Battle Hymn of the Kitten Daughter

[Most of the AA Blogosphere has been angry and incensed at Amy Chua's article about Chinese-style parenting.  I got hold of someone with a different take on the whole debate.  Printed with permission; read it below, and feel free to comment. --B]

Initially I was incensed at the audacity of Professor Chua’s article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” and what seemed to be the proposition: exercise totalitarianism over your children if you want them to become high-achieving good Samaritans; use negative reinforcement as the primary instrument in aforesaid method of parenting. Because that in a nutshell was my childhood and adolescence, an aspect of my past that brings up less than idyllic memories, and reminds me of the parental governance I viciously defied. In fact, Chua’s article brought up stories of trauma I don’t even remember.

My mother and I were talking the other day about Chua’s article, which my mother describes as “brave.” She further describes Chua’s demeanor during all the interviews she’s been doing these past few days as “full of grace.” Then she asked me if I remembered that time in Kindergarten when my father forced me to play 6 straight hours of piano on a Saturday and after 2 hours, I rebelled and fought back, and my father lost his temper and went to hit me in the arm but I struggled, he missed and instead hit me square across the face, leaving a huge welt. She said I started bawling, he stumbled backward in fright, and then upped and left the house and didn’t come back until evening. He avoided me for days thereafter.

In school the next week I was asked to draw a picture, perhaps by the school child psychologist, and I drew myself holding a sword on a unicorn with a sharp, giant horn. The psychologist asked me why all the sharp points and I allegedly responded, “To protect me, so no one can ever hurt me.” Needless to say, a phone call was placed to my home.

I have zero recollection of this. None. Zippo. I can’t even attempt to picture any piece of the story. Nada. I don’t remember a welt on my face, I don’t remember talking to a child psychologist, I certainly don’t remember drawing anything of that sort, and I don’t remember how big and dramatic of an incident it was. Mother claims, “Oh, it was huge! I was so scared! You know how those Americans are. I was afraid they’d drag your father to jail! It was terrible. One of the scariest times in my whole life.” She said. Wow. That major? And I can’t remember one iota of it?

However, I do remember that my father had always been neurotically strict about my music lessons, about everything, so Mom’s story is plausible. Back then my father and I constantly fought, because he thought every day of my childhood should be like a day at West Point. My room had to be cleaned a certain way. I had to eat at the dinner table a certain way. I had to speak a certain way, sit a certain way, dress a certain way. I even had to write my personal diary a certain way. (He once read my journal and marked up the margins to point out the flaws in critical reasoning splayed all over the pages.)

In many of the responses to Chua’s article, people who lived through that same totalitarian “Chinese-style” upbringing have said that they remember being hit, being verbally assaulted, but not why. Interesting. Because I remember.

I remember how one simple, softly-spoken response from my father had shed light on the years of countless instances of indescribable insanity. My father had said, “I sit with you every night while you do homework and I watch you solve the problems and I listen to the type of questions you ask me when I give lessons. I know better than anybody what you are capable of, and you are capable of more. That is the only reason ‘B’ is not good enough.”

See, he never intended to assault my self-esteem when he yelled things like “How could you be so stupid as to get a B in AP Calculus, I don’t care you’re only 12!?” And I believe other totalitarian parents felt the same way about their children, but perhaps those words were never expressed. Asian kids jokingly use the example “If I won the Nobel, my parents would shake their heads and say ‘Not good enough.’” That’s because their parents, like my father, had trouble communicating what they were really thinking: The Nobel Prize is not good enough for my son/daughter; he/she deserves even better. How can you not be touched by that intensity of faith?

In later years when my younger siblings were born, and when my parents had been better assimilated into this country, my father forebeared from corporal punishment. He continued to be strict and demanding though… or at least he did until one of my sisters attempted suicide in junior high by popping a bottle of pills.

She was rushed to the ER, had her stomach pumped. That same evening, I overheard my parents arguing while my sister was staying overnight at the hospital. My mother yelled at my father, “I’d rather have a stupid daughter than a dead one.” Although I cannot remember the welt-on-face-unicorn-child-psychologist incident, this one with my sister I remember crystal clearly. That time I remember speaking with a psychologist, who asked me leading questions (which infuriated me because even at that young age I could see right through her) to find out whether my parents were abusing us, and I had stood up for my father even though inside I was still angry at him for being a totalitarian.

As testament to my father’s profound love, he changed. He let the suicidal sister socialize, hang out late with friends, go to slumber parties, and get Cs on her report card. When she got a C in Physics, he’d ask calmly, “Well did you try your best?” She’d say, “Yeah, of course I did.” And he’d say, “As long as you tried your best.”

What I want to say to that is counterintuitive to Western attitudes. I want to say that Chua is right and my father was wrong for changing. That sister under-achieved. By leaps and bounds. And then where I and my other siblings excelled in both academics and extracurriculars, this sister’s self-confidence drained, and she ultimately turned to drugs, alcohol, and partying until the falling out between my father and her, and of all the siblings, she is the most emotionally distant from our parents. My parents gave her everything she ever wanted; they spoiled her rotten; they put her happiness as the #1 priority. And this emotional distance and her utter underachievement was the outcome. Meanwhile I have acquired a deep respect for my father’s intellect, and will call him up for advice on my cases at work (I am a corporate lawyer, and this is where you roll your eyes and think to yourself “of course you are”) and will have robust debates over politics, political theory, and philosophy with him.

After my parents, in my view, gave up on the suicidal sister (this is a terrible choice of reference, I know), as the eldest in the family, I had continued to be strict on her. While my parents thought the best goal for her was happiness, I expected more, mostly because I already knew by then that when your only goal is happiness, happiness cannot be attained. I wanted her to have ambitions. I didn’t care what those ambitions were, poetry, modern dance, flying to the moon, but I expected her to have at least one and then to follow through with it. Her problem was two-fold, problems that will resonate with our perceptions of America’s Generation Y: (1) she had no idea what she wanted out of life, and (2) even when she casually decided on a direction, she lacked execution.

At one point my sister wanted to go to design school and become a graphic designer. I did copious amounts of research on schools, matched it with her credentials, started pushing her to prepare her portfolio, helped her get her works on microfiche (this was back in the day when art school apps required you to submit portfolios on microfiche slides), and printed out the applications, organized them in manila file folders clearly labeled, and put them on her desk. In the end she said the work was overwhelming, too much for her, and in any case she doesn’t want to be a designer anymore.

