Story pick: Roaring about the Tiger Mother
Almost as provocative as reading Amy Chua's widely-circulated, loudly-denounced, intricately-dissected or secretly-praised excerpt from her memoir, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," is reading the flurry of pieces published in reaction to it.
By now, the details of Chua's tale are well-worn - calling her kids "garbage," ripping up the birthday card that she didn't feel her child had done well enough, the hours and hours and hours of instrument practice, math drills with a stopwatch. Reviewers cite the latest neuroscience research to support some of Chua's harsher parenting philosophy, as well as the "adequate parenting" movement and the decline in U.S. math and science scores and economic rise of China. Much handwringing has ensued.
Another parenting practice with which Chua takes issue is Americans' habit, as she puts it, of "slathering praise on their kids for the lowest of tasks — drawing a squiggle or waving a stick." Westerners often laud their children as "talented" or "gifted," she says, while Asian parents highlight the importance of hard work. And in fact, research performed by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has found that the way parents offer approval affects the way children perform, even the way they feel about themselves.
Dweck has conducted studies with hundreds of students, mostly early adolescents, in which experimenters gave the subjects a set of difficult problems from an IQ test. Afterward, some of the young people were praised for their ability: "You must be smart at this." Others were praised for their effort: "You must have worked really hard." The kids who were complimented on their intelligence were much more likely to turn down the opportunity to do a challenging new task that they could learn from. "They didn't want to do anything that could expose their deficiencies and call into question their talent," Dweck says. Ninety percent of the kids who were praised for their hard work, however, were eager to take on the demanding new exercise.
Judith Warner, who wrote a bestseller, "Perfect Madness," about the helicoptering Mommy trend, wrote "No More Mrs. Nice Guy," in the New York Times:
...there is true universality behind the message she’s honest enough to own: that she is terrified of “family decline,” that she fears that raising a “soft, entitled child” will let “my family fail.” Her deepest hope is that by insisting upon perfection from her children in all things, like violin playing, she will be able to achieve, in her words, control: “Over generational decline. Over birth order. Over one’s destiny. Over one’s children.”
Leslie Morgan Steiner, in "The Curse of the Tiger Mother," blogged:
Tiger Mother is more about Amy Chua than her daughters. It’s a cautionary tale, more than anything, of the vicious cycle of narcissistic-achievement-oriented perfectionistic parenting. You can call it Chinese parenting, Suzuki parenting, Watch-Out-Or-I’ll-Get-The-Belt parenting, or whatever you want. I’d still never want to be a kid in her family.
Elizabeth Kolbert, in The New Yorker, writes with touching clarity about real parenting, without the noise from our crazy, elbows-out, full-body contact winners and losers style of modern middle and upper-middle class American style:
Parenting is hard. As anyone who has gone through the process and had enough leisure (and still functioning brain cells) to reflect on it knows, a lot of it is a crapshoot. Things go wrong that you have no control over, and, on occasion, things also go right, and you have no control over those, either. The experience is scary and exhilarating and often humiliating, not because you’re disappointed in your kids, necessarily, but because you’re disappointed in yourself.
The Post's own Ruth Marcus, a self-described product of "pushy parents," left readers with these words of wisdom, comparing Chua's Tiger Mother approach with the philosophy outlined in a new "relax and let the kids learn from their failures" book, "The Blessing of a B-Minus:"
The key to good parenting lies somewhere between these two approaches, between demanding too much and accepting too little. The difficulty of good parenting lies in the fact that this sweet spot is elusive, individual and constantly changing. You may be the lucky parent who hits it, but you will not know for years.
These pieces are funny, witty, snarky, informative and often wise.
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