Tiger Mom would never stand for that.
“Tiger Mom” is Amy Chua, the author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a new book that blames playdates, among other things, as the cause of Western parenting’s failures. Chinese parents are superior, she says. As she wrote in an essay in the Wall Street Journal this weekend, her teen daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to have playdates or:
- attend a sleepover
- be in a school play
- watch TV or play computer games
- get any grade less than an A
- not be the number one student in every subject, except gym and drama
- play any instrument besides the piano or the violin
My son would fit Tiger Mom’s vision for “successful” children in that he plays the piano, but after that, he falls terribly short, despite getting mostly As in middle school.
Sadly, there’s little I can do about it in her eyes, because, she writes, “Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best.”
Like my Western brethren, I am, to Chua, over-concerned about my children’s self esteem. I wouldn’t, for example, call my child “garbage” in front of cocktail party guests as Chua did. And I am not disappointed enough in “unacceptable” grades. Chua writes:
“For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong.”
Yep, I am happy with an A-. I’ve even been known to be satisfied with a B. But I am very concerned about something that Chua doesn’t appear to care one bit about: creativity.
Her kids’ days are filled with rote memorization and practice, practice, practice. While her daughter Lulu was forced to play a difficult piano piece over and over again until she got it right, she appears never to have been asked to create anything. And I can’t imagine Chua accepting little Lulu spending three hours noodling around on the keyboard to write a classical song, like my son has. She explains:
“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.”
How sad. Actually, half the fun is trying to get good at it. I am certain that my son had an absolute ball writing that song, and the two songs he wrote after that — one that was played by his brother’s fifth grade band and the other that was performed by a high school orchestra. He’s good at it, sure, but not as good as he will be a year or five from now. But I allow him the free time to just play around with it, nonetheless. I let him create.
Creativity breeds innovation. Creativity drops out of Harvard to launch Microsoft. Creativity buys a used guitar and forms the E Street Band. Creativity hosts The Daily Showthat entertains millions, writes “The Little House (on the Prairie)” books that has touched generations of girls and creates Facebook.
If you’re tethered to a piano, playing someone else’s music over and over again, it’s darn hard to be creative, especially if Tiger Mom is hovering, reminding you that other kids in the class are better than you are. She says:
“Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences.”
Oh, and creativity. And self esteem, and probably, joy, too. Definitely sense of humor.
In other words, these children she writes about may well be starring in their own Chinese-subtitled version of “Dead Poets Society.” God help the creative kid who doesn’t fit Tiger Mom’s mold for the perfect child. In my house, that child strives for creativity, not perfection. I ask my kids to do their best, to practice and to strive for bigger and better things, too, but not at the expense of creativity.
Share, share: What do you think of Tiger Mom’s parenting tenets?