Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tiger Moms

"Tinamaan kayo ng lintik!" Translated, it means I wish you all get hit by lightning. What would you think if you heard a mother say that to her children?

Here's another example. How about a mother who, after seeing a piece of clothing sticking out of the pile, pulls out everything from her child's closet, throws them all to the floor in a Mommy Dearest fashion, only to make her child fold and stack them neatly all over again?

Now heading on to my topic, how would you feel about a mother who hauls her then-7-year-old daughter's dollhouse out to the car and tells the kid that the dollhouse is going to be donated to the Salvation Army piece by piece if the daughter doesn't master a difficult piano composition by the next day?

You could all quickly assume mothers from hell, wouldn't you?  Well, the first two paragraphs were about my mother. She was the "bad cop" in our household of seven children. Everything had to be spic and span or else we all suffered from her wrath. My elder sisters would sometimes refer to our late mother as "Tiger Lily" up to now.

The third paragraph of a dollhouse trashing mother was an account written by Amy Chua, a bestselling author and professor of Law at Yale. She believed, and so did my mom, that she needed to be just that, a Tiger Mom, to prepare her children to a battle called life.

She recently wrote a book aptly titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It became so controversial that it catapulted her book, together with the topic of parenting, on top of the charts. It tells an interesting story of how she raised her own two daughters in methods that can be construed as abusive in America, where a child can easily dial 911 for help.

What makes her very credible is how her own two daughters turned out to be - excellent figures in their own field where she "coerced" them to be. Sophia, at age 14, won a contest that earned her a debut on the piano at Carnegie Hall. The second, Lulu, was a prodigy at the violin but recently decided to go on her own to pursue tennis. I guess you could say that one slipped past the Tiger Mom who continues to battle the urge to "surreptitiously text her coach to suggest questions and practice strategies."

Her success drove many to rethink their style of parenting. It recently resulted to various experts praising and criticizing the style of the "Tiger Mom" versus the "Mama Bear" instinct of protecting their children from anything that will hurt them inside and out. To defend her methods, Amy Chua explained that Chinese mothers tend to assume strength, not fragility, in their children when raising them. Thus they behave differently. This is in contrast to Westerners who she says "have to tiptoe around" their children, careful not to hurt their psyches.(WSJ, January 2011)

Few experts believe in this line of reasoning. One of them is Hara Estroff Marano, editor-at-large of Psychology Today who wrote a book, A Nation of Wimps. According to her, "Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don’t develop what psychologists call ‘mastery experiences.' Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they've learned that they're capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals." (Wikipedia)

Before I go on, I must admit that I have no experiences to show as a parent, except the fact that I grew up with my own "Tiger Mom."  Somehow I heard my mother's message of love, by the way she led her life, as loud as a tiger's roar. Hence, I commiserate with Amy Chua's daughter Lulu who would rather thank her mother than hate her for what she put them through. (NY Post, January 2011)

However, I hate to leave you with the notion that one is better than the other. After all, Amy Chua's book was far from being a "how to" manual of parenting. If one were to read it from cover to cover, you would realize that it is more of a coming of age story, like how she came to terms with the rebellion of her second daughter Lulu in the end.

All I can conclude is that Amy Chua managed to prove that a blend of values from the East and sensibilities from the West is one of the best results of immigration.

By the way, her parents were Chinese immigrants in the United States from the Philippines. (Wikipedia)

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