There was an article in the local paper recently about a book written about ‘Tiger Moms’ which refers to Chinese-American moms who push their kids to succeed. I haven’t read the book, but from the description, the author weighs whether she would want to raise her daughters like she was raised, or in a more ‘americanized’ manner.
The book drew up controversy, but surprisingly from Asian-American moms (the 'Tiger Mom’s). I guess the book was written in a way that made them look bad.
I can’t deny the method of raising kids seems to work, since a lot (generalizing here) of asian-americans are overacheivers in schools, tend to be the top-performing demographic, and are often comparitavely successful in the field of music, particularly piano and violin.
The article seems to disparage ‘American’ methods of raising kids, emphasising self-esteem over grades. I’m not sure how I feel about this. One pattern I noticed was that everything the kids of these ‘Tiger Moms’ were succeeding at were things the moms wanted them to do. Its not so much that they are doctors because they wanted to practice medicine, but because they were raised with the expectation that they would be.
Is the book over-generalizing? I haven’t read it yet, but the controversy it raised piqued my interest.
There was an article in the Wall Street Journal that was supposedly based on this book, but that article was taken way out of context. From the article one would think that the book is a manual on how one “should” raise children according to the “tiger mom” method. As such, the article was very controversial.
But actually, the book is a memoir of how this mother, Amy Chua, did raise her children, looking back and seeing how she feels about it now. And she is not completely happy with what she did. It is much more self-critical than the WSJ article would have anyone believe.
Unfortunately the Internet meme created by the WSJ article – that Chua is a harsh Mom who wants all mothers to be like her – got out of control.
One of my friends emailed me that article the other day. We had a laugh over it, because some things sounded eerily familiar to us. I am the product of “Asian parenting” - I guess you could say - in a time and place (Silicon Valley, dotcom boom era) full of overachievers, drivers, and Asian immigrants raising their American-born children. Although most people I know do seem to gravitate toward certain fields, I am not sure how to explain it. However, you have heard of that joke re: first, second, third, and fourth generation, right?
What jarred me the most was not the article itself (and especially since it was a critical examination in a memoir, which suranyi mentioned), but the knee jerk reaction to it. I am bemused at all the reader criticisms launched at Chua and all these op-ed articles bringing in parenting “experts” claiming that Chua’s methods are damaging to the psyche. Yeah, poor us Asian kids. Whatever I may think about Chua’s methods or my mom’s methods or those of people I knew growing up, I take her point that there are different parenting models going on, and neither is right or wrong, just different.
The thing is, it’s not even unique to the Asian culture. There are a lot of American children of immigrants from all over, whose parents rode them obsessively to get an education, get ahead. Not to go too far with stereotypes, but that’s pretty much the whole legend around the success (and jealousy) of the European Jewish immigrants in the early 20th Century.
My grandparents were immigrants from Hungary. According to my father and his siblings, their childhood seemed to consist primarily of sitting at the kitchen table at night, doing homework, and when they were done with homework, reading something educational.
There’s something very American about the notion that success starts in childhood. Being good in school leads to getting into a better school. Succeeding at that makes you more sought after and assures lifetime success.
I haven’t read the book yet, but I have read the excerpts and some interviews, and I wonder how much of her backing off the method is true and how much is to reduce the amount of crap she knew she’d be getting.
There are some real downsides to this attitude. One of our high schools in Silicon Valley is highly rated, with a big Asian population. They had 18 valedictorians one year. One, who went to Berkeley, caused quite a stir when she admitted that she cheated because of the intense pressure, and she also claimed it was common. You can certainly understand a kid who gets yelled at for not getting perfect scores feeling he or she must cheat to make a parent happy.
Second, since this high school was overcrowded, the district decided to move one elementary school to another high school - one with lower test scores. The Asian parents (okay, Chinese - Indian parents seem a lot more laid back about this stuff, while still producing high achievers) had a fit. I went to one meeting about it, and the parents stood around with signs and shouted down people they didn’t agree with.
I grew up in a Jewish family in the '50s and was expected to do well - but my parents never punished me for not getting straight As. I think a lot of this attitude comes from the feeling that the parent is somehow deficient if the kid is not genetically the very top in everything they think is important. Imagine a kid born with more or less normal intelligence, and imagine how it would be to grow up as that kid, being made to fell you are a failure. That kind of kid is never considered in these discussions.
Not even sure how culturally and linguistically Asian Chua is. My understanding is she doesn’t speak Chinese.
And, in this day and age, don’t people realize that Asia is a big country? Beyond MTV, there simply isn’t that much pan-Asian anything. It’s an up or out testing system much more than confucianism or Asian Tiger Momma Grizzley’s that drives the behavior.
The product of such education can be pretty impressive on paper, but most lack social, creative/teamwork skills and the ability to learn such skills.
