Amy Chua (Tiger Mom) has become somewhat of a celebrity for her book extolling the parenting skills of the Chinese over those of Americans. I have decided to compare the highlights of her methods verses my father’s.
Amy Chua believes in pushing her children to excel at everything. This sounds great on the surface. However, what goes along with this is not. There is tremendous pressure on her children to succeed on all they do. Worse than this is the exclusion of things that the children would like to do that could possibly enrich their lives. They wanted to participate in the school play…forbidden. They want to have sleep overs with friends…forbidden. Structure is good and fine, but there comes a point when it goes too far. She is mandating the kind of life they should have, when that may not be the life for which they are best suited. Will practicing three hours a day make them great musicians? Probably. Will stressing schoolwork above all else ensure academic success and possibly a higher paying job? Probably. Will these items make them happy? Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of talented people who are miserable and turn to drugs and drink–same goes for the rich.
My dad was strict by most of my friends’ opinion. He always stressed that we should do the best we can at all things. When we did well, we were rewarded. When we did poorly, telephone or television privileges were removed. In a lot of ways, he was very similar to the Tiger Mom. However, he always let us be our own people. Our thoughts were our own. Our direction was our own. He never tried to tell us what kind of job to have. He told us ”You can be a janitor if that’s what would make you happy but be the best janitor you can be.”
The worse thing about Tiger Mom’s theory is that it robs the children of the human interactions and friendships they make in childhood. My two truest friends came from my childhood. If I had to choose between vast success and having these people in my life, there is no contest. The types of decisions you make for yourself determine your character. This character developing process should start in early childhood. Her children are being robbed of this important process. I wonder how her children will turn out. I suppose they will either have trouble relating to people and have early heart attacks or be grand successes.
The Chinese vs Americans. Say what you will, but our Freedom produces as many world class athletes and performers despite the Chinese having a vast population from which to pull people. Also, here we are Free to do what we want, whereas their athletes are given that as a job. And yet, we’re still winning. If I have to choose Freedom or Control, I’ll bet on Freedom every time.
This is not to say that American parents should not be involved with their children. In fact, most parents are not nearly as involved as they should be. There is a balance which should be maintained. That is the correct path. Children should be motivated, not controlled. Raising intelligent machines is pointless. Raising fully-developed, intelligent, free individuals should be the goal.