Tiger Mom Rising

Curtis Powers

Have you heard of Tiger Mom? The rise of Tiger Mom came from an excerpt from a recent book by Amy Chua that was published in the Wall Street Journal’s weekend edition about three and a half weeks ago.

Normally, most stories come and go. They might generate some traffic and comments, but no one usually talks about them a day or two after they’ve been written.

This article was different. Roughly 300,000 people shared it on Facebook, over 7300 comments were made, and it’s been commented on by almost every major publication. So if you haven’t read it, you should check it out.

Then you should read Yunchang Kwak’s take on it since he was raised in a home situation like it. Plus it’s probably going to be better than anything I have to say.

The title of Chua’s article was, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.” She didn’t actually choose that title (like most titles in the Daily are not chosen by the author), but it did fit the article.

Basically it recounts her life growing up as a second generation Chinese immigrant and how she still raised her two girls according to Chinese parenting methods. Her husband, a white Jewish guy, was often shocked by some of her methods.

After all, she didn’t really allow her girls to spend much time at all with people, even their grandparents. They were too busy with hours of piano and violin lessons, being the best students in their classes, etc.

The philosophy is that children don’t like things until they are good at them so you just practice, practice, and practice until they are. And you do any and everything to get them there including calling them names, swearing at them, not letting them go to the bathroom, etc.

It’d be like having Bob Knight be your parent. And I mean Bob Knight the chair throwing, foul-mouthed basketball coach.

As you can imagine, you would have thought the sky was falling for some folks. They were outraged.

“How can you do this to your child? This is abuse!” And on it went, most not realizing that her book lamented her style of parenting to a point and showed how she changed styles mostly after her youngest rebelled.

But that’s how it was for her and is for many Asians. If you ever take some classes abroad in China, you’ll probably be taught by a teacher who employs similar tactics.

My wife did anyway. She learned to adapt to it. She stopped going to class and learned Chinese from taxi cab drivers.

I think that’s what this article can cause us to do as well. Learn. Learn because there are certain things worth taking from her article.

However, I haven’t seen anything yet on the costs of her methods. And that’s the biggest thing to consider when employing methods like hers.

From my experience with eastern Asians and visiting China, there are some significant costs. One is social skills. Many of the Chinese students I’ve met are not developmentally at the same place as many Americans.

Many come here and act like kids in junior high. I think a major cause of this is the absolute focus on academics that they don’t know how to have relationships especially with the opposite sex.

To be fair, I’m not sure many Americans know how to have good relationships anymore either. We live through Facebook and don’t actually do the real life face to face thing as much.

Another cost is that students sometimes will commit suicide if they can’t pass the college entrance exam to get into a university. If you can’t get into a university and aren’t rich enough to go overseas, your future can be pretty bleak.

Sometimes, as a way to cope and rebel against this, many students are becoming addicted to the internet and video games. South Korea leads the way in this category with roughly 2 million people addicted out of their 49 million population.

So be careful what you wish for and also realize things aren’t as bad as they seem in America. As a Dissent magazine article pointed out, high schools with poverty rates under 25 percent still outperformed the rest of the world in reading and science.

So while America has a ways to go as whole educationally, not all is lost. But to get better, it probably starts with expectations that come from the home.