Friday, August 21, 2015

A Paean to Bad Parenting

Given that I have been tracking the culture wars I have occasionally discussed the front opened by the now-famous Tiger Mom, Yale professor Amy Chua.

In her book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua explained how she had brought up her daughters. Her methods were traditional Confucian. They emphasized the importance of hard work, perseverance and self-discipline. They devalued fun, games, sleepovers and school plays in the interest of piano lessons and homework.

American parents were appalled. They had been told, by the great minds of developmental psychology, that children should be well-rounded. If children do not learn how to have a lot of fun will be stunted and neurotic, to say nothing of depressed and anxious. More than that, they will lack creativity and initiative. Evidently, developmental psychology was helping produce a nation of underachieving dilettantes.

By these standards, the Tiger Mom was obviously abusive. She was roundly denounced for so being in the press.

At a time when American students and even American millennials are seriously lagging their Asian counterparts by most measures of academic and intellectual achievement, you would have thought that American parents would have been seeking out new ideas. They were not. 

As for Chua’s daughters, one is attending Harvard and the other just graduated. Chua’s oldest daughter, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld did not just graduate. She complete ROTC and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army. She seems first to be attending law school and has just started a tutoring business.

Image result for sophia chua-rubenfeld army

You can see why American parents believe that Tiger Moms are abusive.

As should have been expected, some parents, in America and Great Britain have seen the future and want to prepare their children for it. They know that their children will be competing against Asian peers who have a strong work ethic; thus, they want to instill the same in their children.

One should not be surprised that these parents are often the wealthiest and most able to provide their children with privileges. But, they reject the notion that their children should live off of their trust funds. They insist that their children be smart and capable, willing and able to compete in the world that is coming into being.

Preparing children to compete in a free market is not the same as preparing them to have fun. It is not the same as preparing them to live in a socialist paradise where their needs are taken care of by the government and they are free to enjoy a decadent leisure.

Thus, when a British leftist like George Monbiot, a radical environmentalist who seems to want us all to return to the state of nature, looks at parents who are like Tiger Moms, he is positively horrified at what he sees.

Writing in the Guardian, Monbiot happily offers a caricature of Tiger parents:

… parents who had already decided that their six-month-old son would go to Cambridge then Deutsche Bank, or whose two-year-old daughter “had a tutor for two afternoons a week (to keep on top of maths and literacy) as well as weekly phonics and reading classes, drama, piano, beginner French and swimming. They were considering adding Mandarin and Spanish. ‘The little girl was so exhausted and on edge she was terrified of opening her mouth.’”

In New York, playdate coaches charging $450 an hour train small children in the social skills that might help secure their admission to the most prestigious private schools. They are taught to hide traits that could suggest they’re on the autistic spectrum, which might reduce their chances of selection.

According to Monbiot, it is better to choose mediocrity over achievement. If you don’t you will be sacrificing their mental health. One must note that our school system has chosen to indoctrinate children in political correctness, while providing doses of empty praise because the regimen was supposed to improve their mental health.

Monbiot makes the case against achievement:

From infancy to employment, this is a life-denying, love-denying mindset, informed not by joy or contentment, but by an ambition that is both desperate and pointless, for it cannot compensate for what it displaces: childhood, family life, the joys of summer, meaningful and productive work, a sense of arrival, living in the moment. For the sake of this toxic culture, the economy is repurposed, the social contract is rewritten, the elite is released from tax, regulation and the other restraints imposed by democracy.

He adds:

In the cause of self-advancement, we are urged to sacrifice our leisure, our pleasures and our time with partners and children, to climb over the bodies of our rivals and to set ourselves against the common interests of humankind. And then? We discover that we have achieved no greater satisfaction than that with which we began.

Obviously, this is a caricature and a calumny. Monbiot wants England to become a third world backwater, where people live off the land and revel in the beauty of nature. He insists that when a child works hard at school he is sacrificing his family life and the joys of summer. Because, don’t you know, the worst thing you can have is ambition. God help us if you want to excel and are willing to compete to do so. 

Unfortunately, Monbiot has written a paean to bad parenting.