Then she wanted to become a nurse. We went full-throttle for that too and I learned more about the nursing profession than I ever wanted to know because of the research I did. In the end, she didn’t want to pursue that either because “it sounded like way too much work.” She never even got past the “declaring a major” step.

There are at least 5 other vocations she wanted to pursue, each one of which I took seriously and did everything I could to support. Finally she settled on waitress. In a few years’ time, she moved up to bartender. Bartender at a very, very posh restaurant, I will have you know.

My mother, if one can believe it, once berated me for my approach toward my sister. She told me I was too pushy. “Why do you expect her to be like you?” she asked. “She is her own person and you need to let her blossom as her own person.”

My response to her regarding my sister is the same rationale Chua gave about why she pushed her daughters so hard and what my father had said to me: I love my sister deeply, unconditionally, and I know better than anybody what she is capable of.

Maybe my mother would rather have a stupid daughter than a dead one, but she doesn’t have a stupid daughter. My sister is incredibly intelligent, quick-witted, and charming. She lights up a room. She flourishes under the spotlight. She’s funny. Stand-up-comedian-level funny. You need to be way above-average in intelligence to be funny. And she is a phenomenal bartender. With the kind of natural, untaught charisma she possesses, that you cannot even learn if you wanted to, she could do great things. And all I have ever tried to do was to get her to do something great. Why would anyone vilify me for that? Why should people vilify Chua for wanting the same?

One time my sister said to me, “I’m thinking about law school. Do you think I can do it?” Yes, I said, with absolute conviction. But my mother said to her, “You don’t want to be a lawyer. Just focus on being the prettiest bartender you can possibly be.”

At bottom, perhaps the culprit for the Chua controversy is a gap in communication. Her direct, deadpan style of writing, severe honesty, and the tone she took is what incited readers. (Along with what later emerged: The manipulating of the publication in the hands of editors and a Western, Sinophobic press.)

I mean, I could see how if my father wrote a book on parenting, it might not go over so well:

Chapter 5: How to Teach Your Daughter Tennis.

Step 1: Yank her out of bed at 5 AM and make her do drills until she collapses.

Step 2: Do not let her collapse. Instead, set up tennis ball machine and shoot 300 balls at her at 100 miles per hour so she can practice returning.

Step 3: When all 300 tennis balls have been exhausted, give her a basket and make her pick every one of them up by herself, and time it: she must pick up all 300 balls with basket in 15 minutes. For every minute after 15, start taking balls out of the basket and make her pick those up too. This is good exercise and helps train stamina, which is a very important element to competitive sports. Also teaches important lesson on consequences.

Step 4: Once all the balls have been collected, make her practice the first serve 300 times in a row. No need to practice second serve because when you are through with training, she will never need to use a second serve.

Step 5: Identify her weak point. Oh my, it’s her backhand. Okay. No worries. Make her practice backhand returns 900 times until she really, really collapses. Do not let her collapse. Instead, yank her back up and tell her to practice 900 more backhand returns. As both of you will soon learn, the backhand return will become her power shot. Weak point becomes undefeatable strength.

Step 6: Repeat steps 1 through 5 until she tells you she hates you, hates tennis, and never wants to pick up a racquet again.

Can you imagine THAT being a how-to book on parenting? And yet… there it is. My father, my hero. It is true, I hate tennis now. When I step onto a court, I go through PTSD. But when I venture onto the court notwithstanding, because my husband is intrigued about learning tennis and I had once told him I “used to play a little” and he wants me to play with him, I settle into my old performance habits quickly and the proof of parenting from a tiger becomes undeniable.

My husband says, “How can a little girl like you play tennis like a big ass dude?” The velocity at which I can strike a ball takes him aback. He is shocked at how I can catch a fastball with my bare hand (I learned to do this once when my father got mad and started serving fastballs at me and the only way to not get hit and bruised up by the balls was to catch them…with my left hand; I’m right-handed), and the precision of my every movement. He is even more shocked at how after a few hours, he wants to keel over and collapse, but I’m hopping about, ready for the next set.

“Don’t you have asthma?” he asks.

“I do,” I say back, “but my father taught me how to get over it.”

“How the hell does one simply ‘get over’ asthma?” the husband wants to know.

Beyond that, the lessons learned from my father’s parenting (and tennis coaching) are tenacity and ferocity. These are the two most important traits I picked up from him, traits I would fall to my knees in gratitude for. The people in this world can be harsh. Life can be harsh. Yet I have persevered through every obstacle, through every offensive act ever attempted to be perpetrated on me by others because my father taught me tenacity and ferocity. Today I am a woman who is more than the apparent sum of her parts because of my father’s teachings.

Likewise, in spite of all the negativity and hostility hurled at Professor Chua, she weathers all of it with grace, as my mother noted, and the controversy won’t hit deeper than her skin because she possesses tenacity and ferocity, traits that can best be nurtured through my father’s style of parenting.

What’s more, in my heart of hearts I know that if only I had listened to my father more, I would have gone even farther, accomplished a hundred-fold what I accomplished today. I wasted my teenage years rebelling against him and pursuing a so-called elusive ever-changing speculation of happiness, and didn’t concentrate on my academics and extracurriculars as much as I should have.

Chua, I say, is right.

(pic from here)

Edit 1/21/10: Ask a Korean also supports Tiger Parenting.  See his excellent blog post here.

38 thoughts on “Battle Hymn of the Kitten Daughter

  1. I wanted to comment here…so as not to sway dialogue by posting in the main blog post.

    The takeaway I get from all this parenting talk is that it depends on love. Parents get a lot more leeway when they love their child and when they’re really trying to do what is best for their children. It is possible to overdo it and mess up even if you love your child, but if you can communicate that to your child, it can work.

    I think a good comparison is one between the prestige whores that Betty Ming Liu describes in her blog post, compared with the father who would kill anyone who hurt his child in Lac Su’s “I Love Yous Are For White People.” They’re both Asian (both Chinese actually), but they’re not the same people. The key difference is that one kind of individual works as a parent for the child, while the other kind works as a parent for himself or herself. Both Chinese, but both have very different styles and motivations.

