There’s been a lot of brouhaha going around the internets about this book about whether or not it portrays Western parents (or, more accurately, mothers) are horrible parents because they are too lenient and lax in raising their children and Chinese parents (or, more accurately, mothers) are the better parents because they have higher expectations and force their kids to do better than the best. (You can read an excerpt of the book here.
So when I stopped by the new book section of our library and saw the title, I didn’t even have to reach for the book; it jumped right into my arms to the top of the stack. A controversial book on parenting styles? SO UP MY ALLEY.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is engaging and lively. It sucked me in from chapter one and I found myself grabbing it as I ran out the door, shoeless and almost late for a family party. And for the first twenty minutes of the ride there, I kept finding bits and pieces to read out loud to my mom and sister; this reading-aloud ended only when I found myself getting motion sickness as I always do when I read in the car. 😛
I don’t think this book was meant to be an ‘us versus them’ sort of book. It’s not a how-to or a discourse on how to better parent your kids. It’s a memoir – huge difference there – and the author is quite candid about how obsessive and controlling she was/still is in her parenting, states that she wishes she could do things differently. The only problem? She doesn’t seem to quite know how she should have done things differently.
There were things that bothered me. The author seems to have cared more about appearances and that her daughters turn out as she wanted/expected/dreamed. There’s a line between having high expectations, pushing your kids to strive for the best that they can do and turning them into the picture in your head through control and bullying tactics.
Perhaps my reaction is a result of seeing the painful results of controlling parenting in the home-school and conservative Christian culture itself. It isn’t pretty when it messes kids up. Actually, if I were concerned for either of the author’s kids, I would be more concerned about the obedient and very compliant oldest daughter, Sophia, rather than stubborn, rebellious Lulu.
When you are a compliant people-pleasing person, it is easy to be obedient and allow your authority figure (i.e., parent) mold you into what they think you should be. But what happens when the time comes when you have to make choices that they don’t agree with? It is incredibly hard for a people-pleaser to say no after being controlled for a long time. My parents are nothing like the author of this book and I, being a personality who loves to please, have trouble saying no to them. Why? Because I am afraid that if I say no, I will disappoint them, I will hurt them, I will lose their love. Imagine if you are a child who has been told all your life that you are: garbage, you don’t deserve anything, nothing you do is good enough, you are a horrible daughter, etc…
Seriously. How can it NOT mess you up?
(I know that my problem of being an uber-people-pleaser has colored my reaction to this book. 😉 Plus, I still have yet to parent my own children. So overall, take me with a grain of salt, as always.)
I guess what I’m trying to say is…surely, there is a balance? So maybe stereotypical Chinese parenting [at least the kind that Ms. Chua portrays in her memoir – I’d call that abusive in some aspects] isn’t the best and maybe stereotypical overly-permissive Western parenting isn’t the best – maybe grace-filled parenting is something to strive for? Urge your kids to exceed their expectations, but don’t control and mold them into what you dream them to be. I know I’m looking at it from a Christian viewpoint, but…hm.
*goes to think some more*
Have you read this book? What did YOU think of it?