15 responses to “"Tiger Mom" Mauls Creativity”

  1. Shefali O'Hara

    My Mom is from India and in some ways she is similar to a “Tiger Mom” – she expected me to get As and she would sometimes give me extra homework if I didn’t have enough… BUT she didn’t micromanage like Ms. Chua. So I’m actually a creative person! I remember long afternoons lying in the grass and looking at the clouds, letting my thoughts drift. And was allowed an occasional sleep-over. :)

    Children do need structure and to be pushed a little, and Americans sometimes focus more on being a “friend” than a parent. My Mom had a saying – a toddler should be treated like a king, a child like a servant, then a friend. Basically, what it meant was that when we were little (before first grade) we were allowed to PLAY and treated with a lot of indulgence. Once we got older, there was a lot more discipline. But once I got to high school, my Mom was much more like my friend. She trusted my decisions and encouraged me. I still had curfews and such, but I was allowed to negotiate rules and had a lot more freedom.

    Anyway, one of the things I think is most lacking in modern day American education is hands-on education. The great inventors of the 19th and 20th century were often tinkerers – they knew how things worked because they played with things themselves.

    Also, American educational standards used to be quite high. They have dropped and been dumbed down. Kids actually do need a certain amount of rote memorization to excel. It actually makes it easier to be creative if you understand the rules about how things work… and where you can bend or break them! :)

    But, anyway, I think there is a happy medium and having high expectations and discipline are good things but children also need to know it’s OK to take risks and failure is not the end of the world, and that Mom and Dad will love them even if they fail. :) Also, children are different… not all of them are academic. Some are artists or athletes or mechanics… it’s all good.

  2. Anat

    First off her kids don’t hate her. They are well adjusted and defend her. As one writer pointed out how would boys respond to this parenting. Probably not nearly as controllable. Or kids w learning differences they would like the schedule but not the rigidity. Her prerogative. I don’t think calling a kid garbage for disrespecting you is so terrible. Giving a kid back a card they made you is just rude but she’s clearly a rude person. Who cares how she parents. Her hubby is a wiz she isn’t her books are so poorly written. Her girls are successful but hardly innovators or prodigies. Kudos to her for all the hard work but nice that she’s made millions making hard working western moms feel like crap. She has a sister with a real disability who made achievements so my hats off to chuas parents. I think she also probably hired alot of nannies if she worked when her kids were young but I don’t think this would be disclosed. I’m proud of her kids she really didn’t need to make parents feel that pressuring your kids to the limit is the only way to be effective and to love. Btw why is dad such a wuss?

  3. Emma

    Amy Chau is well intentioned but so misguided. She has taken her beliefs in helping her children excel to such extremes that she’s lost site of the true goal of a life – to live a happy, productive, and authentic life.

  4. jessie

    I have not read the book, but I’ve seen a couple of interviews with that mother. I went to college as an adult for business, and I remember having been part of a group for a class report. One of my classmates in the group was adopted by a Caucasian couple was a Chinese male, and up to this day I remember what he told me when we I told him I wanted a grade of A — he said “A is the only grade you should strive for”.

    And now, I know the reason when there is a group project all the Asians choose their own kinds when the choice to choose is theirs.

    By the way, the college has had a couple of suicides of Asians students; I now believe there is a correlation between the demands made on them and their suicide.

  5. Jen Singer

    An article in today’s LA Times supports my theory about creativity: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-china-education-20110113,0,6192691.story

  6. Louise

    I appreciate your take on it, Jen. I’ll admit to being really conflicted when I first read the original piece, because in some ways I do think a lot of Western parents are overly concerned with how much their children like them than in instilling a work ethic and establishing boundaries. But the more I thought about it the more I realized that although these kids are successful in the traditional sense, the ability to play around with something and yes, fail, has been lost. If you’re interested in my complete take, I posted about it today at http://www.thoughtshappen.net/2011/01/what-chinese-mothers-cant-teach.html on my site Thoughts Happen.

  7. Gina Chen

    I am hesistant to chime in because I haven’t actually read the book – -just heard a book review on NPR. I have to say the book review got me a bit agitated. As a child who grew up with a weight problem I know that telling a child she is “fat” will do absolutely nothing to instill healthy eating habits or get her to lose weight. (That’s one of the suggestions that the Tiger mom makes.) That one tidbit horrified me.

    By the way, I should explain that despite my surname, I am a white American. (My husband is Chinese.)

    I feel some conflict over this issue. I certainly believe Americans can learn a lot from the Chinese educational system, which seems to expect all students to excell, rather than just the “smart ones.” But I would hate for my children to think badly about themselves because they aren’t the best at everything. I think that’s a very un-balanced view. Realistically, few children have the talent to play at Carnegie Hall (as the daughter of the Chinese mom in the book did) regardless of how many hours a day they practice.