  2. It would be interesting to know more about the person who made the comments – not necessarily the person’s name, but the background and current status

    It is always a question of balance and love. If a parent took the time to be with their children constantly/consistently (isn’t that is what parenting is about), imagine the sacrafices. Of course, one could leave what their children will learn from their friends, their older associates, their parents, people from the street and/or anyone else that they might meet.

    I am not advocataing isolation.

    From an Asian Pacific American perspective(s), does one expect White America to teach them about APA history, diversity, empowerment, breaking the glass ceiling, etc. What is sad is that many APAs still don’t have a great desire, access and/or need to learn about their own communities/history (in general).

    So if the decision is between spending too much time with their children, as oppose to spending minimal time (expecting school to be the free childcare), well . . . .

    Again, there is a balance that needs to be attain

  3. For the better part of my childhood, I feared both my parents. I was pushed to excel and never settle for second best. I did things as was dictated to me. Then I became a teenager and ny parents had to change their tactics. Now I am an adult and our relationship has once more changed. My point, parenting should evolve as the child does. Some techniques are more suitable for some ages than others and for some personalities than others.
    I don’t see myself forcing my child to practice anything for long hours; even my attention span is not that long. But allowing that child to constantly quit is a no-no.
    I liked some elements of Ms Chua’s article -whether or not it was taken out of conte0t- cos I am a product of some of those ideals. However, I was very fortunate that when my parents realised that I had changed, they too reshaped their parenting techniques but certain foundations had been set.
    Hardwork, perseverance etc.
    I don’t find that so much while living in the US. I meet more parents who are simply content for their kids to just barely pass muster. Infact, America is probably the only country I know where u can gain admission into college without declaring a major.
    What do you expect? Here, u have options. Ur life does not end because u never went to school. There is something just for u.
    Where I come from, the techniques used by Chua, guarantee that u will be set above the rest for u would have mastered ur craft. And the only opportunities that exist are for the masters.

  4. I see how Chua’s article can create rage since its publication. However, after seeing some interviews and listening to MPR, perhaps WSJ has partially misrepresented her. I gathered that the article was just a portion of the memoir book and that she learned from those parental mistakes with her second daughter, who rebelled against that parenting style. Therefore, causing her to tone down her strict parenting. Because I did not read the book, I cannot attest to this truthhood. I do appreciate the discussions its garnered though.

    I perceive the Chua article from several viewpoints. One from having strict parents myself (up until college, whereby a 3.8gpa was simply not good enough for my mom) and then now from the vantage point of being a mom myself. I hope I do not inflict the type of strictness to my son that my mom stressed upon me. But after becoming a mom, I now realize why my mom did what she did and it was culturally accepted in the Motherland. She learned to adapt to US culture and then learned to adapt to my everchanging years of growth. It was her way of displaying love (and appears to be the way many asian mothers displayed love back then). While I don’t condone a lot of the extreme strictness, I have learned that parenting and parental “love” is an evergrowing and everchanging process that you have to adapt to through the years with each life stage of each child.

  5. My own parents never showed up even though they were well educated, but the Chua thing, tough love, is less likely to produce the greatest output. First try to explain why it’s important that your kid do whatever, make whatever it is the thing to do. If that doesn’t work then be Uncle Joe.

    The musical instrument thing makes no sense. It has no utility. It’s a waste of time.

  6. @ Nicolai: The “musical instrument” thing makes perfect sense. It’s how I got my first job offer at a big firm. The interviewer, a partner of the firm, was a board member of the local symphony and was attending that night. I brought up my violin playing and we talked about our favorite composers for 30 minutes and then the next day I found out I got the position.

    Beyond the literal music education, it teaches discipline, and hand eye coordination. It teaches you how to deconstruct something that seems daunting into its basic, less daunting building blocks, master those building blocks, and ultimately master what had seemed daunting. It teaches you math as well, and teaches you to be sensitive to the rhythms and syncopations of the world around you when you learn to hear it in music. Music teaches you balance, how something technical is art, and how something that is art must also be technical, and how genius cannot exist without both. Music lessons taught me how to study and how to approach study. Music lessons taught me how to perform under pressure. Music lessons, I believe, also enabled me to pick up foreign languages with greater ease.

    Opining that music lessons serve no utility is a rather unwise conclusion.

  7. @ Nicolai Yezhov

    \The musical instrument thing makes no sense. It has no utility. It’s a waste of time.\

    \Dr. Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin and Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California have studied the relationship between math and music for many years. They compared the effects of musical and nonmusical training on the intellectual development of preschoolers.

    Children who received preschool piano lessons performed 34% higher on tests measuring spatial-temporal ability than other preschoolers. The kids who received preschoo piano lessons could think in pictures and see those pictures moving or changing shape over time. From this research, it is clear that preschool music lessons are effective in teaching math through music. Developing an ability in music enhances math skills, giving children an advantage in science, engineering, and other math-related subjects.\

    Here’s a short article
    http://www.concertpitchpiano.com/PianoLessonsNewsletter.html

  8. The following is from a publication by the Southeast Center for Education in the Arts at UTC.

    Critical Evidence: How the Arts Benefit Student Achievement

    http://www.utc.edu/Outreach/SCEA/critical-evidence.pdf

    “Multiple independent studies have shown increased years of enrollment in arts courses are positively correlated with higher SAT verbal and math scores. High school students who take arts classes have higher math and verbal SAT scores than students
    who take no arts classes.

    Arts participation and SAT scores co-vary—that is, they tend to increase linearly: the more arts classes, the higher the scores. This relationship is illustrated in the 2005 results shown below. Notably, students who took four years of arts coursework outperformed their peers who had one half-year or less of arts coursework by 58 points on the verbal portion and 38 points on the math portion of the SAT.

    The SATand Arts Learning

    Arts Course-taking Patterns and SAT Scores, 2005

    VERBAL MATH
    4+ years arts 534 540
    4 years 543 541
    3 years 514 516
    2 years 508 517
    1 year 501 515
    1/2 year or less 485 502

    Average for All SAT Test Takers 508 520

    Source: 2005 College-Bound Seniors: Total Group Profile Report, The College Board,
    2005, Table 3-3; SAT Scores of Students Who Study the Arts: What We Can and
    Cannot Conclude about the Association, Kathryn Vaughn and Ellen Winner (Fall 2000).”

