy.  Think of a Toddlers and Tiaras mom who shops at Wegmans rather than WalMart.          

But while Chua heaps praise on what she calls "Chinese parents", there are Barnes and Noble shelves lined with books by other authors complaining that helicopter parents (and I challenge Chua to say that her Chinese parents are not one in the same) are *gasp* ruining American society.  Both sides have valid points (you will probably have to MAKE your kid brush his teeth but you should probably not write his college admissions essay), and the challenge is in finding a balance between the extremes of 4-hour violin practice and letting Little Johnny learn the stove is hot through personal experimentation.  And all that depends parents (you can hear the whirring of my rotor blades now) and on the kid.  Kids who want to please or just don't care tend to do well with helicopter parents.  Headstrong kids who want their own way will rebel and parents lose the control they desperately desire.

The other issue that comes up in the book is that, while Chua repeatedly says her parenting style was for the benefit of her daughters and not for her own personal gratification, it doesn't take a psychology degree to tell that she has a lot of her self-worth tied up in her daughters' successes.  Chua takes this to an extreme degree, but I think that's a temptation that every parent must struggle with.  I know that thinking about the kind of mother I want to be makes me reflect on the decisions I've made in my own life and my own relationship with my parents.  What if I'd done X differently?  Would my life really be better?  Would I want something different for my child?  Would that really be better?  For example, as long as Baby Sniglar-Moonpie shows any interest, I'd like to start him taking (age appropriate) piano lessons at a pretty early age (like early elementary school), which is something neither Daniel or I did.  On the other hand, I'm not convinced that obsessing over sending him to Harvard as an undergraduate would really improve his or our lives.

So parents, future parents, people who know they never want to be parents... what do you think?  Where do you fall on the helicopter vs. "let the kid learn on his own" spectrum?  Do you think feelings about your past color the way you raise(d) your children?  Any advice for someone who wants to be a good mom who is involved in her kids lives but knows she will probably be tempted to go overboard?        

No comments:

Post a Comment