A Tiger Mom’s Techniques
Say you live in a perfect world and you are able to choose your own parents. Sounds cool, right? Well, which would choose: the demanding, strict, tough parents, or the liberal, permissive, easygoing parents? I think that most high school students would choose the latter and call me crazy for even asking such a silly question – simply because we kids typically seek freedom and independence, whether it’s because we want to stay out past curfew or because we don’t want to have to worry about meeting certain standards for grades.
But on the other end – from the parents’ perspective, that is – it is a completely different story. Child-rearing techniques have always and probably will always stir up some controversy. How must parents raise their children? Do you drill them to achieve? Or do you set them free and tell them to explore on their own? Do you disparage them until their results meet your standard? Or do you value their self-esteem and remain careful when giving feedback?
Those are the questions parents ask themselves. And those are the questions that Yale Law professor, Amy Chua, recently answered in her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Does everyone agree with her answers? Well, no…not quite. When excerpts of your book state that kids are not allowed to get any grade less than an A or attend a sleepover, and are expected to be the number one student in every class besides gym and drama, and must play the piano or violin, there will no doubt be dispute. Although Chua originally intended for the book to be a comic memoir, it instigated a global debate about the “proper” parenting techniques, our educational achievements, and even our nation’s ability to compete globally in today’s world.
In her book Chua made it clear pretty quickly that she believes in the so-called “Tiger Mom” philosophy. To give you a little perspective, Chua didn’t let her own girls go out on play dates or sleepovers. She didn’t let them watch TV or play video games or take part in activities like crafts. She made her daughter do two thousand math problems a night until she regained her supremacy when the girl came in second to a Korean child in a math competition. And she threatened her with no lunch, dinner, or birthday presents until she played a piece of music perfectly.
But later on in the book her view changes. When her 13-year-old daughter rebelled against playing the violin, Chua, realizing that it wasn’t worth forcing her anymore; Chua was humbled and let her quit. In the end, she explained that, through experience, she has learned that a parent really has to listen to her kids, and the happiness of her child must come first. Chua states in multiple interviews that she mixed her strict parenting style with compassion and love and also believes her daughters realize how far it has taken them. Sophia has excelled in piano, played at Carnegie Hall and has recently been accepted into Harvard. And Louisa is an accomplished 15-year-old who was concertmaster of her orchestra, is studying with a Julliard teacher, and was the only junior high school tennis player in the high school varsity group. So I think it’s fair to say that Chua’s doing something right.
However, as we established before, most of us wouldn’t exactly prefer to have strict parents who tell us not to go to sleepovers and threaten to burn our stuffed animals. That’s understandable. It is also easy to see that intensive pressure can perhaps cause a child to grow up with a lot of crazy insecurities and super low self-esteem. Moreover, as Chua values education and learning, she seems to not recognize that in some important ways the school cafeteria is more intellectually demanding than the library. Practicing a piece of music for four hours may require focused attention, but when you analyze it, it’s nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with a bunch of 14-year-old girls. Think about it. You will need to learn how to manage status rivalries, negotiate group dynamics, understand social norms, and navigate the distinction between self and group. For all we know, maybe sleepovers and other social activities are the only way to indirectly acquire those skills that can’t be taught even in the most intense tutoring sessions. If children are completely cut off from these things, they might lack the pivotal skills needed for the real world.
With that said, is there something to learn from Chua? Absolutely. Behind all the extreme restrictions and high expectations, there is definitely a method to her madness. We can all get caught up in the provocative details of Chua’s book and complain that her style of raising kids is borderline child abuse, or we can use her larger point as an impetus to motivate and drive ourselves forward. As crazy as she might be portrayed in interviews and articles, her main goal is always to do what’s best for her daughters. She, along with the other Tiger mothers out there, just want to help their children be the best they can be, which is usually better than their kids expect. They choose to push and to pressure in order to ultimately motivate their children to be their best. To be the best, the children will work hard; and by working hard, they will achieve far more than they would have imagined.
So why exactly is there dispute over how to raise a child? Well, it’s because there’s more than one way to get to the top. Just walk around the Harvard campus. Interestingly enough, college students won’t have a uniform answer when asked how their parents raised them. Some had parents who adopted Chua’s parenting techniques, and some had others who were just the opposite. But, whether these parents raised their kids Tiger-Mom style or not, they all essentially just wanted to do the best for their children, and it worked, considering that their kids got into Harvard. Parenting is hard and humbling for everyone, and if there was a right way to raise kids, everyone would do it. But there isn’t. And being the 15-year-old kid I am, I definitely do not have all the answers. However, I do know that if we want to be successful, with strict parents or not, all we can do as high school students is work hard, stay motivated, and persist– that’s a trick to success that no one can argue.