    “Students consistently involved in orchestra or band during their middle and high school years performed better in math at grade 12. The results were even more pronounced when comparing students from low-income families. Those who were involved in orchestra or band were more than twice as likely to perform at the highest levels in math as their peers who were not involved in music.” 19

    19. Catterall, James S., Richard Chapleau, and John Iwanaga (2002), “Involvement
    in the Arts and Human Development: Extending an Analysis of General Associations
    and Introducing the Special Cases of Intensive Involvement in Music and Theatre Arts.” In R. Deasy (Ed.), Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student Achievement and Social Development, Washington, DC: AEP.

  9. Lol, King. It’s because of my domineering Chinese parents! Kidding! We aren’t Chinese! Actually, that kind of stuff is in my field. But if it’s math–you win. :D

    Good post Byron and whomever wrote it. I appreciate hearing honest stories from other AAs. Lots of interesting issues Amy Chua has brought up. I just hope that it helps the diaspora of AA voices blossom further out into mainstream–though there is definitely value in having these discussions amongst ourselves.

  10. Music develops the brain in ways that other studies cannot. It’s an integral part of culture, which is why Frank Chin these days is concentrating on opera.

    Plus, musicians are cool and attractive. Guys can educate themselves and fight the IR disparity at the same time. :) (Joke yo!)

  11. Leave it to Asians (and one very non-stereotypical black man….. I’m just kidding, King.) to come up with some sort of academic excuse for music ! Come on, guys, how about simply music being good for the soul? Music enriches your life. That is, as long as you’re not just practicing cause your parents force you to and you swear to never play again as soon as you could move the hell out of the house. Which is kinda what happened to some of my Asian friends. But music being a waste of time? That’s like saying painting, writing, singing, dancing, hell, any kind of recreational activity is a waste of time. That’s one boring ass life.

  12. it’s not the parents, it’s not the children, it’s the unpredictable nature of life.

    and why only “western” (white) classical music? where’s the love for Asian classical music?

  13. Re: “Leave it to Asians . . . . to come up with some sort of academic excuse for music.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I know, right?

  14. Interesting post, but I think your earlier post is much more informed by comparison than this girl’s ‘essay’, I’m sorry but I think she’s highly naive and ignorant.

    what if her sister really did commit suicide? This isn’t some kind of small thing that can be brushed aside, there was a bigger learning lesson here for her parents than there was for her sister.

    That little fact changed her parent’s profoundly and made them learn to become more compassionate than they were before. I am a believer in Karma, and while a parent can end up making their children gain social status and wealth through whatever means they deem necessary, there are still grave long-term repercussions for people who commit abuse and especially for those who would knowingly push people into committing suicide.

    Not to mention bashing a square into a round circle doesn’t work either. Someone could be gifted in other ways such as music or art, and then be idiotically forced into a scientific profession when their mathematical aptitude isn’t strong.

    It’s true, we do need to pursue financial stability and a means to support ourselves as best able within our means, but if we are also looking at this purely from a value system that is defined by social status and material success as this girl happens to be doing.

    I’d like to ask what use is all that wealth and social status to them after they are dead?

  15. “non-stereotypical black man….. I’m just kidding, King.”

    Hahaha! I don’t mind being non-sterotypical, Leon.

  16. Although this probably belongs in the other thread, I’ll rather put my thoughts here because that thread had been hijacked somewhat.

    While I don’t agree, and is even angry at Chua’s piece on parenting, I feel that a certain section of the crowd (not here, but elsewhere) had gone a bit overbroad in their criticism of Asian parents in general.

    First of all, I think a lot of people are taking in the “Grass is always greener on the other side” approach in talking parenting. Sure their parents ain’t perfect, but are the other methods that much better? There’s good reasons that despite an absolutely obvious glass ceiling for Asian Americans, the median wage for AAs is still significantly higher than the average white American (and it’s certainly not because of an ‘Asian Privilege’ in the work force.

    Asian parents are generally stricter than western parents, but generally fails short of Chua’s ideologies. Mostly, they just want their kids to goto a decent college (and not Ivy-league whoring) and hopefully a decent job by the end of it.

    Secondly, why do so many people think that ‘Straight-A’ people are all depressed souls that’s suicidal? While not a ‘Straight-A’ guy myself (Never got anything higher than a B- for English subjects and struggles with Trig.), my ‘pack’ was dominated by ‘straight A’ guys and we had an absolute blast in High School.

    In our senior year, we generally spent the morning playing soccer on the school fields and sneaking off to Karaoke sessions every second afternoon (and taking the straight-A girls with us).

    And as for Music being useless…Well, obviously it won’t necessarily work on all girls, but generally a lot of girls are impressed by guys that knows how to play the piano. And that’s already investment well spent.
    (Not to mention that you have an excuse to book out the music room)…

  17. AA median wage being higher can be broken down into: AA still get paid less than whites for the same work: 80% from what I remember, but overall AA take higher media income professional jobs.

    so it’s nothing to celebrate.

  18. It’s ironic that a feminist should make apologetics for what’s essentially oppressive, patriarchial foot-binding. The difference, however, is that children are more vulnerable to abuse at the mercy of a deranged, hypergamous mother than a grown woman is at the hands of man. I guess its OK since a woman is doing it. I pass on this.

  19. LOVED this post. You are absolutely right! I don’t think your sister will ever be truly truly happy b/c she probably knows herself she is capable of doing something great, but didn’t have the courage at the time to follow through and make it happen. I am a 32 yr old Korean-American and in highschool was nearly suicidal. (the closest I got was to drink lots of whiskey till I vomitted multiple times before a history final. My parents never knew, and I cleaned everything up and took my final still hungover, but I managed a B). There were tons of pressure from my parents during the college application process and although I graduated high school in the top 3% of my class and had a decent GPA, nearly 4.0; I wanted to die and thought I would fail in life. NOT b/c my parents told me I was a failure but b/c I was afraid that things would get even harder in college and I know I didn’t try 110 percent throughout highschool so I thought I was set up for failure. Then I realized that college was not so hard b/c I was used to studying hard and that there were tons of under-achieving kids in college. It was a shock! There were kids out there that had aspirations of going into medical school, yet were still failing organic chem! OMG! And why did they still think they could get into medical school?!! B/c their Americanized parents told them they could! ha ha. My mom told me that if I got a B in anything, I would end up working at McDonald’s. Of course that is extreme, but the point is, if you excel in whatever you do, you will get somewhere and achieve something. If you don’t excel in it, there is no guarantee that you will get there. Bravo to Amy Chua and all her supporters!

