I love Amy Chua

 

amy chua.jpg

Tiger Mama's first born cub just got accepted into Harvard.  A sense of vindication, considering all the bad press Amy Chua has received.

After reading Chua's memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I had mixed emotions. I admit, while I raised my brow at some of her rigid child raising techniques--ridicule, threats, and extreme punishments--I also admired the results she achieved.

Her daughters are, undeniably, very well spoken, excellent students, talented musicians, and respectful of their elders. At least her youngest daughter didn't have her meltdown until her teens...and during a Russian vacation, no less. Yes, they are also well traveled.

Some of my own friends think she's a dictatorial, hard-assed, cold-hearted b*tch whose daughters are destined for a therapist's couch.

Is it so bad they were never allowed to: attend sleepover parties, have play dates, try out for the school musical, play computer games, or finish in second place? As a result, Sofia and Louisa excelled in school and at whatever instrument or sport they tackled. There's plenty of time, later, for cuddling and motherly praise, not to mention time on the Xbox--right?

Sofia the Harvard Bound, even wrote an open letter, published in the New York Post, thanking her parents for their strictness. *Sigh*

I wish I were strong enough to perfect and institute a (watered down) method of Tiger Parenting to use on my three kids!

I love Amy Chua.

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  • Oh, hardly vindication. I was certainly no tiger parent and my son was allowed to have sleepovers, play dates, as well as participate in sports and theatre. (Yes, THEATRE! Gasp!) Six years ago, he was accepted to Harvard, Yale, Columbia and Berkeley, and he chose to go to Stanford. Some vindication for the tiger parent nonsense...

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    Four top schools--congrats! Co Cardinals!!

  • In reply to jofel:

    Thanks. My son graduated two years ago. Just finished his M.A. and is now off to get his PhD at Princeton. Absolutely no tiger parenting needed.

  • To further my earlier comment, I can only presume that Ms. Chua's tiger philosophy was necessary to bring her less-than-stellar children up to snuff in order to get them into top colleges. My son needed no such tiger parenting. Quite contrary to Ms. Chua's approach, he was allowed to act in school plays, engaged in athletics, and generally allowed to be a normal kid--which he was. And he still got into several top Ivy League schools, eventually turning Harvard down to attend Stanford. For Ms. Chua, being a tiger parent was clearly her only choice with her unfortunate offspring.

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    I disagree that Chua's daughters are less than stellar. They were top students and musicians, one even made her Carnegie Hall debut at age 16. Tiger parenting, as noted in the book (have you read it?? It's pretty good!!) works for some, but not all.

  • In reply to jofel:

    Then if they were indeed stellar people, why all the borderline neurotic parenting? Unless, Ms. Chua felt the only way to keep her children in line was to be a tiger parent? Don't know. Wasn't necessary with my child. And I suspect it's not necessary with most kids who go to the top universities.

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    Let's agree to disagree. Read the book, and you may change your mind about Ms Chua. Or not.

  • Hmmm...I'm not sure bashing Ms. Chua's children is necessarily appropriate in this situation. Clearly, they did not have a choice in how they were raised.

    Whatever works for each family and each child. I have 3 children and I don't necessarily parent each of them the same based on their own personality, strengths and weaknesses.

    Do I think Ms. Chua was harsh? Yes, for my style and what I think are important things children learn, such as: socialization from play dates, teamwork from sports teams and confidence in performing in a school play.

    But do I think she's wrong for demanding the best from her children? Absolutely not.

  • In reply to jolaha:

    Not bashing Ms Chua's children. Since when is being less-than-stellar bashing? Since when is being average a bad thing? My point is, Ms. Chua's methods were probably necessary for her kids. My son, on the other hand, didn't need such spartan treatment. And he did just fine.

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    I respect your point and think it's great that your son did not require such parenting. Unfortunately, we won't ever know if it was tiger parenting that made her kids a success or if I was them.

    But I do want to comment on since when is averge a bad thing. In our house, it is. And the reason: I know my children are better than average and I expect them to be. So, taking a step back on my earlier comment - I must have some tiger mom in me because at any moment I find my children slacking in their education, I will take those wonderfully educational outside activities away. Because my job as their parent is to keep their focus on learning first.

