Monday, January 31, 2011

Lullaby of the Gorilla Mama

I'm sure some of you have read about Amy Chua by now - this is my personal reaction to all the hoopla.  And if you would like to read an article about her book, "Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother" this is a link to the Time magazine piece.
A friend linked this on his FB page, and was obviously very much in favor of Chua's ideas on parenting.  I read the piece and felt physically ill.  Then forced myself to re-read it, and this time had to admit she had a few good points.  Yes, American kids watch way too much TV, play too many video games, and don't apply themselves enough.  Yes, academically we are behind a lot of other countries.  What I couldn't get behind was that she does not mention actually appreciating her children at all - in fact, she once handed back a Mother's Day card her daughter had made for her because she "hadn't put enough thought into it" and told her "I reject this."  She does not mention their individual personality traits except to mention that her younger daughter was much more difficult than her older daughter.  

And she also mentions calling her older daughter "garbage" because she felt that she had disrespected her mother.  Chua says her father called her the same thing once, but she never questioned his love for her and doesn't think her daughters do either.
I used to work for a man who was raised in the tiger-mother fashion.  He was head of a prestigious research institute at 31, but could not for the life of him carry on a casual conversation.  He was suspicious of everyone and admitted that he had not taken a vacation in 11 years.  In Chua's book she details the rules for her daughters - no playdates, no sleepovers, they are required to play either violin or piano and practice their instruments for 3 hours every night.  She said she would be devastated if her child ever brought home a B.

So here are my thoughts - why does it have to be a "battle hymn"?  Why can you not cultivate a strong work ethic in your children, while also allowing them to develop socially?  My kids are allowed to watch TV, but we do *try* to limit it.  Mooch also has to work in her math and vocabulary workbooks at least 3 times a week, and a little extra if she misses school for a snow day.  I think my sanity would suffer as much as they would if I took away playdates.  Mooch took ballet until this year and then said she didn't want to go anymore - we let her stop.  Then I read the Nutcracker to her and showed her the ballet when it aired on PBS, now she wants to start back up again.  I think if you continually force your children to carry on how you expect them to, it will go one of two ways : either they will rebel and fight you tooth and nail or they will become chronic people-pleasers.  I'm constantly telling the Mister, "Pick your battles!"

So I will continue to read to my girls, make them clean up after themselves, spoil them with trips to the children's museum and the zoo.  I will encourage them to educate themselves, make them eat their vegetables, discipline them when they are rude, and paint their fingernails.  I will let them have a cupcake for breakfast once in a while, blow bubbles with them, laugh when they make up silly dances together, hug them, kiss them, tell them they are my sunshine.

I guess I'm more of a gorilla mama.


  1. I couldn't agree more. There is a very fine line between expecting the best from your children and being so overbearing that they can not thrive and grow into happy well adjusted people.

  2. This is a tough story. On one hand, I imagine her children's childhood as terrible, and I am not sure an education like that can result in healthy people leading normal and healthy lives.

    On the other hand, my parents showed a "laissez-faire" attitude which was truly disgusting. We were allowed to spend as much time in front of the TV as we wanted, I skipped one third of a school year because I didn't feel like going to school and my mother would write letters of apology every day if I asked for it and coughed a little. We ate junk food all the time, spent our pocket money on chocolate bars and stuff - and if we didn't do our homework, our parents were not impressed.

    As with most things, I assume the ideal path would be somewhere in the middle. I would have loved to learn how to learn at a younger age, and I assume it would have made university much easier. I would have loved the support and guidance of my parents, and a bit more of "real" upbringing might not have been wrong either. Nevertheless, I learned to play instruments (because I wanted to), read a lot and went to university (because I wanted to) and have even started to live healthily and do sports (although only now, close to thirty).

    (My sisters took different paths - one left school without graduation, one left school and jobbed without proper education and one only took up serious learning in her twenties. Sometimes it is hard to accept that the oldest two will have to struggle to make ends meet all their lives, because we're all rather intelligent, but... you know, it could have been easier. (It's a good thing if they are happy, but honestly, I think being happy could be easier for them... one of them is holding three jobs at the same time.))

    Maybe it's necessary to not only help your children to "feel good" all the time, but cruelty is hardly an adequate education tool.

  3. You don't have an email listed so I have to contact you in comments. I have a question. What did you mean by "Quit underlining the Blogger, that's a real word." You put that at the end of your comment and I haven't a clue what you mean. Could you please enlighten me.

  4. You go, girl! Gorilla Mom's rule!

    If we walked around belittling our children, particularly daughters, in that fashion we would raise a generation of children with low self esteem and poor self images forever searching for approval from everyone around them. Emotional and verbal abuse is very ugly. Shame on her! That b&^%#.

  5. Wait, I know that guy ... :(

    Anyway, everything in moderation, right? I'm sure it's insanely difficult being a parent (as I am not one), but I have noticed that most parents I know always try their best. I guess sometimes "their best" is not good enough for the kid's future.

    Hmph ...

  6. Leeanna, Google Blogger kept underlining (suggesting it was mis-spelled)"snowpocalypse" in the comment box, which is obviously a real word endorsed by Webber's (which it's also underlining)
    I typed "the Blogger" instead of "that, Blogger" - I'm blaming the fact that I had only gulped one cup of coffee and had Smelly Boss hanging around me. Sorry for the confusion!


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