  20. Glad you liked it Linda!

    I am seeing that this style works for some children. I guess it depends on the kid?

  21. Initially, I was appalled at this article by Amy Chua. I am a high school student of Chinese decent in Canada, and my high school happens to have a 90% Asian population, many of whom are “FOBS” (Fresh Off The Boat.)

    Most of my peers and I are seriously opposed to this type of parenting because we see the results of its failures every day. If we don’t, the counselors tell us how much of a problem these parents can be.

    However, Chua does bring up some positive PRINCIPLES, that may work at least in theory. Her children managed to grow up well, but that was HER children, so this type of parenting most definitely should not be said as a kind of “best for all.”

    Take my cousin for example. My aunt (her mother) had a pushy aunt that was basically a Tiger Mom that made her learn piano at any cost. My aunt, in turn, did the same to my cousin. The last time I saw my cousin was more than two Christmases ago. I don’t think their relationship is awful, but it most certainly must have been better without all the crazy music learning.

    Learning music is a really good thing. I know because I do it and there are many benefits to it. But you don’t have to be a Lang Lang to see the good results of music-learning.

    From my 16 years of life experience, my most educated guess for the ideal type of parenting is a strict one that will allow kids to have fun, when it’s time to have fun. I agree that American kids have too much freedom, but I believe freedom is necessary for a kid to find his independence, his interests, and have room to THINK, for crying out loud. I also think a certain strictness should be expected of the parent, but corporal punishment? Degrading? I still classify these things as crimes against the law and the UN Rights of the Child.

    Children need to be pushed to reach their potential, but a child’s own interests must also be listened to! Parents don’t “own” their children. A child is his own person, and this must always at the back of a parent’s mind, in my opinion.

    Anyways, another bad result of Tiger Mom parenting is that many parents tend to use their children as TOOLS to show off themselves among other parents. Like, “Look, my child has a 4.0 GPA. Now our children are in the same standards, and now we are equals.”

    It is worth noting that my parents, immigrants from Hong Kong, disagree mostly with Amy Chua. Yet, I am an honour roll student with many ambitions and a diploma in music. Okay, so maybe I’m a kid that can take care of herself, but kids are not totally helpless.

  22. Initially, I was appalled at this article by Amy Chua. I am a high school student of Chinese decent in Canada, and my high school happens to have a 90% Asian population, many of whom are “FOBS” (Fresh Off The Boat.)

    Most of my peers and I are seriously opposed to this type of parenting because we see the results of its failures every day. If we don’t, the counselors tell us how much of a problem these parents can be.

    However, Chua does bring up some positive PRINCIPLES, that may work at least in theory. Her children managed to grow up well, but that was HER children, so this type of parenting most definitely should not be said as a kind of “best for all.\

    I’ve known people with Tiger moms who end up depressed and just give up when they’re nearly adults, and the parents can’t do anything more. I’ve known people that grow up ok but end up distant from their parents.

    Learning music is a really good thing. I know because I do it and there are many benefits to it. But you don’t have to be a Lang Lang to see the good results of music-learning.

    From my 16 years of life experience, my most educated guess for the ideal type of parenting is a strict one that will allow kids to have fun, when it’s time to have fun. I agree that American kids have too much freedom, but I believe freedom is necessary for a kid to find his independence, his interests, and have room to THINK, for crying out loud. I also think a certain strictness should be expected of the parent, but corporal punishment? Degrading? I still classify these things as crimes against the law and the UN Rights of the Child.

    On a side note, one thing I have to say is: the article generalizes Asian parents and encourages a stereotype that may not be true.

    Children need to be pushed to reach their potential, but a child’s own interests must also be listened to! Parents don’t “own” their children. A child is his own person, and this must always at the back of a parent’s mind, in my opinion.

    Anyways, another bad result of Tiger Mom parenting is that many parents tend to use their children as TOOLS to show off themselves among other parents. Like, “Look, my child has a 4.0 GPA. Now our children are in the same standards, and now we are equals.”

    It is worth noting that my parents, immigrants from Hong Kong, disagree mostly with Amy Chua. Yet, I am an honour roll student with many ambitions and a diploma in music. Okay, so maybe I’m a kid that can take care of herself, but kids are not totally helpless.

  23. Char,
    It’s great to have a young person’s input on the matter. After all, you are the ones directly affected. Your response is level-headed, rational, and well written.

    There are ethical dimensions to this matter that remain troubling. The brute force nature of the Tiger parent method belies a lack of sophistication and skill on the part of the parent. A truly superior Chinese parent would be concerned with the rightness of the process as well as the end results. That concept is espoused in ancient Chinese philosophy.

    When I was in high school I was interested in physics. I read biographies of Albert Einstein and Richard P Feynman. They both won Nobel Prizes in Physics. As boys, they both had fathers who knew how to stir their imagination about the physical world, who taught them to think unconventionally, which later inspired them to become physicists.

    I believe this is the right way to motivate children to achieve and fulfill their potential. Tiger parenting may produce a doctor or lawyer. Lord knows we have plenty of those already in the Asian-American community. But short of a fortuitous accident, I seriously doubt it will succeed in producing a truly creative person whose ideas shape human history.

  24. Pingback: Tiffany » Response to Tiger Mom

  25. If Jesus was raised by a Tiger parent, not only would he be a complete failure, but he would also be encouraged to commit suicide in shame and embarrassement for being poor and homeless.

    It’s true it can produce material success for some children, but you’re only hearing a one-sided perspective.

    WHAT ABOUT THE PEOPLE THAT ARE ALREADY DEAD ? WHO WILL SPEAK FOR THEM? One of my cousins turned completely schizophrenic as a result of childhood abuse, and is now incapable of holding down a job at age 40+, with treatment this could have been avoided but instead he’s lost everything. This isn’t some kind of joke.

