Tiger Mothers, etc.

I was planning on blogging about Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother today, but I'm not quite far enough along.  This is the publishing sensation of the month, it seems.  By exposing her wildly demanding approach to parenting, and calling it "Chinese," Yale law professor Amy Chua has made herself both a bestselling author and the Wicked Mom of the East.  Not ready to write much about it, but so far I'm finding the book both entertaining and thought-provoking.  It raises some good questions about what we should want for our kids and also about self-deception.  When are you helping your children do their best, and when are you actually creating trophy kids to boost your own self esteem?  I think the author, Amy Chua, may not be aware of that real and worrisome distinction.  Fortunately, she has a sense of humor about herself, and she does allow a question mark to hang over the whole book.  Is this really the way to go, she seems to want us to wonder, even as she sings her battle hymn.

More next week, maybe.  Meanwhile, 'round the web.  The endless conversation continues.  It's been interesting at many points.   Latest topic--this article, which shows (tries to show?) a spill-over effect. In regions of Europe with more religious people, both the religious and the non-religious are happier. In regions with more atheists, both the atheists and the non-atheists are less happy.  Carol Graham cites this (unpublished) study in the extremely interesting book Happiness Around the WorldMy interlocutor (Paul W) is not impressed.

Relatedly, I enjoyed this letter from Stephen Asma, whose Chronicle Review discussion of animism has generated lots of discussion in the blogosphere.

I dropped by this morning at Let Them Eat Meat, and found post-vegan contrarianism is alive and well.  The book Rhys  is discussing (Meat: A Benign Extravagance) looks like one I will need to look at.  Benign?   Well, maybe not quite.  I just discovered this very well-done video, narrated by Paul McCartney--Glass Walls.  The vegetarian group for which I'm faculty adviser recently did a "pay per view" event--$1 to each person who would watch the video.  Good for them! The group has a cool website too.

Last but not least:  does a shaved tiger have any stripes?  Thanks to my husband, who is reading The Tiger, I now know the answer.


crystal said...

"does a shaved tiger have any stripes?"

If tigers are like cats, I think so. My spotted cat was still spotted when he had to be shaved for an operation. That was a surprise :)

Wayne said...

Yes... Shaved tigers have stripes.

I haven't read the "Dragon Mom's" book yet, but being Asian myself, and being familiar with some of these standards..... I think that there is a fine line between wanting the best for your children, and harming them. Asian parents are willing to push really hard to have their children succeed and be the best that they can be, and this is out of love. I don't think that creating trophy children really enters into Asian parenting in my experience. But that's just anecdotal. Unfortunately, there is a strong cultural belief that things like shaming children, and piling enormous expectations on children have little effect on their development and psychological well-being, which clearly it does.
So with the new generations of American Born Asians, I think there is a struggle between reconciling how they've been raised, and what they are know (hopefully) about child rearing.

Jean Kazez said...

Ha...good inference. Shaved spotted cats have spots, so shaved tigers have stripes. Yes indeed. Who knew!

Wayne, Hmm...that's interesting. To me it was a natural assumption that some of the desire for achievement in kids must be to gratify the ego of the parent...but I guess that's not inevitable. I certainly wouldn't mind having trophy kids, but have to get a grip on myself where that's concerned. What I find is that having your kid do X is even more a source of pride than doing X yourself...so it's tempting to push really hard to get them to do X.

Wayne said...

I think it might be universal to take pride in your child's accomplishments. But I think the way "Tiger Mom" has been portrayed is that Asian parents are all like those parents you see entering kids in child beauty pageants. Sure there are some asian parents like that, and from an outward perspective its hard to see the difference.

I think the difference is an intentional stance. Am I doing it for myself, like you're warning, or am I doing it for them?

If I can hold high expectations for my children (none yet) which would encourage them to live up to their potentials out of love for them, and not for the pride of the accomplishment, then I find it hard to argue against it.

Take the extreme opposite side. My friend, who is a doctor, told me that she told the parents of one her patients that he needed to stop drinking soda, since the child was already obese. Their response, "I tried telling him not to drink soda, but he would keep going to the fridge and opening one up."

This incredibly permissive parenting, might come from the high regard for the autonomy of individuals in our society, which may be significantly less valued in Asian cultures.

Clearly, there should be a balance between the two. But if a balance can't be struck, should we favor the more permissive, or the more strict? Which side should we err towards?

I think I'm rambling.