Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Battle Hymn...

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by  Amy Chua.
Okeydokey. There is so much that is so obviously wrong with this book and the authors parenting and relational abilities that I'm going to try, for the most part, to stay away from just blasting Chua and focus on the good in this book.
Chua is an obsessively driven American, Asian by descent. The point of the book is that parents in the "west" are lousy. I've seen some pretty mediocre and lousy parenting in my time so I can agree, with stipulations, to that point. (Though I wouldn't limit it to the West. I just know that there are lousy parents world wide). Chua, in  contrast,  puts forth a vision of focused intentionality. I am all about that. Chua's methods, however, are abusive and ungodly.

 This is a woman, whom I am sure, does not clean her own toilets or do other mundane tasks. Her time is consumed with her career and her children. Creating children that are performance focused and driven. And her kids have achieved "great things" in the sight of the world. Chua believes that her ugly, bigoted views are justified because of the "success" they produce. I come from a pov where the ends don't justify the means. And that is one of my big criticisms of Chua. Her methods are mean spirited. The vision not shared by her children, though they appreciate some of the results. In addition her children are being taught that the world revolves around them. There is never a word about service or self reflection. It is all about success driven performance. But that is what happens when there is not internality. Life becomes solely and simply about making money, making impressions, making the grade, making the cut. And when the cut is not made? Chua herself admits," When Chinese parenting succeeds, there's nothing like it. But it doesn't always succeed."

The last chapter of the book is an editing nightmare. An admission, of sorts, that Chua didn't "succeed." Her youngest daughter had the will and the strength to put an end to her mother's obsessive drive to "succeed." That leaves Chua searching for focus, both in her home, and in her book and the reader is left with, "What a western parent I've become, I thought to myself. What a failure." And whatever beneficial point she might have made, pointing out the benefits of intentionality and vision for one's children, are lost with the condemnation of her birthplace.

Later on in the same chapter, Chua  makes the point, "that just because you love something doesn't mean you'll be great at it. Not if you don't work. Most people stink at the things they love." Despite the bitterness, I agree with her point. Giving our kids the gift of work is a treasure. And just because beliefs or activities are popular doesn't mean that we need to participate. She is putting forth an idea that raising our kids counter culturally to the average child rearing techniques will produce prodigious results. I can get on board with that. It is, after all, what we are doing. The glaring difference between Chua's home and ours is the difference between ancestral worship (disguised as success) and worship of the Master of the Universe. And that simple difference leads us down a path that is radically different than one Chua has chosen.

All that being said, Chua's book was a great reminder that our kids can do more than we think. That the fruits of incredibly hard work can be sweet indeed. That many parents fritter away their children's childhoods with frivolous and damaging situations. That being intentional as a parent, with a clear vision for one's progeny, is a gift that we can give them that will last beyond whatever particular skill they've learned.

P.S. There are lots of glaring, broad, prejudicial brush stokes that Chua uses to paint her idealized picture of cultural differences but I wanted to share the absolute, lol best one.  "I felt that Florence ( her mil) was generating sibling rivalry by looking for it. There are all kinds of psychological disorders in the West that don't exist in Asia."
 HAHAHAha. Um, yeah. The one-child policy kinda makes even the thought of sibling rivalry a moot point. Let's focus for a minute on the army of narcissists that that policy is breeding, shall we?

1 comment:

Deanna said...

I appreciate this review and your perspective on this controversial book.