    Would I be upset if my child got an A minus? No, as long as she did her best. If she didn’t study and she slacked off, I’d be upset at that. But if she worked her hardest, I’d be happy with much less than an A minus. Intelluctual ability is a bit like sports ability; most people hit the average, and then a few are much smarter or better. I’m the type of student (I’m getting a Ph.D.) who loathes myself for the one A minus I got in introductory statistics, and I don’t want to project that on my own kids. I don’t think it’s healthy in myself, let alone in my children.

    The ban on sleepovers and play dates — I’m not sure what that gains. Perhaps Americans make childhood too fun, but I don’t really believe there is no cost to what this author seems to be espousing. Learning to socialize, make friends, and experience interpersonal joys and disappointments are part of the learning process of childhood. I think we all know adults who didn’t learn well enough as kids how to be a friend; who wants to raise a kid like that?

    Finally, her advice appears to disregard the plethora of research that supports the idea that people — all people, including children — aren’t truly motivated by extrinsic rewards. The truly successful, I think, are those who are grow up in an environment where their own sense of motivation is fostered. That is, we need to teach our children to motivate themselves, not do things out of fear of punishment like a dollhouse being taken away.

    In short, children who are forced to succeed may do so short term, but there is a cost. That cost may be in hating the music you were forced to practice three hours a day, even on vacation. (With that said, I require my own 8-year-old daughter to practice piano almost every day because if I did not, she wouldn’t do it on her own. But it’s not for three hours. It’s not during vacation. She can skip a day for special circumstances (parties, sleepovers, holidays, etc.) I think that’s different in a matter of degree from what this author seems to be suggesting.

    Just call me a left-wing American, I guess. I think we can learn something from what this author calls “Chinese parenting techniques,” but I am not ready to throw away all the good-sense that many smart parents I know in America use.

  8. Noelle

    You know, I couldn’t exactly put to words what was so wrong about her approach, but you nailed it. and then I was thinking of “successful” Chinese-Americans, and you know what? At least from what I can think of, relatively few are in creative fields, like acting or improv or visual arts. Huh! Maybe there is a formula that can churn out doctors, and lawyers and piano and violin virtuosos. But, for us, I am perfectly happy being a western mom raising western children whatever they end up being. And, no sleep overs? How sad!

  9. ChemoBabe

    I am an academic and work with very smart and accomplished people. I think Chua is ridiculous and agree that this is most likely a provocative publicity stunt.

    When I was in graduate school at one of our nation’s top universities, I worked with an Asian-American woman whose mother seemed to follow Chua’s mothering guidelines. This woman had graduated from Harvard and was an outstanding classical pianist, but she was as neurotic as all get-out, by her own admission. Any time our work involved anything performative, she would be seized by horrible anxiety coupled with diarrhea. She ended up dropping out of graduate school because she never felt her research was strong enough to warrant a dissertation.

    I think that mental health is a legitimate thing for parents to concern themselves with. Feeling suicidal because you didn’t get into Stanford is not okay. It’s one of the great things about America, that there are a lot of ways to contribute and different paths of achievement.

  10. The Mommy

    The world is not black and white. She probably has some good points (like Western parents tend to blame the “system” and never their child when something is wrong) but the fact that she somehow justified abusing her child (the piano piece incident could easily be qualified as “abuse” by withholding use of the facilities and food) by pointing out that they snuggled that night. Um, that’s called craving positive attention – when you get nothing but negative of course you’re going to beg for positive.

    I am a firm believer that parents should be allowed to make their own mistakes and I try not to judge but COME ON!! This was flat out ridiculous and the fact that it was by an “educated” woman makes me think that intelligence has nothing to do with education. Bring on the fingerpaints!

  11. Jen Drexler

    You know who is creative? The publicist at her publisher! Got this in and basically guaranteed a bestseller from the maelstrom.

  12. Peggy

    It’s so sad, isn’t it? No joy, no free thinking.. how are humans supposed to progress if they grow up just reciting and learning others’ facts, music, etc? From experience (as a teacher), I can tell you that nothing kills a child’s inborn desire to learn than a pushy parent!
    Well, that lady can think she is better than other parents and it’s her right. She just better stay away from my child!

  13. Debra

    I would rather my children be able to think critically then recite correctly.

  14. Robin O'Bryant

    Seriously, wow. There is no formula for parenting and if this woman thinks her children are going to thank her for calling them garbage i think she’s got another thing coming! Parenting isn’t black and white, it’s shades of gray.

    This writer comes off as pompous, arrogant and racist. Does she really think there is no such thing as an Asian with an eating disorder? (Did I even just have to ask that question?)

    My kids don’t go to sleepovers but I don’t want to ostracize them from civilization so they can learn how to play a freaking instrument! For. The. LOVE.

    My brother is a gifted full-time musician and he didn’t get that way by my parents berating him. I took piano for several years but after continually telling my parents I hated it they let me quit. I wanted to have my nose in a book, which further fueled my desire to write. There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Bet she’s never heard that at Yale.

    I think this woman is RIDICULOUS.

  15. Ginny Williams

    Sad. Horrifying, even. It sounds like a miserable way to parent, and a miserable way to grow up. And a surefire way to ensure that your children hate you when they’re grown.

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