Tuesday, March 22, 2011

4 Things To Learn From A Tiger Mother

Having had to change violin sizes, my son chose a GOLD one.

I enjoyed reading Amy Chua's memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and learn about her inner and outer struggles in parenting her children.  After keeping up with the controversies surrounding her book, I was glad to actually read it first hand.  The book was all at once funny, refreshing, shocking, provocative, arrogant, self-effacing and really entertaining. A lot of people have been upset at her harsh parenting methods, but I don't know if they actually read her book because if they had, they would realize that Amy Chua is mocking herself and questioning herself throughout. And yet, despite all the negative press, her book has been flying off the shelves. 

I believe that I can learn from anyone even if I don’t agree with them, particularly if they share their successes and failures in achieving something.  Amy Chua does just that in her book as she recounts how she helped her children become great musicians:
  1. PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Both of Chua’s children were not allowed a day off piano or violin practice and these lasted at least 3 hours a day.

In Daniel Levitin's book This is Your Brain on Music: Understanding A Human Obsession, he writes about this 3 hour/day discipline: "…experts… require lengthy periods of instruction and practice in order to acquire the skills necessary to truly excel.  In several studies, the very best conservatory students were found to have practiced the most, sometimes twice as much as those who weren't judged as good... ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert - in anythingTen thousand hours is equivalent to roughly three hours a day, or twenty hours a week, of practice over ten years... no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time...”
  1. PARENTS NEED TO BE PROACTIVE: Amy Chua suggests that unlike dogs, children are not merely pets.  You can't just let them BE.

“With dogs, you don't have to do anything like this… My dogs can't do anything - and what a relief.  I don't make any demands on them, and I don't try to shape them or their future.  For the most part, I trust them to make the right choices for themselves.  I always look forward to seeing them, and I love just watching them sleep.  What a great relationship.”
  1. CHILDREN’S HAPPINESS IS RELATIVE: Amy Chua concludes that  

“When I look around at all the Western families that fall apart - all the grown sons and daughters who can't stand to be around their parents or don't even talk to them - I have a hard time believing that Western parenting does a better job with happiness… By contrast, I can't tell you how many Asian kids I've met who, while acknowledging how oppressively strict and brutally demanding their parents were, happily describe themselves as devoted to their parents and unbelievably grateful to them, seemingly without a trace of bitterness or resentment.
I'm really not sure why this is… But here's one thing I'm sure of: Western children are definitely no happier than Chinese ones.”
  1. ALLOW CHILDREN THEIR CHOICE FOR A BETTER PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP: Amy Chua decides this is the one thing she didn’t give her children and wishes she had.  Once she let her rebellious child decide what she wanted to do, Lulu showed that she had the basis (after years of violin training) to excel at tennis.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reminded me all at once of own family.  I come from a family of national athletes, academic achievers, published authors, award winners, shrewd businessmen and women.  I may well be ‘the least accomplished’ of them all, happy being a stay-at-home wife and mother.  And yet, as I homeschool my 4 year old son, I am astounded by his innate type 'A' personality and high achieving qualities.  Maybe it's in the genes.  Whatever the reason, I may well need to be a little bit of a Tiger Mother to help him on his way.

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