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The Influence Of The ‘Tiger Mom’


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In Verona, we have a tight knit, small-town community. Part of that is fostered by our town’s school set-up, where we meet neighbors because neighborhood kids all go to the same public elementary school starting in kindergarten. Throw in the Verona Community Pool in the summer and the various town-sponsored sports activities and you can’t help but make friends; many of whom become lifelong best friends. Part of our support in parenting comes from these friendships–sharing ideas, asking opinions, getting or giving advice and learning from watching other parents.

If you’ve read or heard anything about Amy Chua, the “Tiger Mom”, and you are a parent, you probably have an opinion–I know I have plenty. I’m not writing now to criticize Ms. Chua, she’s had enough of that, but rather to acknowledge and dare I say thank her for a bit of inspiration. Parenting is difficult–just ask us. It’s also subjective and individual and based almost entirely on our own experiences as children.

If you missed what happened, Chua is the author of a new non-fiction book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and the Wall Street Journal‘s recent excerpt of it, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, raised much criticism and ultimately death threats. Enough so that during early television interviews Chua appeared to be shaken by the angry responses pouring out from parents. She does present a completely different style of parenting from what I have seen in our Verona neighborhoods.

Criticism is to be expected, especially now that we can all share our criticism with the push of a keyboard button. But on the flip side of the criticism is the inspiration. Chua demanded, among other things, that her daughters excel in school and in their playing of the piano and violin. There were no play dates in the Chua household, no sleepovers and no after-school sports. And Chua’s daughters seem OK with it. Maybe we parents can take inspiration from that: Take a practical and honest look at how easy it is to just “give in” rather than fight with your child over, let’s say, practicing a musical instrument. Take a look at how putting in a little extra effort can go a long way.

During a recent conversation with three of the employees of Watchung Booksellers, where I ultimately decided to buy Tiger Mother, one, herself a mother, acknowledged that after four years of piano lessons she realized that it is actually disrespectful to both the child and music instructor NOT to enforce practice time more strictly. She has since taken on a more firm stance when it comes to musical instrument practice sessions for her children. Not surprisingly, it made a difference in her children’s performance during piano lessons and in how they felt about their own playing. In our family, we’re not all that different.

Here’s what happened in our house. After yet another night of the kids begging to play on Club Penguin, we lost it! (If there were only such motivation and begging for reading or practicing an instrument). We already have a no television during the week rule in our house, something I grew up with, but have since “upped the ante”, as they say. After these meltdowns over a computer game, there is no more Club Penguin during the week.

Our inspiration from Ms. Chua led us to make a few other changes too. When a teacher requires reading one story a night, we are asking for two. And, like the mom in the bookstore, I am making the extra effort to ensure that musical instruments are being practiced daily. These changes create more work for both myself (as the one who handles homework and practicing) as well as my kids, but in the long run they will benefit everyone. And, unlike Ms. Chua, there will still be birthday parties, play dates and sleepovers along with basketball, gymnastics and music.

Parenting requires a balance and we were teetering on imbalance, but thanks to this thought-provoking story we have found a way to be not Tiger parents and not Sloth parents, but something in the middle. I believe lessons can be learned from a Tiger mother and I’m curious to see what the rest of the book is about. There may be other lessons or perhaps something unexpected. Have you read the book? Were you inspired at all by the Tiger Mother?

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  1. Well, put! I agree whole-heartedly. I think we ARE on the verge, as a society on the whole, of becoming too easy and too lax. Worse still, people are afraid to be strict anymore. As parents we are afraid people wil look at us as “abusive” if we raise our voices to our children, or dare so no to them – for fear that we might upset them and scar them fir life. I am in your boat and will continue to enforce our family rules, even if people do look at us funny. I KNOW in the long it will help my children to be better adults. Thank you for saying this out loud, what some of us might be afraid to say.

  2. to begin,my dear, this piece is extremely well written; you have expressed yourself and I am sure the thoughts of others, very sucintly and professionally. Congratulations on the changes you have made in your family’s routine. And I am sure you remember learning that children actually respect their parents more when they ask for structure and discipline. It would be fantastic if a syndicated publication would pick up your piece.
    I am very proud of you as a parent-as we know, it is not an easy job, and it IS a job, a full-time job if done well.

  3. Hey, Tracy. I’m with you! In fact I wrote about the same exact thing over on BaristaKids. I called it The Wannabe Tiger Mom, because while I don’t want to go all Mommy Dearest on my kids I think I as a parent and our society as a whole need to raise the standards. I even said the same thing about our schools in town. They ask for fifteen minutes of reading, but I ask for 25. They don’t require homework on the weekends, but I do. I sure wish the schools would meet us half way!

    Anyway, well put!


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