    But I guess some of you refuse to consider any alternative, because these people don’t matter, and just like in the real world no one gives a fucking shit about poor oppressed people.

  26. I hear you, Concerned.

    It occurred to me that although the line is thin, Betty Ming Liu and the OP are talking about two different kinds of dads. The OP’s dad was a strict parent who put his daughters first; Liu’s parents were “prestige whores” who put their money and friends before their family. One had love; the other had a business.

    I’m wondering now if there just happen to be a large percentage of prestige whores in our culture. It wouldn’t surprise me. Kinda sad to put money and your own social standing above your kids.

  27. Why is the art of music required to endure the ill-informed antics of such inartistic imbeciles as Amy Chua? Her lust for fame as an old-fashioned stage mother of either a famous violinist (yet another mechanical Sarah Chang?) or a famous pianist (yet another mechanical Lang Lang?) shines through what she perceives as devotion to the cultivation of the cultural sensitivities of her two unfortunate daughters.

    Daughter Lulu at age 7 is unable to play compound rhythms from Jacques Ibert with both hands coordinated? Leonard Bernstein couldn’t conduct this at age 50! And he isn’t the only musician of achievement with this-or-that shortcoming. We all have our closets with doors that are not always fully opened.

    And why all this Chinese obsession unthinkingly dumped on violin and piano? What do the parents with such insistence know of violin and piano repertoire? Further, what do they know of the great body of literature for flute? For French horn? For organ? For trumpet? Usually, nothing!

    For pressure-driven (not professionally-driven!) parents like Amy Chua their children, with few exceptions, will remain little more than mechanical sidebars to the core of classical music as it’s practiced by musicians with a humanistic foundation.

    Professor Chua better be socking away a hefty psychoreserve fund in preparation for the care and feeding of her two little lambs once it becomes clear to them both just how empty and ill-defined with pseudo-thorough grounding their emphasis has been on so-called achievement.

    Read more about this widespread, continuing problem in Forbidden Childhood (N.Y., 1957) by Ruth Slenczynska.

    http://en.gloria.tv/?media=126408&connection=cabledsl
    ______________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  28. ^ Truth! What’s the use of music if you strip away its soul? Which is exactly what morons like Amy Chua are doing.

  29. Russians call me German, Germans call me Russian, Jews call me a Christian, Christians a Jew. Pianists call me a composer, composers call me a pianist. The classicists think me a futurist, and the futurists call me a reactionary. My conclusion is that I am neither fish nor fowl – a pitiful individual.
    Anton Rubinstein (1829-94), composer, formidable Russian concert pianist, founder of The Saint Petersburg Conservatory (1862). http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=6&oq=%22anton+rubinstein&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4GGLJ_enUS344US352&q=%22anton+rubinstein%22+youtube&gs_upl=0l0l2l850891lllllllllll0&aqi=g5s3
    __________________________

    WHO or WHAT is AMY CHUA?
    Her father, Leon L. Chua, was born in The Philippines. He was graduated in 1959 from Mapúa Institute of Technology in Manila as a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering. His Master of Science followed from MIT in 1961. Amy was born in Champaign, Illinois on 26 October 1962 while Leon was pursuing his studies for a Ph.D. (1964) at The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. And it’s here in this synoptic review that her troubles begin with her shield in a contrived public relations makeover comastered by her publisher, Penguin. She states that she is Chinese. But her surname has not been identified anywhere as Chinese.
    __________________________

    Is the author fully ethnically Chinese? I am wondering because while I certainly have not met every Chinese person who has lived, I have known a fair number of Chinese yet have not met a single Chinese person with the author’s surname. I read somewhere that the author’s surname is a translation of a Chinese surname, Tsai, with which I am familiar. How many generations back in her direct family line, i.e. her parents or her parents’ parents, did her family come from China? I have not previously encountered a person who talks & writes so much about being Chinese & talks on behalf of the vast population of mothers born in China yet her surname & how I have heard it pronounced is very different from that with which I am familiar. While I wish to improve to better fluency in Mandarin, I have spoken enough Mandarin with native speakers to notice I have not heard Mandarin Chinese words pronounced with the same pronunciation as I hear her name pronounced. I truly am curious about what I have read briefly about a historical migration of immigrants, including the author’s ancestors, who immigrated to the Philippines, speak a language seemingly common among those immigrants & bear names that are translations from Mandarin Chinese into such language. It is an interesting occurrence I am curious to know more about. http://www.amazon.com/Chua-Chinese-didnt-already-know/forum/Fx2TW1617UZNULU/Tx2INJY62TIU5CI/1/ref=cm_cd_ef_rt_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&asin=1594202842

    Cheap Social Worker said…
    When reading excerpts from Amy Chua’s latest book, I noticed that she left out any reference to her Filipino background. Looking at Chua’s biography, her parents spent a considerable amount of time doing business in the Philippines, with her father even going to school there. Chua also spent a good portion of her childhood going back and forth between the United States and the Philippines, though I wonder if she ever went outside the walls of her gated community to interact with the main population. Given that Filipino values on education are very similar to these “Chinese” values Amy Chua promotes, why does “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” ignore her Filipino heritage completely? http://askthepinoy.blogspot.com/2011/01/does-prof-amy-chua-have-any-other.html

    As a Harvard undergraduate during the years that the author was there, I do not recall the author attending any of the many meetings or social occasions held by the Asian students on campus. Although the book discusses the author’s “Chinese” upbringing, and refers to the Chinese food that she loved as a child and the “high culture” of her Chinese ancestors, there is little in the book to indicate that the author is, or considers herself to be, part of a larger community or network of Asians or Chinese in America, an affiliation that’s critical if the author’s voice is to be heard as at all representative of that community. http://www.amazon.com/review/R180XSBCBH3O89/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1594202842&nodeID=&tag=&linkCode=

    It’s not uncommon to hear alcoholics claim that it’s because they’re Irish or to hear that a bad temper is a result of bad genes. Chua is no different, and is justifying her abusive behavior based on the fact that she is Chinese. The reality is that Chua’s style is not a product of her Chinese heritage. Chua has never lived in China; her parents have not either. http://voices.yahoo.com/review-amy-chuas-battle-hymn-tiger-mother-7701018.html?cat=25
    __________________________

    It isn’t at all clear to me when and where Chinese culture came into the heritage of Amy Chua, if indeed it ever has, for the surname Chùa is, in fact, Vietnamese. It means temple and is commonly found in Buddhist and other religious contexts, e.g., (1) Chùa Pháp Hoa – Nam Úc, (2) Chùa Ph?t Tích [Temple of Saint Paul], (3) L? Khánh Thành D?i Hùng B?o Di?n Chùa Quang Minh, ph?n 1, and (4) t?i Chùa Ho?ng Pháp, H?c Môn, Sài Gòn.