I moved to the US after many years in Asia and the last 12 in Shanghai, which by the way boasted the best student scores globally. Of course, nothing like rote memorization and first graders having about 8 hours of homework every weekend. That’s on top of the hours of homework every day, and I’m not exaggerating that it starts in the first grade.
Of course, I think 5th grade in the US is waaaaaay too lax.
To me it sounds like more “Joy Luck Club” American Born Chinese happy crappy. "Oh, look at me, torn between two cultures, I despise my heritage yet worship my heritage, I have issues with my mother, and nobody else can understannnnnd . . . " I know more than one authentically Chinese woman who positively wants to spit when encountering this kind of thoroughly American bullshit.
Missed edit window: I agree with what someone else said upthread about how this isn’t an Asian thing but an immigrant thing. What annoys me to no end about certain ABCs I’ve encountered is they know so little of their putative heritage that they believe the two phenomena are equivalent.
How is this bullshit? She is reflecting on her own parenting from her own standpoint, and she has said herself that she used the term “Asian parenting” very loosely, that it could refer to Jewish, Korean, and other immigrant groups and that it may not apply to people of Asian heritage at all. She probably just calls it that because her parents are from China, and she has raised her kids in the same vein that her parents have raised her. Maybe a misnomer, but you don’t have to point fingers at her for that; the intense Asian upbringing is already a cliche in many American movies and TV shows, and I am not talking about Joy Luck Club.
The ABC’s you so sneer at are probably using it loosely, too. Of course it is known that Asia is a diverse continent, but in the context of America, Asians are a fairly defined group, especially when they are concentrated in one locale. So I guess people could define their experience as being raised by “Asian immigrants who graduated at the top of their class from the top university in their home country and subsequently came to Silicon Valley (for ex) and joined a start up group that went IPO and are thus obviously a self-selected driven bunch who want to instill that in their kids, and though just about every parent around them who fits this profile in that city is an Asian because the city happens to be dominated by Asians, it can come from any immigrant group” - but why bother. Just because it’s often referred to as “Asian parenting” doesn’t mean people really believe that their experience equates to what everyone on the Asian continent is experiencing.
As an aside, being caught between two cultures is a very real phenomenom. Of course, if you don’t have that experience, obviously you dont have any standpoint on it; how the heck does an “authentic Chinese woman” relate to that. If you know only one culture, of course you don’t.
I’ve found the press reaction to the book a little amusing. IMHO kids in the U.S. are way, way out of control. Yes, we still have a lot of great kids too. But, the spoiled assholes are a huge problem
One woman advocates a strong, traditional child rearing approach. Maybe a bit too strict. But, the press acts like this woman was hanging them upside down and beating them. God forbid someone actually disciplines their kids anymore. When did enforcing rules become a bad thing?
I could list thousands of cites of kids vandalizing, robbing, and even raping. I literally read news articles about a kid committing crime every month.
Interesting contrast in this story. Good kids volunteer to build a community skating rink. A few bad apples vandalize and ruin it. I’m sure there’s a lot more good kids in this city than bad. It only takes a few bad ones to mess things up.
Actually apparently she doesn’t, exactly. The book is a memoir and she backed off the harsher methodology when one of her daughters seriously rebelled in a “I hate you” way, which caused her to reconsider her choices ( this has been all over the papers here since she has local ties - her father is a professor at Berkeley and one of her sisters is a professor at Stanford. ).
Agreed, I’ve known quite a few of those in Spain. Here the most common situation involves the children being the first educated generation in the family: the parents want the kids to “do better”; they know that teachers, doctors and lawyers are important people; they have no idea what a biologist or a physical rehab therapist do - thus, “Thee Shalt Go To Medical School”. My sister in law and her cousin, both doctors, are examples of this: their parents are, respectively, a cop/cleaning lady and a cabbie/SAHM (none of the four of them went to school beyond the then-compulsory 4th grade, and the two women would often miss school due to having to help at home; the cousin’s mother never worked outside the house, having gotten married in order to “trade yokes”).
It works decently so long as the chosen profession isn’t too bad a fit or the child is too whipped to get out from under the parental thumb; I also know other cases where the two generations didn’t talk to each other until a grandchild arrived and made peace (“a degree in history! can anybody tell me what is that supposed to be good for? nothing! I tell you, nothing!” - the history-degreed son is a factory manager: he was hired to perform general administrative duties, moved from there to HR, from there to Production, and now manages the factory; not too shabby for someone who “wasted five years getting a no-good piece of paper” instead of going to law school).
The issue is that the discipline that was… inflicted was NOT for mischief or criminal behavior. The reason that the book has been controversial is that the book is reportedly full of episodes of threatening punishment like burning a kid’s stuffed animal if a piano piece isn’t mastered by the next day.
I’m sure you will agree, threatening punishment for a kid failing to master a song on the piano is a far cry from letting kids get away with fighting as school or dealing drugs. Let’s get back to reality here.