Like many parents, my husband and I had a list of parenting methods we planned to use for raising our children. Things like not coddling them when they get a scratch, making them do their homework before playtime, only allowing a small amount of television per day and making them finish their fruits and vegetables. Pretty basic.
No parent wants her child to be spoiled, rude or uneducated. We want our children to feel loved, motivated to conquer their dreams and know they can succeed in anything they set their minds to.
In the new, controversial memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Amy Chua lectures on her method — the Chinese method — of raising children. According to the book cover, “This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures…”
A Yale law professor and the daughter of Chinese immigrant parents, Chua praises her upbringing. She writes that she is bringing up her two daughters in the same way to make them the most successful.
No sleepovers, nothing other than an A, no bathroom breaks until that piano piece is perfect and no choosing your own activities. Only the best is accepted. Chua states that children do not know what is best for them and she would never praise her children for accomplishing something great.
Tiger Mother would eat me alive. She is like the mom on those nature shows — the one that leaves her young to die if they have a gimp and are too slow to keep up with the pack. Chua told a story about how her young daughter made her a birthday card and she handed it back, disgusted. “This isn’t good enough,” she said to the girl. (In my family, homemade items made everyone cry.)
I suppose I would be an elephant mother. Nurturing, playful, easygoing and organized. And in the animal world, Elephant Mother can sit on Tiger Mother. I agree with discipline, rules and tough love. Just not to this extent. But more important, when did being the best, the most successful and the wealthiest, become what life is all about?
Childhood is such an important time and escapes so quickly. Many of the most successful adults would love to have their childhood days back with summer camp, sleepovers, riding bikes and treehouses. I know I would. For many of us, these are the fondest memories, and being an adult isn’t all it is cracked up to be.
Elephant Mother praises her daughter all the time. I smile and clap every time she eats all her food, takes steps, says a new word or doesn’t cry for an extended period of time. Elephant Mother showers her child with encouraging words and hugs, and would never leave her behind if she were slower than the others.
A bitter clash of cultures is right on. There are many methods to parenting and not one of them is the correct one. We can just listen and decide what feels right for us, individually. As for now, I will remain an elephant and you can remain a tiger. I’m just thankful elephants and tigers don’t travel in the same pack.