    Professor Chua is a graduate of El Cerrito High School in California. http://elcerritogauchos.net/ She claims a superiority of a Chinese culture she has never lived in but is married to a white American Jew. Attempting yet another of her unpersuasive slow-change / quick-change acts she has claimed to have inculcated so-called, but unspecified, Chinese values into her two American daughters. She clearly believes that unrelenting emotional pressure on children and simultaneous denial of affection toward them will improve their physical skills. What implausible culture that has lasted more than seventy-two consecutive hours has advocated such a bizarre relationship between parent and child? She states that she has denied her two daughters the experiences of having performed in school plays. But their father had to have had enough stage experience prior to having been admitted at age 21 into the Drama Department (1980-1982) of The Juilliard School in Manhattan to justify that admission.
    __________________________

    “all you need to be able to do [to get into Juilliard] is just be badass at one instrument and read music.”
    * * *
    I think that is an extremely simplistic way to look at it. There are children who are groomed for Juilliard from grade school onwards. Children who start playing at 3 or 4 and by the age of 10 are already practicing 6+ hours a day. It takes incredible long-term discipline to be “badass” at one instrument.

    Juilliard grants a 10 minute audition. By the time you walk in, greet the jury, tune up, they get their papers ready to go, glance at your accompanist, you have 7 minutes to convince them that you are at the top of the top and that you have a viable career in performance ahead of you.

    Harvard is, in some senses, more forgiving because you have so many more ways to prove yourself. You can show you are smart through grades, you can show that you earned academic honors, you can show character through recommendation…all Juilliard gives you is 7 minutes to blow them away. http://talk.collegeconfidential.com/college-admissions/439847-harder-than-harvard.html
    __________________________

    Professor Chua has stepped as an authority into several worlds in which she has no known experience and attempted to convince readers deeply concerned with the subjects she has written about that her word is the best word, founded as she believes on substantial personal experience. She moves in step with a long and continuing line of crackpot self-styled such authorities to lay claim to a success citing her ill-chosen and unexamined demographic whopping sampling of two, one of whom has effectively rejected her horrific emotional, social, and artistic models in favor of a pursuit of a life as a real person.

    Does anyone now remember the scam of Linus Pauling (1901-94), author of “Vitamin C and the Common Cold”? In 1970 Dr Pauling, a hustling chemist with no patients and no clinical studies to substantiate his claims, convinced many of the world’s non-thinkers that tanking up on vitamin C would cure the common cold, cure cancer, cure heart disease, and wipe out miscellaneous infections. He amassed a small fortune from his publications. Forty-one years later? Anyone who has contracted the seed basis for a cold still sniffles, cancer is rampant, heart disease remains with us, and infections are a functioning reality, increasing in their variety, throughout the human species. And Dr Pauling? Who? http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/pauling.html

    Obstetricians write books on running. Physicists write books on philosophy. Social workers write books on love. Orthopedists write books on financial investment. Vitamin gurus write books advising pursuit of the Fountain of Youth in the manner of Herodotus and Juan Ponce de León (1474-1521). Generals write unbiased books on history. Psychoanalysts – with the highest suicide rate of any professional group in the world – plumb the woes of others promising answers of consolation.

    And, reminding us, yet again, that fools rush in where angels fear to tread, Professor of Law Amy Chua has overarchingly tried to portray herself with her menopausal-crisis magnum opus that she is (1) an authority on music instruction of the preadolescent, (2) is an informed intellectual on the relationships both distinguishing and binding alien cultures, (3) she believes that both private and public sustained and repetitive humiliations of defenseless children will inevitably lead to a positive strengthening of those children’s characters, (4) she believes that children perceive through the senses of sound and sight what their parents want them to perceive, (5) that there likely will be no relationship between enforced disruptive prohibitions of physiological functions of urination and defecation in early childhood and a possible dysfunction of those systems manifesting later in life, (6) that denial of nutrition is an educational tool, (7) that avowals of love following psychological and physical cruelties meted to the young do not establish a perverse link between those avowals and cruelties, (8) that two daughters who know well that their pussy-whipped father had the valuable preprofessional experiences of the very stage presence they may have wished for themselves in adolescence have not formed an unhealthy opinion of compromised male hegemony during those years it might have benefited them in the formation of what will become their future relations with men, (9) that, while their mother was referring to their minds and their bodies openly and publicly in the most vile terms of contempt and debasement their father sat idly by, possibly out of sight but not out of earshot, (10) that the father of two daughters is portrayed in print and public appearances by their mother as the bringer of jollity when permitted to do so by their mother (Egads!), (11) that the phrase “Head of Household” has been perverted in the Chua example to refer to the elder with the loudest mouth and the least flexible personality, (12) [The reader here is invited to continue filling in the blanks . . .]

    Whether or not any modern Chinese man or woman – or, in the example of Amy Chua, any Filipina descended from Vietnamese – subscribes to any of the tenets of historical Confucianism, those tenets continue, for many modern Orientals both in and from the Eastern lands, to elicit a sentimental ideal to which many pay lip service in time of reference.

    Professor Chua has made a significant fundamental error in attempting to define her relationship with her two daughters. “Parenting method” is not a synonym for “Being a parent.” The former arises from the jargon and complex overlays of institutional structure established by American teachers colleges, their promulgators, and devoted acolytes fallen under the influences of Frederick Wilson Taylor [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederick_Winslow_Taylor] and leaders of The Efficiency Movement [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Efficiency_Movement] in the first decade of the twentieth century; good for building the Model T but less than good for building character. “Being a parent” arises from the traditional standing of parents within all well-established functioning societies.

