It doesn‘t happen very often that people on both sides of the political divide find common ground. Today, they have. They are joined by their rage against Prof. Amy Chua, aka, the Tiger Mom.
In attacking Chua, they are defending the American way of parenting, a technique that values love over toughness, fun over discipline. They don’t mention that this technique was invented and taught by experts. By the elites.
We do not want to contradict the experts, do we? It’s easier to assault Amy Chua and anyone else who parents differently.
As someone mentioned in the comments section, American parenting has undergone a sea change recently. In the old days American parents were strict and tough. They imposed discipline on their unruly charges. They expected high levels of achievement and were ill disposed to accept excuses.
The new way emphasizes high self-esteem and good feelings about self, regardless of whether or not these feelings have any correlation to real achievement.
As has often been noted, America is now producing a crop of mediocre students who are convinced that they are the very, very best.
And God forbid that you should be the one to tell them otherwise. You will feel like the boy who announces that the Emperor has no clothes. Or like Amy Chua.
Consider the question from a different angle. How many times have you heard that women are supposed to be strong and confident, even fierce? You hear it all the time. It is a staple for modern women, especially if they are feminists.
So, now we have a Tiger Mom who is nothing if not fierce and strong and confident. And Amy Chua also has a very successful career as a much-esteemed law professor.
To Janet Maslin this makes her a self-centered witch. Link here.
Granted that Tiger Mom often seems gratuitously rigid, even mean, but still how is it possible that all the talk about strong women has created a generation of mothers that is horrified at the prospect of disciplining their children?
Where will children are going to learn discipline if not from parents who impose it on them? Do you think that children are naturally disciplined? Do you imagine that they will learn it from parents who allow them to do as they please?
So women been reacting to Tiger Mom with a defensive virulence, a dismissiveness that one rarely sees. Many commenters have declared that she must have ruined her daughters. They are happy to assert the point without knowing anything about her daughters. I promise you, if her daughters become exemplary adults, these critics will still believe that these girls have been ruined.
Others have dismissed Chua as an abusive mother, a narcissistic bitch, an alien horror, someone who must be shunned from polite and impolite society.
So much for civility. How many mothers who refuse to discipline their children are more than willing to take Amy Chua out to the woodshed for a thrashing? Don’t ever say that they are not fierce and strong and tough.
But, what if we did not just rely on elite opinion, but went out and did a poll about the real issue in the debate. Do Americans feel that they are putting too much or too little pressure on their children?
The Pew Research Center did just such a poll, and they discovered, mirabile dictu, that a goodly majority of Americans feel that they put too little pressure on their children, that they do not push them toward academic achievement or excellence. Link here.
The results are consistent when adjusted for gender, race, education, income, and locale.
The study also polled parents in China, India, and Japan. Unsurprisingly, the majority of parents in those countries feel that their children are being subjected to too much pressure. They feel that their children work too hard and are too focused on success.
It’s a fair point, though it is not really our American business. If people who have responded to Amy Chua had remained rational, they might have drawn the conclusion that the poll offers. Whatever the experts think, the American way of parenting is too lax, too lenient, and too indulgent.
The truth hurts, they used to say, and I am persuaded that we would not be hearing so many screams of pain if Chua had not touched a very sore spot.
Chua may well have sometimes gone too far. Which parent can say that he or she has never gone too far, in one or the other direction? This does not prevent us from trying to draw a constructive lesson from her book.
Some articles on Tiger Moms did not condemn Chua. Among them Bill Powell’s article in Time Magazine stands out. Link here.
Powell is married to a Chinese woman who is a Tiger Mom to their daughter. But Powell and his wife live in Shanghai, so Tiger Mom does not have the problem that Chua and her husband face: she does not have to shield her daughter from the permissiveness that has overtaken American parenting.
Thus, Powell’s wife, as a Tiger Mom, is more easy-going than Chua. She allows play dates.
Still and all, Powell is more than happy with the way the Tiger Mom is bringing up their daughter.
And isn’t the daughter’s best interest what is really in question here. Why is it that we Americans seem to be more focused on parental self-esteem than on what is best for children?