    Lastly, you should be proud of the job you did with your son! I think it's tremendous! Unfortunately, not all kids are like that.

  • In reply to jolaha:

    Pride is not the issue. I couldn't care less. It wasn't my parenting that got him into Stanford. He did that entirely on his own. And I'm guessing that most kids who go to Ivy League schools weren't abused as Chua's children... If she felt that that was the only way to deal with her kids, fine. But let's not use her approach as the new standard. Ms. Chua might have had no choice when it came to her kids. Fortunately, there are infinite ways to prepare kids for getting into the top universities. Hers is but one.

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    I think you sell yourself short; you did something right. Your kid is where he is today thanks to a firm foundation~that is all you. There has got to be a "bit" of tiger mom in you...:) Congratulations on a job well done...now take a bow, and best wishes to your son.

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    Several folks missing the point or talking past each other withouth really listening/thinking.

    I've attended a non-Ivy and an "upper Ivy" and also interview lots of undergraduate applicants to my Ivy alma mater every year from several countries, incl. the US. So I know what I'm talking about.

    1. Some kids are super-bright or geniuses/talents or super self-motivated or whatever and will get into Harvard, Yale, Princeton with little to no parental involvement/contributions/pushing (other than, perhaps, ensuring decent nutrition in early childhood years - brains have to grow. I'm just being partially sarcastic). Anyway, you get my point.

    2. Some kids will not get admitted to H/Y/P no matter how much they or their parents/loved ones try to "make it so" (and big whoop - Steve Jobs went to Reed b/f he droppped out. I'd rather my kid be a Jobs than be admitted to a top college)

    3. Most kids fall in-between: parental guidance/involvement can help them get in. Apart from the K-12 nurturing stuff (stimulating dinner table conversations, lots of books at home, well-rounded extra-currs), in the high school years itt basically boils down to knowing what the Admissions Committee wants/looks for, and then ensuring that all the boxes are "ticked", so that it is very difficult (but not impossible) for the admin committee to reject your application - grades, SAT and subject test scores at a certain level (they can be gamed), a certain level of achievment in some extra-curr (violin, squash team), essays (can be gamed).

    4. Then of course there is the legacy/celebrity/American Ruling Class (George W. Bush) factor. Let us review:

    Amy Chua: Harvard undergrad, Harvard Law School, Harvard Law Review (executive editor); Yale Professor; minor celebrity

    Jed Rubenfeld (the father): Princeton undergrad (summa cum laude); Harvard Law School (magna); Yale Professor; well-known author (in Ivy circles)

    This was a much bigger factor than "tiger mom" parenting.

    5. Kids Are All Different: I know. I was a summer camp counselor two years in a row in Hendersonville (NC). Lived in a cabin with 2-week rotating sets of ~10 kids of all ages (~10-~16) all summre long. Have also been a Big Brother and worked with under-privileged, abused, street, and disabled/challenged kids all over. You learn to read themm (if you are any good working with kids). Some need/like to be pushed a little, some march to the tune of their own drummer, some are natural leaders/alpha types. You must motivate them differently.

    Let's see what Chua's two kids make of their lives, then judge Chua (though she's not my cup of tea). As Larry Summers put it, at Harvard, "the A students b/c professors, the C students b/c donors")

    My fear is that they just b/c clones of Chua herself. Do well at Harvard/name your Ivy, marry well, creat more little Chua grandkids who they will parent agressively so that they too get to go to Harvard. Safety b/f creativity, classical music b/f jazz..

  • In reply to Yashuo:

    Good points, especially #5. Each child is different, and must be treated and motivated as such. Ms Chua pointed this out in her book.

    The Chua girls had an overly strict and non-traditional upbringing as compared with their peers, no doubt about that. Lulu even went through a period hating her mother--but what teen doesn't?

    What is apparent throughout the book, and later as demonstrated in Sophia's open letter, is the sense of love, gratitude, and respect these girls have towards their parents. Huge parental accomplishments, especially in these times!

  • In reply to jofel:

    Well, it could be "love, gratitude, and respect" or it could be Stockholm Syndrome (as one Yalie, not too kindly, put it), or it could be the kid putting out a defence of her mom out there b/c the mom feels mortified, realizes how students at Yale/Ivies are making fun of her kids and is severely depressed/slamming down vodka shots at 10 in the morning. It could be lots of things.

