Pose for the paparazzi. Autograph your books.
Write like a dream, promote like a rock star.
Fame and fortune are yours!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tiger moms, controversy, and book power

Amy Chua, author of the suddenly infamous Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has been doing a lot of media lately. In fact, she appeared on The Colbert Report last night. She didn't seem prepared to defend her position very well, but I imagine it must be difficult to go head to head with Colbert. She seemed really nervous, like when he asked her children, "Are you okay?"

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Amy Chua
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Press reviews and online comments have condemned Chua's parenting skills as abusive and counterproductive. Mommy peer pressure being what it is globally, I'd say her harshest criticisms have come from other mothers. Chinese mothers have distanced themselves from her. They say they resonate more with the Western style of parenting than Chua's stereotypical Chinese style.

On the other hand, my sisters and I actually agree with much of Chua's approach. In varying degrees, we're tiger moms who were raised by a tiger mom. Chua believes that immigrants to this country tend to be tough on their kids because they want to prepare them to take advantage of opportunities. That was surely the case in our family (Jamaican mom).

We were never abused, and we don't abuse our children, but our expectations are extremely high. Some judgmental mommies might say we're "over the top." We depart company with Chua in that we allow our children their good friendships, sleepovers, and other fun activities. Eventually kids will rebel, but if you provide balance, hopefully the rebellion won't be too bad.

In our world, self-esteem is earned. Our girls have no choice; they have to practice their music, sometimes as long as 3 or 4 hours per day (longer if concerts and competitions are coming up). During summer music camp they practice and perform all day, everyday for 4-5 weeks straight. 

Academics is just as important. They have to study hard. If they do well, we praise. If they fail (which they do, no one's perfect), they hear the truth from us, and we don't sugarcoat. We don't consider that abusive.

As a result, 2 of our daughters placed 1st and 2nd in a Korean music competition this year. This is routine for them. They're like the Venus and Serena of strings. My daughter, the cellist, recently placed 2nd in a pageant and was noted by her college president in his blog. The 3 cousins were recently featured on a NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams segment for inspiring young children with their musical performances. 

Bottom line, to achieve like an Olympian, you've got to train like an Olympian. Why is it that parents of elite athletes are revered as martyrs, but Chua is soundly denounced for basically raising her girls the same way? If you talked to parents of Olympic athletes you'd be shocked at the grueling schedules and tough parenting styles.

Book power
Chua's book has created a new national dialogue about parenting and the global competitiveness of our children academically. This is why I LOVE books and pray they never go the way of Fahrenheit 451. When I checked (1/26/11, 11:30 CST), Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was #4 on Amazon because of the raging controversy.

Books still have the power to change society, to foment revolutions. Your book can have that same power. As you write your books, keep courage as your constant companion. Write with truth and integrity. 

What if your book catapulted you into the harsh glare of the national spotlight. What if you were being attacked from every side for your ideas. Could you handle it?

Amy Chua probably had no idea that her book would cause such a ruckus, and if she had known she might have written another book. I think she should be applauded for putting her story out there. 

Donna Marie

No comments:

Post a Comment