Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Amy Chua is not a Tiger Mother

I was on the fence about Amy Chua and her book. I'd heard that the WSJ article wasn't a fair representation. Then she did her interview on the Today Show, and I went toppling off.

Ms. Chua couldn't voice any justifications for parenting so harshly and calling her kids degrading names. I had been hoping for a "that was in the beginning of my learning process" or some sort of acceptable reason. But to defend herself and her parenting, she kept saying things along the lines of "You know, a lot of Asian parents are aghast at Western parenting, too." Given that she's a Yale law professor, you'd think she'd recognize a flawed argument when she saw one.

If the child is acting badly, or not performing up to his or her potential, then they should be ashamed. Shame is a legitimate motivator. Name-calling, however, is emotionally abusive and not useful. Kids should be ashamed of their bad actions, not of themselves. It is very not okay to verbally or emotionally abuse children. Even if there isn't any permanent damage, you're still an ass.

Ms. Chua seems to be of the sort of parent that cannot admit she's wrong in any significant way. She says her book is about her transformation and learning experience as a mother, but she also says she'd do it all over again about the same way ("minor tweaks"). So what has she learned? How has she changed? She stands by choices she is unable to adequately defend. She claims to have been "humbled by a 13yr old" but there isn't any humility there.

Asian culture doesn't promote questioning your elders, but the expectation of obedience from the children is a result of an expectation of wisdom from our elders. If your child HAS to obey, you had DAMN WELL better be right. This should mean that the elder needs to carefully examine her directives. Ms. Chua expects her children to obey and achieve perfection, so it is only fair that she be expected to provide wisdom and perfection as a mother. She fails to even provide a proper defense of her actions or learn from any mistakes, and breaks her side of this pact. Is expecting a perfect mother ridiculous? Yes. Is it any more ridiculous than expecting a perfect child?

I like Ms. Chua's statement about viewing a child with an assumption of strength and excellence rather than an assumption of fragility and handicap. I like the idea of pushing a child to achieve so that he proves to himself that he can. If I ever am in the position to raise a child, I think I will keep these ideas in mind. However, if I ever had a child, I wouldn't let Amy Chua near her.

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