By all indications, the Anglo-Saxon world is not exactly chock-a-block with Tiger Moms. The type of rigorous training that Monbiot decries is limited to a precious few children. Call them the children of the 1%.

Thus, when Monbiot offers statistics proving the Tiger Mom parenting—my term, not his—is producing an epidemic of mental illness, he is playing fast and loose with the numbers. You cannot take a regimen that is being tried out on a privileged few and refute it by using statistics that reflect the entirely of the population, including, in large measure, children who have been taught that competition is bad but that empty praise is good.

10 comments:

Pogo: I never said I was a diplomat said...

So exactly what are these "common human interests of mankind" that self-discipline and delayed gratification are set against?

Pogo: I never said I was a diplomat said...

My best guess is "rent seeking," under the banner of some pseudo-religious ideology or dead economist.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Obviously, this is a caricature and a calumny. Monbiot wants England to become a third world backwater, where people live off the land and revel in the beauty of nature."

Question: When did we determine childhood become the superlative life stage for human beings? Why do we see the mind state of a child as the ideal?

I'd never heard of Monbiot, so I looked him up on Wikipedia. He is a 52-year-old "writer and political activist," and there is a great deal of information in this entry. His parents were involved with the Conservative Party. Clearly, he is not.

I do not understand where people get this idea that nature is pristine, elegant and perfect. It can be all those things, of course. And it's beautiful. Nature is God's first language. But nature -- particularly the wilderness -- is not entirely kind, peaceful and tidy. With wilderness comes the wild. This whole "back to nature" movement is insane. It is funny that such a supposedly deep intellectual movement is anti-intellectual in the ends it advocates. How in the world are people supposed to have time for intellectual pursuits when the green agenda is finally realized? The focus will turn to mere survival.

What such people really despise is achievement and useful creation, ostensibly because such things require social approval and award. If one does not win in some/whatever capacity or endeavor, one does not achieve. If one's creation is not useful, no one will use it. Money is the most visible standard by which people confer value in our society. Environmentalists hate money because it doesn't serve their ends. Leftism is an assault on the concept of value.

Also, I thought all these Lefties were into multiculturalism. Obviously not when Asian Confucian values are in play.

What's being missed with Monbiot and others is that people have choices. And people like to have choices. Money gives a person options. Perhaps Monbiot and others don't want us to have choices, which is likely the reason they love the Climate Change issue. It's an end-run around all the obstacles they face. The world is going to end (quickly). We have to do something. We have to do it now before it's too late. It's going to be too late tomorrow!

Perhaps what we have an opportunity to look at is the multi-dimensional needs of the human person. Maybe people feel safe in Asian families because they feel they belong to something larger than themselves. If people in individualist societies don't find that something to contribute to something larger than self, they despair. Anomie. Maybe missing out on all the childlike fun is okay when one is set for a life of achievement... a life where they have choices.

What is the role and responsibility of a parent today in child-rearing? Protecting children from feeling bad? When do they ever become adults? It doesn't seem like Monbiot is an adult, nor that he wants others to be, either.

Again, Martin Seligman said the key to success in life is self-control. Are we teaching that to our children? I don't think so. That's hard. Letting people do whatever they want to is easy. But do we love them enough to demand they give their very best?

Leo G said...

America has Governor Moonbeam and the UK has Moonbat. I believe they were separated at birth...

Sam L. said...

Monbiot was the origin for the term moonbat. The multi-culti set seems to like all other cultures but their own.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I'm increasingly struck by how much the "multi-culti" set don't believe in anything, yet expect you to believe in everything say. Bizarre. That's why I believe the whole postmodern mindset is the root of all modern nonsense. It must be stopped, or at least turned back. Otherwise, the mind and faith are doomed...

Anonymous said...

Monsieur Monbiot sounds quite like my 18th C bete noir, M. Rousseau.

Patron Saint of most of the worst monsters in the 19th & 20th C's.

Starting w/Napoleon. Why do the French still revere a man who devastated Europe, and destroyed an entire generation of their young men? It must be a French Thing.

Nature is often beautiful. But, as are viruses and the Universe, it's a soulless pitiless meaningless Entity. Red in tooth and claw.

And yet many fools of the Modern Era (1776 on) consider it benign.