    If you delve even a little below the surface, you will realize (or maybe sense is a better word) that perhaps, just maybe, the Chua-Rubenfeld's are not the family you think they are...

  • In reply to Yashuo:

    My mama taught me to see the glass half full, so I'm sticking with "love, gratitude, and respect". You seem to have a little insider information regarding the Chua clan...Do tell.

  • In reply to vcponsardin:

    Whoa, vcponsardin chill out. It's all about getting laid in college anyway.

  • In reply to gwill:

    You're presuming I'm not chilled out already...

  • In reply to gwill:

    Gwill. You're so funny. What school did you attend?!

  • In reply to gwill:

    On the one hand, pushing a kid to do well in school is a good thing. My parents expected straight As from me, because they truly thought I was that smart. Did I ever get staight A? Only once in junior high, but I did get almost all As in high school.

    On the other hand, here are my problems with Ms. Chua:

    1. Avoiding plays and musicals. Drama and musical theater are great ways for a kid to learn self-confidence and improve memories. They say that many trial lawyers are frustrated actors, and their audiences are judges and juries. The kid who is can act winds up being the CEO of a Fortune 500 company who can handle the press, the analysts, and the shareholders.

    2. The kids had to play piano or violin. My orchestra directors in grade school and high school always said that violinists and cellists were a dime a dozen. The hard part is finding talented kids to play viola and string bass. And let's face it, playing violin and piano never got anyone elected president, but Bill Clinton playing sax probably got some votes from young voters who thought he was cool. Besides, if you child takes up the tuba, he might wind up dotting the I before a Michigan-Ohio State game in Columbus.

    3. Calling her daughter "garbage". My mother never called me anything that was derogatory, although there was a nickname or two that I didn't want friends to know about. Her theory was that if a kid is told he is something bad, he will prove the parents were right. A neighbor had a granddaughter who was very shy, and she was constantly told she was shy and should stop. By the time she reached high school, she was in therapy, because she was painfully shy. It's one thing to tell a kid that he did something that wasn't at all smart. It's another to tell a kid he is stupid or did something dumb.

    4. Picking after-school activities for the kids. Let the kids decide. My son had seen cartoon ninjas and begged me to let him take karate. After 2 sessions, he was done. It was just to demanding, in terms of the discipline. On the other hand, he loves soccer, because it isn't as rigid as karate.

  • In reply to gwill:

    On the other hand, my great-uncle once told my father he didn't have the smarts to amount to anything. This gave my father fuel to prove him wrong, and in the end became a very successful and respected M.D. This mind tactic doesn't work for all, but in my father's case it did.

    I don't approve of Ms Chua calling her daughter garbage to get a response, in fact I think it's pretty extreme. However, I do feel in today's society parents spend too much time praising their children and doling out rewards for mediocrity. Let's save the praise for when it really counts.

  • In reply to gwill:

    I see your point, but I think a lot of kids get to Harvard without all the drama and while still enjoying some of their childhood. I also hope to send at least one of my kids to a great school. I am not willing, however, to allow them to waste their childhood on such super serious things. Being silly and carefree is fun, not to mention important for creativity and imagination--something also necessary for our workforce (and life). My kids are great students, respectful of people, and good people themselves. Yours will be, too, I bet, parenting them just as you are. Sounds like you have a great thing going already.

    Also, my daughter's friend's brother has been accepted to Harvard, and he has a very loving, kind, and good mother.

    Great piece...inspiring lots of conversation.

  • In reply to jtithof:

    Thanks for your comments! Your kids are lucky to have you as their mom!

  • In reply to gwill:

    P.S. My daughter who is entering high school in the fall has all honors classes and the only AP class they offer to freshmen and for her electives she is taking French and drama. She will also be swimming and playing soccer for the school. I don't see anything wrong with those choices (sports build confidence and a talent for teamwork, while drama let's her be creative). In fact, I am worried that she's taking on too much and do NOT want her up until all hours of the night studying. She is still a kid and has a lot of growing yet to do. Staying up late in college to study or cram is another matter entirely. You're an adult then.

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