“Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is a new parenting book out by Yale Law professor Amy Chua. The book has become quite controversial; Chua’s message that children raised by Chinese parents are more successful than those raised by Westerners due to stringent discipline and unbending values. The controversy started when a few excerpts from the book were released documenting certain parenting scenes in her life that left countless horrified on many different levels. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, we can all agree that this book raises many good questions on how we, as the Western world, raise our children.
When first reading about the harsh disciplinary style Chua had with her two daughters I was terrified. On one occasion, Chua talks of her girls making her birthday cards which she promptly gave back to them explaining “these are not good enough.” What! I could not imagine doing that to my children, the hurt and humiliation they would feel would kill me! Chua explained that everyone in her family had forgotten her birthday and to hastily make up for it they took her to a mediocre Italian restaurant where her daughters flopped “handmade” cards on the table. As she looked at them (the cards) she realized that the girls had probably taken no longer than three seconds to make them and that was extremely hurtful. The lesson she was teaching them when she handed them back was to take time to show people you care, don’t throw something together half-heartedly last minute and expect it to be okay. I applaud her for that and agree that the lesson is one that our children need to be taught. Be thoughtful.
When I first heard of the book, I thought I would be against it completely – that what I read would horrify me, but that was not the case. The woman has an extremely good point here. We give our children too many choices, too many chances and an amazing amount of excuses. We expect almost nothing from them, minus keeping the cell phone bill down. We worry so much about their “self-esteem” and hurting their feelings that we get preoccupied with actually raising them to be self-sufficient, kind people. We are so concerned with making sure that they never lose, never get left out, never think that they are not the greatest things around, and that can be very damaging.
I am all for praising your children but give praise where praise is due. When they get into the real world, they will not be told they are doing a great job every five minutes; everything is not praise worthy. Being respectful, kind, loving, and independent are hopefully requirements. If your child takes the initiative and cleans their room, wonderful, but no praise required. They should take responsibility for their actions and that includes making a mess. If they get an A on a tough history exam then yes praise away. You see the point I’m trying to make here. If they blow their nose the right way, they don’t need a sticker for it.
Another thing we do is give them too many choices. I can’t tell you how sick I am of people talking about their children and their “creative choices.” You go ahead and let them make their creative choices and soon they will be choosing not to listen to the doormat parent who never tells them NO! The word “NO” has become lost in translation. I say no and that means no, not maybe, okay I give in you can have the car back even though you have wrecked it four times. When a parent tells a child “No” there should be no explanation. The child should respect the parent enough to not even ask why. I know that is not always the case, even with the tough parents; those with teenagers get a free pass because they really are from another planet but don’t give up! Keep them on the straight and narrow by any means possible and if they think you are mean and awful then you know you are doing the right thing. They will come out on the other side human again and on their way to being successful individuals, not whiny losers who expect everything to be handed to them.
Yes people, work is good for children of all ages (Gasp!) I’m not talking sweatshops here in Chester but I am talking about responsibility. It starts with cleaning up after themselves and hopefully the trend will continue and you will raise a hard-working person, not one who sits around playing video games and hollering for his mama to bring him a sandwich. It’s a hard line to draw but shock-of-all-shockers, we are not meant to be their friends and it’s okay for your children to be just a tad afraid of you if they mess up and do something wrong. By no means am I saying to instill the fear of God in them by beating them everyday, but discipline is not a bad thing. I am so over “time out” that I could throw up. Consequences even at a young age make a world of difference. I will tell you right now that my four year old could care less if he has to sit in a chair for five minutes but he just falls apart if I take his very precious dinosaur encyclopedia. Consequences – a penalty for your actions, every action garners a reaction, right?
We used to be very disciplined hard working people who wanted to instill that same drive into our children. The Chinese have a very structured way with their children; maybe it’s a lack of a defined “culture” in our country. The Western world is made up of different religions and cultures and because of that we all have a different set of values in place in our families and in our communities. Your choices as a parent are shaping them into the kind of parents they will be. Do we really want to breed another generation of people sitting around waiting with their hand out? I don’t think so, whether you are a Tiger mother or not I think the one thing we can all agree on is that we love these children and hopefully we are doing the very best we can in raising them.