Humanity must work & study endlessly to survive

Orwell: "Only an intellectual could believe that tripe. Nobody else would". -- Rich Lara

priss rules said...

Like a lot of Chinese-American women, Chua seems to be into tiger-parenting but not tiger-mothering. She and her sister -- and so many like them -- preferred to have kids with white/Jewish/non-Asian men than with Asian men. So, they are not Confucian in the Ancient Chinese Manner of continuing the line of ancestry.
When it comes to sex and babies, they are Pussycat Wives.

priss rules said...

Sophia is a 'gay marriage'-pushing, Obama-worshiping, politically correct robot.

Sure, she got high IQ genes from parents, went to good school, and will succeed professionally. But everything about her is programmed, manipulated, manufactured, and etc. She is incapable of having a thought of her own. She seeks approval from the powers-that-be.

I'm all for hard work, but life is more than about effort. It is about the ability to think for oneself, and that is something woefully lacking in Sophia. Everything about her is doing the 'right thing' to win the approval of mother and Harvard.

She is a successful phony.

It's a bit strange because Chua herself has been something of an oddball, eccentric, and maverick. While her father could be overbearing, he was not what is known as a helicopter parent who micromanages every facet of his daughter's life. He certainly pushed her to study. He didn't know much about American society and American ways, so outside his insistence that she hit the books and know Chinese language, he left her alone.

Chua, in contrast, knows much about American society, so she decided to micromanage her daughter's life from morning to night. Sophia may be smart, but she's the classic teacher's pet type and mommy's little girl who is incapable of doing or saying anything that will overturn the apple cart. She is an approval hog... something Chua wasn't. After all, Chua's books had their share of politically incorrect observations and her book about Tiger Moms and successful minorities rubbed people the wrong way.

Chua's father made Amy study but left her mind to develop on its own, if only because he didn't know much about American life and society. But Amy didn't only forbid stuff like 'sleepovers' but filled her daughter's mind with the kind of knowledge and attitudes that would serve her well in the eyes of the powers-that-be.

And this is where Amy Chua failed most. Chua, for all her faults, is something of a free thinker and independent spirit. Her daughter isn't. She is a PC programmed doll. It seems Chua preferred her daughter succeed under PC than think outside the PC box. I can't imagine Sophia ever having the guts to make the kind of observations found in World on Fire, Tiger Mom, and Triple Package.

priss rules said...

I don't know about this Monbiot, but I think both his and Chua's way of parenting can lead to Political Correctness.

Chua's way is to instruct kids to do whatever is necessary to win approval and attention from the powers-that-be, the establishment, the institutions. There is nothing about questioning and critiquing them.

As for leftards like Monbiot, they too cannot tolerate real freedom. They say they want kids to be freer, but leftards indoctrinate young ones from an early age to make them feel that every other thing is 'racist', 'sexist', 'homophobic', 'xenophobic', and etc. Their idea of freedom is like that of a hippie commune or commie camp. It has to be their kind of 'freedom' or else.

I think there is a third way. Obviously, kids need a balance between effort and joy. Childhood without fun and pleasure isn't childhood. Also, I think there has been too much emphasis on early education. I would wager Sophia's big advantage was having two high-IQ parents. If her parents had IQ of 85 and 95, no amount of effort on her part could have gotten her into Harvard. Not even on affirmative action.

Since young people don't know much, they obviously need to learn from teachers and parents. But they should also be encouraged to think and critique things on their own. Mental development isn't just about dotting the i's and giving the approved answers. It is about thinking outside the box, and neither Chua and Monbiot has that in mind for young people. This is too bad for Chua because she has learned how to think outside the box.

I read Tiger Mom,and I got the sense that despite her father's toughness, Chua learned to think on her own at an early age. Her father wasn't looking over her shoulder at all times. As long as she brought home good grades, he didn't interfere. But Sophia still seems to be in 'win approval from mommy and daddy' mode, indeed as if her mom as Big Mother is looking over her should at all times.

But then, maybe it's genetics. Chua says her younger daughter turned out to be headstrong and didn't play along with mommy's program. So, maybe she will turn out more like Chua herself. If genetics are key, then there is nothing parents can do about it.