I read "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua recently. And I can't wait to talk about it!
Ever want to know why Asian kids are so disciplined? How do the Asian parents inspire their kids to be such high achievers?
If you're looking for a how-to manual, this may be it. If you're looking for an interesting and enjoyable memoir on parenting through the younger years, this is definitely it. If you're looking for a cushy, "I LOVE MY KIDS!" kind of book, STAY AWAY.
I really admire most of the Asian parenting techniques. I think American parents, Westerners, are on the whole too easy going about challenging their children. I know that is a generality. I know there are exceptions. However, isn't it kind of true? Doesn't society as a whole say, "Oh, that's too hard. Don't worry about trying to achieve that."?
Chua states that American parents just don't love their kids enough to push them to a higher level of academics or performance. At least that is what the Asians think.
I don't want to agree with that. However, I can't help but think about what the Bible says about parenting and discipline. After all, it comes down to discipline, doesn't it? Asian parents are harsher disciplinarians than Western parents. Asian kids are afraid of disappointing their parents because there are harsh consequences if they do.
A few scriptures about discipline for us to contemplate: Psalm 94:12 "Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord, the one you teach from your law." And Provers 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction."
I liked this book because Chua's techniques, while admittedly harsh, seemed to make sense to me. Her biggest disappointment in her life was the disappointment of her father in her for some mediocre grade she once got. She was trying to impart the same values into her daughters. It kind of worked.
Her first daughter, true to first-born fashion, didn't really rebel against her mother. Sure they got into fights, but the first daughter was mostly submissive. And she turned out very accomplished. I think she went onto Yale, is a concert pianist, etc.
However, the second daughter was rebellious, in an Asian way. For instance, she would practice her violin, but she would purposefully play it badly.
I do not like a lot of how Chua treated her daughters: she yelled at her daughters, called them names, etc. All things I abhor. She made them practice their instruments on family vacations. She forced them into the student orchestras. When the girls were infants, she hired a Chinese nanny and made them speak Mandarin at home. She sacrificed time as a family for the pursuit of excellence in these areas by traveling to New York City for practice sessions with masters, every weekend. She and her husband had a lot of fights because they disagreed a lot about how she was raising the children.
But she also saw her children with incredible potential. And she wasn't going to let up until they believed it about themselves. And she also wasn't going to give into their fleeting and childish wants. I mean, what child actually knows how hard to work at something to be good? If we left it to children to be a good reader, only one in ten would actually motivate themselves. Instead, we have to practice with our children daily. We have to be there to help with the words. We have to make them sit down and read for 10-15 minutes, at least, every day. We have to limit their distractions so they choose a book rather than the television.
I think this is what Chua was doing for her girls with practicing the violin and piano. As an adult we have the benefit of perspective that children do not have. We know how beneficial it is to be good at something, whether that be as basic as reading or as advanced as violin. We know, either from our own experience of excellence or failure, whether we could have put more effort into something.
The current parenting philosophy says children need to be happy to have a good childhood. I couldn't disagree more. I think happiness is entirely a matter of chance (as Charlotte says about marriage in "Pride & Prejudice") and decision on the part of the individual. As a mother, I consider it my higher calling that the children learn to see past their own situations to the bigger picture of being in God's will. The means of getting there include practice, discipline and most importantly, grace when we fail.
Unfortunately, Mrs. Chua has missed out on the best gift she could have given her children. Yes she demonstrated hard work and sacrifice, but it's futile without a purpose or calling from God. And since of course they would fail, there was disappointment without the comfort of grace. As followers of Jesus we can pursue excellence in life for His glory and know that when we fail, we fall into His loving, caring arms. That's what I hope my kids learn from me.
Mrs. Chua did learn a lot from her experience with her second daughter. After becoming quite accomplished at the violin, she wanted to give it up. It was after a death in the family that Chua relented and allowed her daughter absolute freedom to choose an activity. She chose tennis. She was terrible. At first. And then she wanted to get better. And since she knew what it took to get good at something (time, practice, repetition, drive, discipline) she got good. She even won tournaments.
I love this! I think it was so important that her daughter know what hard work looks like. So that when given the freedom to choose an area, she would pursue excellence. She would know HOW to pursue excellence.
Mrs. Chua was humbled by her daughters, and I get the feeling that she is a tad bit remorseful about how she treated them in the early years.
But I don't think she regrets it entirely.