Monday, January 10, 2011

I am not a TIger Mother

Yesterday in the Sunday Times and today in the Times, there were articles about a Chinese Mother and how her methods of parenting. Basically Linda Chua has written a book entitled The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother which details how she hothoused her two daughters. She is only satisfied with  the best and runs a very strict regime -- no playdates, no sleepovers, no drama productions, As are the only grade good enough and if you are taking an instrument, you practise. 3 hours per day.  The parent has high expectations and does not settle for anything less
She details how she locked her 3 year old daughter out in the snow when she was defiant and how they do have screaming rows.
My children were appalled.
My daughter asked if I approved. My answer was that as I had not done those things to them, then I was unlikely to approve. The mere thought of the angst expended to force a child to practice for 3 hours day in and day out makes me want to lie down in a darkened room. There again I never wanted my children to be professional or play to a professional standard. The more time you practice, the better you will be but it needs to come from within. The desire must be inside the child. It is telling that when given the option at 13, the younger daughter immediately dropped her music in faovur of tennis.
While I do believe in parents developing their children's self-discipline, and like to think of myself as reasonably strict, life is far too short. I like celebrating achievements that matter to my children.
I loved the fact that my eldest had to discover the hard way that hard work does pay off. Not for a guitar piece but for his A levels. I think he is very proud of his accomplishments. I know I am. I also think the lesson he learnt will hold him in good stead for his adulthood.
I sincerely hope my daughter is putting in the hard work required as I believe she is capable of doing well on her A levels. I hope my youngest is doing the same with his GCSEs. But ultimately it is up to them and whether it matters to them.
Tough love is hard but there is a difference between tough love and sadistic parenting.
I make no apologies for being me and my sort of mother.
It is not a race but ultimately it is about creating indivdual who will be well balanced successful adults, no matter what life throws at them.


Unknown said...

I totally agree with you. I read the article and found it really scary. We all want the best for our children and want them to be successful and HAPPY.
I believe there is a balance in all things but there seemed very little balance the lives of these children. It came across that the husband didn't always sound very happy with the methods, but he seemed to be ignored... that says a lot about their lives together.

Michelle Styles said...

Carol --
Yes it is the balance that is important.
The woman's methods came across as v unbalanced.

I am pleased you found it totally scary. She sounded like the mother I wouldn't want to be. And she may love her children lots but do they know it? Did she allow them to experiemnt and discover what their interests were? Why can't children make mistakes? Why can't they develop interests?
I do agree about making sure children are not over loaded and need to specialise at some point, but the choice should be the child's and they should be allowed the luxury of changing their mind.

Rula Sinara said...

I haven't read the article, but from what you've said here, I side with you. There's a fine line between encouraging your child not to be a quitter or to stick with something like a musical instrument...and forcing them in an agonizing (for all parties involved) and militaristic way. It's all about balance, two-way communication, understanding and love. It's about helping your child figure out their passions and giving them the encouragement to pursue them. A parent can still be strict enough to veer kids down the right path, but show warmth and love. I remember having a friend in highschool who had a mother like the one in the article. Needless to say, my friend was very unhappy and had a lot of emotional issues.

Serenity said...

I agree, it's not the child's accomplishment if you bully them into it, its yours, and the child will always remember it as being yours even when they're an adult! I'm a softy and my boy's turned out fine. As long as you're firm with manners, I think that's all that matters.

Unknown said...

I started reading it and found I was gripped by a kind of horrified fascination and couldn't stop - the bit about the little girl (7) having to stay at the piano all night and not being allowed to get down for a drink or to go to the loo struck me as being perilously close to something social services would take an interest in.

The saddest thing is that the girls might have a lot of accomplishments and A-grades behind them, but no idea of fun or love which is ultimately what stands you in good stead in later life. (I've never lain in bed at night bemoaning the fact I don't play violin to concert-standard.) I'm with Serenity - manners are non-negotiable, the rest is up to them, and making good personal choices is one of the biggest lessons in life.

Glad you highlighted this Michelle - I've been wanting someone else's take on it too (and as you know you're my parenting guru as well as my writing one!)

Michelle Styles said...

Oh I am glad other people had horrified fascination with it!

Manners are v important as is self-reliance and having the skills to bounce back. It is all about creating people who can cope.
And the drive to succeed needs to come from within, not from the desire to please one's parent.

I suspect in years to come, this woman's children could write misery memoirs. Shades of Joan Crawford and the coat hangers...

The other good part is that I can now threaten my children when they complain about how strict I am...

Abby Green said...

I was shocked by that piece too! She sounded like a torture instrument, not a mother!
x Abby

Deb said...

I know I'm late to the party on this, but I had to chime in. I read a review for this book a couple of days ago and the writer of the review said, "Her methods are sure to provoke debate." I certainly hope they do not provoke debate, I hope they provoke horror and, as someone above suggested, a visit from social services. Apparently the woman's husband--who, I believe, is not of Chinese ancestry--went along with his wife's wishes in raising their children--which makes you wonder about both of them.

Those poor girls have grown up with many exterior accomplishments but no interior love. And now their mother has written a book that brags about her cruel chld-rearing methods just indicates to me how unbalanced she is.

Yes, I am a mother and I try to raise my children with the right mixture of love and discipline, but their accomplishments must ultimately be theirs--and not simply fodder for a book.