Friday, February 17, 2012

Time for Part II for Amy Chua: Slumber Parties and a Saxophone

I just read a thoughtful new interview that a Star Tribune reporter conducted, "Tiger Mom Has Few Regrets,"in response to Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" paperback release and book tour this February. The headline was a little misleading, because the article covers some of Chua's big-time regrets. At the end of her book she said the ultimate question was:"What does it mean to live life to the fullest?"

And when one is asking that kind of question, isn't it a reflection on that word we tend to use, "Oops!" Now she thinks she should have given her kids more choice.

Chua still stands by the decision to write an honest but rebellious memoir, without toning it down. She wishes people understood her intention to make the book funny, and she wonders why she received the flood of angry e-mails, like the one that said, "I hope both your daughters commit suicide."

Her rebuttal: You need to actually read the book before you decide, then come to the table.

I am one of the people of the thirty countries where the book sold, who actually read the whole book. In fact, I wrote, Our Entitled Children, An American Tiger Mom's Story in response to her book. So I'm coming to the table wondering why, in her interview in the Star Tribune, she said she is changing her parenting stance. More details please. This could be really helpful material for those of us who constantly evaluate the process of parenting.

"I really did change in many ways cold turkey-" Chua was quoted. "I'm still a parent with very high expectations school-wise. But, you know, Lulu (her 16-year-old) is a very social girl, so we've had a party at our house every weekend. She had a big sleepover for her 16th. She's a great student. She went back to violin, but the rule is: I cannot interfere. Ever. Period."

Quite frankly, now I'm confused. It sounds like Chua is still in the process of finding her philosophy. She is talking from both sides of her mouth. "Why didn't I say, try the saxophone?" Chua admits at the end of the interview.

I'm sure I am not alone when I say, Amy Chua, we are ready for Part II. You need to write another book. You admit you gave your kids too few choices. Now let's hear what you have to say about finding that wonderful place called Balance. Have you found it yet?

In my experience raising two daughters, I put myself in constant check. I also found it imperative to check my ego at the door. I learned through experience that, as a parent, you must help your children find thier place in the world. You find out who they are as humans- their hopes, interests and talents. Next, your place as a parent is to hold them to their commitments so they can learn to honor themselves and others in the community.

If Chua had her daughters work on a project (and kept her hands out of it) her daughter may not have fought so hard- ripped up sheet music and said things like, "You're selfish, you're insane, you're wrecking our lives." If Chua could have looked closely at her daughter and recognized her daughter's need to be social, she could have had her daughter work on a project that incorporated her social gifts, like fundraising and recruiting others for a good cause. Her daughter would be even more desirable for colleges if she had a project under her belt, and her self-identity would not be sacrificed in the process.

In my experience as a college advisor I have seen the worst in regards to extreme parenting. On one side of the spectrum we have the Helicopter Moms, who write their kid's papers and cushion their kids from any type of failure. Then we have the Tiger Mothers like Chua, who are on the opposite side of the spectrum, who force their kids to conform to the educational system's highest standards, with no goofing off. I choose the middle ground.

Parents are drawn Chua's book because they need to examine the extremes so they may define their own parenting style. I ask parents which style (Helicopter vs Tiger Mom) they lean toward with one objective in mind: I want them to think about it. They have more influence then they think. There is a fine balance between forcing your children to do something, and guiding them along on their personal journey. My students and my daughters are taking a well-supported, tried and true course in life. I wouldn't call American Tiger Mom style a parent philosophy. It is a tried and true technique.

It would be helpful for us to read how Chua is learning to balance. Our interest is at its peak. Now how about another book about her daughter's new world that includes slumber parties? I would like to read a Part II, and like her editor said, no need to sterilize it. Give us another honest memoir about how you have changed. There is no doubt it will be helpful.

No comments:

Post a Comment