Article first published as Is Tiger Love Feral or Admirable? on Technorati.
Have you read the excerpt from Amy Chua’s new book that has gotten the nation in a tizzy? I’m sure by now you probably have, but I finally felt compelled to write this because I disagree with most of the blogosphere’s reactions to her words.
Strength of Ego
They [Chinese Parents] assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.
This struck me as very true. We are so worried about bolstering our children’s ego that we are giving them all *participation awards* and often refuse to judge them first, second, and third. We are yelling at coaches for not playing our children enough, even though it is clear to everyone that our kid isn’t as good as the others. We switch leagues because clearly there is something wrong with them, the coaches and the directors, if they can’t see how brilliantly our child plays. We tell our kids they are good at everything they attempt without distinction or honesty. Have you seen some of the contestants trying out for American Idol? Were their parents really doing them a favor by telling them they could sing?
Our real world involves competition and defeat, don’t you think we do our children a disservice if we don’t prepare them for real life?
Championing Your Child
If the child’s grades do not improve, they [American Parents] may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher’s credentials.
We are criticizing the teacher’s competency and dedication because clearly she is a bad teacher or my kid would be progressing more. We are questioning the teacher’s ability to control her classroom because clearly that is the only reason our child could have acted out. We are screaming at teachers in principal’s offices because said teacher dared to criticize our child in front of the class – even when it’s warranted. We are proud that we may have jeopardized the teacher’s reputation and perhaps even her job because it proves what a great parent we are for battling for our child. We tell the story as our badge of mothering and describe it as I’m Mama Bear, beware anyone who goes after my cubs.
I have heard this spoken of as championing our children. Is it truly being their champion though? What are we teaching them when we do this?
Aren’t we teaching kids that they aren’t responsible for the consequences of their actions? That hard work isn’t necessary, just push the right buttons then sit back and smirk while mom goes on the attack?
How does this teach them the social skills necessary to succeed in the real world? How does this teach them to diffuse tension with well placed humor, or to let things roll off their back and turn the other cheek? What about empathy that everyone is entitled to have a bad day and let’s give each other some slack. And most especially, doesn’t this absolve them of learning the rules of a given environment and how to adapt to succeed in it?
I have seen kids pulled out of classes and schedules rearranged too often to disagree with Chua’s statement. My real life experiences have illustrated her point all too well.
Beholden to our Parents
“Children don’t choose their parents,” he [Chua’s husband] once said to me [Chua]. “They don’t even choose to be born. It’s parents who foist life on their kids, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to provide for them. Kids don’t owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids.”
This is contrary to the Chinese Parenting philosophy that children owe their parents everything and on this point, I partially agree with Chua’s husband. One phrase that my Great-Aunt Jill used to say has resonated with me since my children were born:
Our children are born through us, not to us.
Our kids are not little pieces of my husband and me. They are not, as was once told to me, 1/2 their mom and 1/2 their dad. To believe this, a person has to have their ego so wrapped up in their children that the kids don’t have a chance to develop fully. To believe this, negates the child’s individuality and ability to guide their own lives. It negates the influence the rest of the world has on a person’s development – fathers, grandparents, cousins, friends, and stepparents play a huge role in influencing a child. But that’s all we can do. We influence. They are not ours. They are not my kids or your kids – they are John and Mary, Jacob and Elizabeth, Sally and Steven. They are themselves.
I believe this possessiveness that American’s feel about their children is damaging to them. They are not chattel, they are not our belongings. To think so and to see them as extensions of ourselves, negates any sense of accomplishment or responsibility they can take pride in. If a mom is constantly saying everything they are is because of me, doesn’t that hobble them as clearly as the Chinese belief that they owe everything to their parents? When does sense of self and independence get a fair shot?
I worry that American’s have lost sight of the finish line. Our end goal as parents is to raise confident, happy, independent adults. Not children. Give them credit. Give them room to grow. And most of all keep your insecurities and competitive nature out of the equation when guiding your child’s development.
*photo credit http://www.thegreatillusion.com/tiger.html