    With one exception, all other public pictures of the face of Professor Chua portray her with her signature toothy grin. The only one in which she is not smiling is that showing her imperiously overseeing her younger daughter during a music practice session. http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/RV-AB161_chau_i_G_20110107132417.jpg

    That this parenting nitwit can lay claim to so-called traditional Chinese values, while supplanting the very bases of those values with individual license to cruelty and an immodest flaunting of self at the expense of those children traditional values would obligate her to protect from adversity, is a revelation of ignorance and egocentricity wholly at odds with the established teachings of Confucius.
    __________________________

    André M. Smith, Bach Mus, Mas Sci (Juilliard)
    Diploma (Lenox Hill Hospital School of Respiratory Therapy)
    Postgraduate studies in Human and Comparative Anatomy (Columbia University)
    Formerly Bass Trombonist
    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra of New York,
    Leopold Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (Carnegie Hall),
    The Juilliard Orchestra, Aspen Festival Orchestra, etc.

  30. You know Andre, you and me, I think we and a lot of other folks may have gone through some pretty harrowing shit, lol. That’s why it makes me so happy to see the criticism, outcry and rebuttal that Amy Tan has gotten. It makes me so happy to see that she is just a fad and that the weight and body of the prevailing sentiment works against her type. This dinosaur will be forgotten in no time. 8]

    During my generation this wasn’t the case. But enough people remembered. They connected the dots. When they finally could, they chose a different path, and they took a stand when it came to their own children.

    I must also say, learning music by rote while being alienated from its heart must be the most moronic endeavor either. Just five minutes of being acquianted with something rousing could set you up for a lifetime of great music.

    The tiger mothers don’t get it. I think that tiger mothers try to overcompensate for the knowledge of their own shortcomings and inadequacies. They can only scare children and other people vulnerable to them, ROFL. Useless.

  31. Andre, I doubt you’ll come back to read this, but for the future reference of anyone who reads this thread later — your assertion that she is likely not Chinese on the basis that:
    “I have known a fair number of Chinese yet have not met a single Chinese person with the author’s surname. I read somewhere that the author’s surname is a translation of a Chinese surname, Tsai, with which I am familiar…. yet her surname & how I have heard it pronounced is very different from that with which I am familiar. I have spoken enough Mandarin with native speakers to notice I have not heard Mandarin Chinese words pronounced with the same pronunciation as I hear her name pronounced”
    could not be further off the mark.

    Chua is one fairly-common rendering of a very common Chinese name: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cai_%28surname%29 meaning “vegetable”
    and the reason it is not pronounced like a Mandarin Chinese word is because it is not Mandarin. It’s a dialect, and my guess is that her father’s side of the family is likely Hokkien or Teochew. The Mandarin word is pronounced Cài, but ethnic Chinese from Southeast Asia (where Prof Chua is from, as am I) often have romanized last names based on the dialectal variant pronunciation of their last names in their specific dialect, not in Mandarin. For the ones with which I am familiar, in Cantonese vegetables are “choi”, and in Hokkien, Teochew and Hakka they are “chye/chai”. As the Wiki link points out, Chinese of Hokkien and Teochew extraction tend to romanize their last name to Chua, and you may also see Chai and Choi as familiar variants for other Southern Chinese dialects. It’s all the same name in Chinese, but it is romanized differently depending on which specific town in Southern China your ancestors came from. (My own has multiple romanizations: Lin/Lim/Ling are but three. I am Hokkien and my family uses the second.)

    Consequently, the answer to your questions/assertions:
    “It isn’t at all clear to me when and where Chinese culture came into the heritage of Amy Chua, if indeed it ever has, for the surname Chùa is, in fact, Vietnamese. It means temple and is commonly found in Buddhist and other religious contexts”,
    “why does “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” ignore her Filipino heritage completely?”,
    and “Chua has never lived in China; her parents have not either”
    would simply be:
    - She’s not Vietnamese, and her last name doesn’t mean “temple”; it’s Chinese for
    “vegetable”.
    - Because she is not Filipina (or Vietnamese); she is Chinese.
    - You don’t have to live in China to be Chinese; I never have and neither have my parents, but the Chinese diaspora is broad and deep and, despite never having set foot on China soil, many of us consider ourselves ethnically Chinese, because we are.

    As a professional musician, you are evidently in a sound position to provide commentary on her children’s musical training and on admissions to Juilliard, and you certainly speak with more authority there than me and most other commenters. However, you end your treatise by snidely remarking that “Professor Chua has stepped as an authority into several worlds in which she has no known experience” and suggest that it might be preferable for writers to not wax voluble in areas where they are non-expert. Regarding issues of Chinese ethnicity, language, and values, I humbly suggest that you might want to consider doing the same.

  32. While I agree your parents probably went the other way a little too much with your sister, the answer isn’t to swing entirely back to Tiger Parenting, let’s not forget that TRYING TO KILL YOURSELF is not to be taken lightly.
    I see a lot of myself in your sister, I get the equivalent of B Grades in my studies but still got depressed and thought I was worthless because I wasn’t getting perfect scores and didn’t have a standard adults life in many ways, but I do have autism so I can get overwhelmed more easily than others. While your sister probably doesn’t have autism, she likely tried suicide because she saw her potential as an obligation of worth rather than an opportunity for self improvement, trust me, i’ve been there.

    She’s probably comparing herself to her siblings and feeling inferior and guilty about not keeping up (I did the same with my classmates), if your parents went entirely hands-off she may have taken that as ‘giving up’ on her like you suggested, and therefore lacking love by Chinese standards.

    Maybe suggest that to her? And to your parents? If that isn’t the case then tell her this:
    You have a stable job, be pleased with what you HAVE done despite your earlier setbacks (if she did slack off so much in school after that, and turn to drugs and alcohol, then keeping and advancing in a job is still an accomplishment). If you want to improve your lot in life then I’ll help you, but ONLY if you stick with it and put the work in to at least not fail at it.

    That’s all you can do if previous attempts didn’t work. I don’t know the whole story, so this is just my opinion. But I don’t believe your sister going this way because your parents stopped entirely is evidence to go back to the Chinese extreme. You already saw the consequences of that, one extreme is not the solution to another.

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