When the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” hit the bookshelves the controversy lit up the skies as if it was July 4th. As the fireworks started and the author Amy Chua, her “Chinese Mothering”, and her children were under attack I became completely fascinated by the topic I mean c’mon I’m the Unnatural Mother, a complete antithesis of Amy Chua, and the Chinese parenting model.
The excerpts and the reviews that I read online at The Wall Street Journal, New York Times and several other sites made Amy Chua out to be Hitler. I read that her children weren’t allowed to have playdates, attend sleepovers, be in a school play, not be the number one student in every class except gym and drama – needless to say my interest was piqued; when I read that her daughter sat at the piano for hours upon hours trying to learn a piece without water, or the opportunity to go to the bathroom I was horrified, and then went straight to my nook and ordered the book, I had to read this. I had to read about this tyrant mom that is the complete opposite of me.
And I read, and read and read, I couldn’t put the book, um my nook down. I read the book in three hours. It was that good, no it was that great. Amy Chua encapsulates the theories behind both Chinese parenting and Western parenting with intelligence and satire, which seems to be the way she lives her life.
I was enthralled with the book because Ms. Chua is completely dedicated to her children and has made sure that they earned their self-esteem, self-respect and will become the best they could possibly be by following a strict parenting model – the Chinese way, which mind you was not that different from the way I was raised (just swap the five hour piano jam sessions with five hours of cleaning a four bedroom, two and half bath house from top-to-bottom) in a strict Italian house.
I didn’t have any playdates, I never had a sleepover, I got pulled from the swim team by my parents because I failed a test, and my mother refused to go out to dinner to celebrate my graduation from high school because I didn’t earn a regents diploma in one class (fricking Spanish) – mandated mind you by New York State ONLY – it means nothing and doesn’t guarantee entrance into anywhere but your bathroom. So yes, I had strict parents.
Nevertheless, the way I was raised, the way Ms. Chua has raised her girls is completely different on how I am raising my children. Because I’m so afraid of damaging my children’s egos I have in my head that I need to build my children’s self-esteem with the mumbo jumbo “you’re great”, “you’re awesome”, “you’re good at every single thing you do” spiel 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I do this because I never got the pats on the back, the visits at my softball games or swim meets, I was the youngest of five girls, there was no way my parents had the time and probably the desire to attend, plus it’s boring, I don’t blame them. I weeded the garden, vacuumed the pool, cleaned the windows, combed the fringed of our oriental rugs…the list goes on. Today if “they” saw how my parents worked us – it would be compared to child slavery – CPS would be called in a flash.
I never got the accolades if I passed a test, I was suppose to pass, if I hit a home run (rare, yes, but still) big deal. So in my feeble brain I believe I need to give constant praise to my kids for EVERYTHING. However, the way Chua and my parents have raised me make sense because I didn’t get anything unless I earned it, and in return I was rewarded with a solid work-ethic, independence and a strong self-esteem (ok, maybe we can argue this one). In addition, Chua and my parents mean what they say, and say what they mean. Me? It’s a free-for-all when I go into Target, and my kids laugh when I make my threats. I am constantly negotiating with a three year old. Guess whose wearing the dumb-ass hat? THIS GIRL.
What I found interesting in the debate about the book, the blogs that condemned it is that too many people took Amy Chua too seriously and it’s quite obvious that they never read the book, because if they did they would realize that no matter how serious Amy Chua is about raising intelligent, independent and wonderful girls she is also seriously funny, sarcastic, loving and a mother who was humbled by her youngest daughter who pushed back, Chua knew, call it motherly instinct, that if she pushed her any further she would lose her daughter completely.
The fact of the matter is, parenting is subjective. As a parent I have to do what works for my family, and my family alone, and I need understand that each child is different. Interference should only be run if the children are being harmed, otherwise, mind your own business! Chua knew what her daughters were capable of and never underestimated them- EVER. I applaud Chua for her bravery, it took major cojones to write and publish a book that will stir the parenting pot, as well put your family under a microscope.
After reading this book, and reflecting on how I was raised (Thank you Mom & Dad) I have started to give my children more responsibilities, handing out more chores, saying no more, and following through on my once see-through threats. Will I be as strict as Chua or my parents? Absolutely not, I know my limitations, what I do know is that my children can handle a lot more than I thought they were capable of, point one for the Tiger Mom’s, or the wanna-be’s!
*This review is based solely on my own opinions; I was not paid to do this review or compensated in any way shape or form.