After hearing so much about the controversial “Chinese Mother” book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, I downloaded it to my Kindle and prepared myself to read about her support of the effective and positive style of Chinese parenting and her criticism of the damaging and negative American-style parenting. After finishing the book, I have conflicted feelings about her ideas. I was fully prepared to think she was a terrible mother. Yet I have to admit I found myself agreeing with some of her ideas, but definitely not her particular method of execution. I disagreed with her constant use of bribes and, in my opinion, her use of humiliation to the point of verbal abuse. For example, she admits to calling her daughters “garbage” when they displeased her.
However, I found it interesting to note the similarities between my own Appalachian culture influenced parenting style and Chua’s Chinese immigrant influenced parenting style. She picked the tiger to symbolize her and her culture, so I of course, picked the wildcat.
Here are some of Chua’s Tiger Mom parenting rules:
Her daughters were not allowed to attend sleepovers, watch tv or play computer games, or choose their own extracurricular activities.
Her daughters were required to play the violin or piano, make all A’s in school, and be respectful of their parents.
My Wildcat Mom take on her rules would go something like this:
My children are not allowed to attend sleepovers if neither my husband or I know any adult member of the family. While this may stem from my culture’s stereotypical mistrust of strangers, it probably has more to do with watching too many episodes of Dateline. My children are not allowed to watch tv shows or play video games that are inappropriate for their age-level, portray violence or mature content, and/or are programs or games that generally annoy their parents for any number of reasons – including “because I said so.” In Wildcat parenting, “because I said so” is a good enough reason for any manner of issues. My children are not allowed to choose extracurricular activities that require me to drive to all ends of the state on a week night, conduct extensive fundraising, or subject me to being around other parents who curse at coaches, their own children . . . and other parents . . . because sometimes it’s hard for a Wildcat Mom to keep her own opinions to herself.
My children must take lessons for a musical instrument of their choosing, as long as we already own the instrument, or there is a rental program for it, and they can carry it themselves. My children must make the best grades they can while working with the unusually average academic genes inherited from their parents. My children must, or at least pretend, to be respectful of their parents.
For me, one of the most thought-provoking ideas from her book was that Chua doesn’t think American parents have high-enough expectations of their children and underestimate how much their children are capable of accomplishing. While I think I do have very high expectations of my children, I admit that I am not willing or able to sacrifice as much time and energy as she does to help my children reach monumental goals. For example, Chua supervised 3-4 hours of intense violin and piano practice every day for both of her daughters. Do I think that is admirable? Maybe, but am I interested in doing this? Not in the least. (How did she get the laundry done with that kind of schedule? That’s what I’d really like to know about, the behind-the-scenes footage of the tiger mom household.) And that is why her daughters are very accomplished musicians and have played Carnegie Hall and been invited to play in Europe, etc. and my children have recitals at their school and the church fellowship hall.
What I do admire about her family is the emphasis on hard-work and the belief that it will pay off in the end. My wildcat grandmother abhorred “sorriness.” For those not familiar with the Appalachian use of this term, it is “sorry” to be unemployed, have an unkempt home, have unruly children, and in general, to be lazy and to not make something of yourself. I’m sure the Chua children would never be considered “sorry” and are in fact, as the reader learns at the end of the book, very accomplished young women.
As mothers, whether of the wildcat or tiger variety, we all hope our children will become “accomplished” adults; however we define the idea of accomplishment. No one would be more surprised than me if either of my children were ever given the opportunity to play Carnegie Hall or if they made all A’s every semester of their educational career. However, I do expect that they will be employed, educated, self-sufficient, caretakers of their families, and all-around “good citizens.” While Chua would probably think my goals for my children are way too low, I will be one proud mother when they both accomplish these expectations. Chua and her immigrant parents beamed when experts praised her children’s professional music performances. While I may never know what that would feel like, I do beam on the rare occasion when someone compliments my children on their good behavior, and I think my Appalachian grandmother would too.
And, in keeping with my blog theme, what would my “Real Housewives” sisters think of the Tiger Mom? Well, they probably won’t have to worry about contemplating these ideas since it involves reading and examining one’s culture and parenting skills. I doubt most of them would pass for either a tiger or a wildcat mom. What would be the cultural cat-symbol for vanity and excess - maybe they are Cougar Moms?