"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" – is Amy Chua right?
Having been raised by Indian parents, I'm not so outraged by Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."
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But in the end, Lulu did it, snuggling with and hugging her mother afterward, and wowing other parents at a piano recital a few weeks later.
Chua’s lesson: “[A]s a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't.”
Undoubtedly, many readers will find Chua’s approach to self-esteem-building and parenting a bit unorthodox, to say the least.
For example, she recalls the time she called daughter Sophia “garbage” when she was acting “extremely disrespectful.” Chua was immediately shunned when she mentioned this at a dinner party, upsetting one guest so much she broke down in tears and left early.
Predictably, many readers will be horrified upon reading Chua’s methods. Not a parent myself and longing for a second opinion, I called up my older sister, a pediatrician and mother of two little girls.
Raising children this way is a matter of fact, the norm, even, for Chua and parents of different cultures around the globe, my sister reasoned.
“Kids can tell the difference between someone who’s truly mean and someone who says ‘Hey, I think you’re smart and that’s why I’m pushing you.’
“I don’t 100 percent agree with the way she does things, particularly the name calling” said my sister, one of the gentlest mothers I’ve ever known, “…But it’s a good reminder that in some ways we can be too soft with our children – that in itself sends a message that your child is fragile, entitled. [If you push your children a bit, you send the message,] ‘I think highly of you, of your potential.’”
Of course, the line is quickly crossed when parenting becomes abusive, or when children exhibit signs of anxiety or depression, but even there the line is fuzzy. Even within the US, a good spanking in one house is abuse in another.
What’s universal is the importance of recognizing that children, indeed all of us, have value apart from our accomplishments. Whether I brought home an A (or, later, secured a coveted fellowship, internship, or job) or not – and there were times I didn’t – I knew my self worth.
I wish Chua’s children as much and more.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.