I picked up the January 31st issue of Time magazine today in my doctor’s waiting room. The cover featured a story about a recently released memoir called “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Before it was published the Wall Street Journal ran an excerpt from it online. That post has been read by more than 1 million readers and garnered over 7000 comments. The book hit the stands on January 11th and is now # 5 on the New York times Bestseller List. In It, author, Amy Chua describes raising her 2 daughters within the strict confines of “Chinese Parenting”. Some readers praise her for her parenting prowess and others call her a monster of sorts.
Her girls, now teenagers, were not permitted to watch television, have play time with friends nor free time to explore the world in their own way. Instead she scheduled each hour with violin, piano and reading lessons and from what it sounds like, very little else. Amy, herself grew up in a home where any grade less than A was unacceptable. Regardless of her American upbringing, she was required to speak Chinese in their home at all times. She received a chopstick whack for each English word she might mistakenly utter. I can only imagine how she must have felt after being shamed by her father when she came in second place at a school assembly. His words “Never,ever disgrace me like that again!” no doubt must have stung.
I understand having high expectations for our children. Most parents do. But what I cannot stomach is Chua’s glaring inability to realize that our children are not mini clones of ourselves. Regardless of our shared gene pools, each and every child is born an individual, unique in form from any other. We bring kids into the world not to control the outcome of their lives, but to guide them in a compassionate caring and patient manner, along a path that ends in independence and discovery to who they really are.
Chua states that her children’s happiness is her primary goal and that her intense focus on achievement is simply, “the vehicle” to help them find genuine fulfillment in a life’s work, just as she has. But has she given them any say in the matter along the way. If they were given the freedom to take part in the process would they make any of the same choices she has made for them.
A large part of growing up involves “finding our inner voice”. A voice that guides us when no one else is looking. When Chua’s daughters finally break free of their mother’s control, my question is whether or not they will be able to hear or even recognize their own inner voices. Where does that leave them?