Monday, January 10, 2011

If only I were a tougher mother, this kid would stop throwing up

Given the hour, that there's no way I will write the coherent couple of paragraphs that I'd hoped to crank out in response to "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," the Wall Street Journal's recent excerpt of Amy Chua's new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which, as represented by the excerpt, is a strictly no-excuses approach to parenting that's engineered to produced high-achieving kids. The fairly terrifying excerpt is engendering major buzz on the internets. I'm not normally one for a bandwagon, but this particular piece caught my interest, I had been sketching out a response that analyzed this approach to parental partnership in academic achievement, and whether an isolated focus on academics could possibly be the best approach to every kid in every school situation.

But then, my four year old, Henry, was sent home from preschool with a stomach bug and in terms of anything that requires sustained thought, like a couple of coherent paragraphs, my battleship is sunk. I suspect that Chua would handle this situation quite differently. She'd have no trouble making her deadlines. I imagine she'd harangue her child into finding the fortitude and character necessary to stop upchucking.

Clearly, Henry just isn't trying hard enough. It actually seems like he's not trying to stop at all. I can't imagine he's enjoying being sick, but I am probably reinforcing his weakness by allowing him to watch TV. Chua reports that her children don't watch TV, presumably not even when sick, which they probably never are, possibly terrorized by the wrath that would descend for allowing their immune systems to be anything but perfect.

My willingness to needle Chua without giving her ideas their proper due indicates that this isn't my approach. I am actually a tough-ass (not by Chua-ian standards, of course) mom on many fronts, including sick days and TV. I'm about to sign off and go turn off the TV and read with him, so I will wrap this up by saying that I wonder how schools handle a parent like Chua and her fellow tiger mothers (and, I suppose, fathers), and I wonder if there's anything truly redeeming or worthy of attention in her approach? Parenting approach, not sure, though I may break down and read the whole book so I can respond more fairly. In terms of her marketing approach, I am taking avid notes. Thanks for the tips, Professor Chua; that you've gotten me and many others to promote your book is awesome. Emulate, I surely will. And now I need to go and read to this poor sick kid, who I think is just great, bad tummy and all.


  1. I think about this kind of thing a lot. Clearly I am not a Tiger mother -- and I've tormented myself greatly about the effects of my failure to be tough. It's odd, though -- if my kids didn't struggle with academic and emotional problems, I'd probably think that my way of parenting was fantastic!

  2. Your way of parenting is fantastic! You are exactly the mom your kids need. I cannot imagine taking this sort of "no excuses" approach with them. There may well be some kids who would respond to it well, but not yours, and not mine.

  3. what's distressing to me was there *were* some moments in the excerpt that got me nodding a bit.

    do we not all have a default assumption in the west that our kids can get straight As? and if that's' the case, why aren't we giving our kids more credit?

    and when they come home with sub-par grades (and i'm not referring to an A-) do we throw up our hands and assume that no amount of trying will help change things? or are us americans just too lazy to parent with so much intensity/time?

    i guess any time someone dares to point a finger at my parenting, i take a moment to fret over/examine it. it's like seeing a cop and slowing down, even when you're not speeding.

    all that said, i guess i question what our end-goals should be as parents. "success" to chua seems to be carnegie hall. but to me, i want my kids happy and secure. i want them to be polite and respectful and have a strong sense of themselves, whoever it is they turn out to be as adults.

    it was horrifying to hear that she had her child in front of a piano with no tinkle or food breaks... a draconian means to an end. heckling her kid as a dinner party? for shame.

    and why no sleepovers? are her kids being drilled on math problems even as they sleep?

    for their sake, i hope all those kids who aren't allowed to date in high school have found some excellent ways to climb out their bedroom windows at night. what a wake-up call it would be to these uber-strict parents if they saw what was *really* going on in their kids lives...

  4. I haven't read Chua's book, which sounds terrifying. As Henry's grandmother, I am exceedingly grateful that his mother read to him, gave him the downtime he needed and requisite cuddling. No excuses necessary.