I was really hoping to avoid blogging about this, but the reaction to the whole Tiger Mom thing has been grating me recently. People have been going both offensive and defensive in this case, with parties on both sides either being shocked and angered or contemplatively nodding in agreement. Prepare for a long post.
First of all, really, America? Why are you so surprised? Asians are constantly stereotyped, among other things, as being academic whizzes and instrumental prodigies. What, did you think it was genetic? No! Kids don’t learn calculus when they’re 13 years old because they’re “a little smarter than the rest of us”, it’s because their parents would stay up with them until midnight every night drilling the fundamentals of math into their tiny heads. You don’t see a young Asian girl playing violin at Carnegie Hall only because of latent talent; it’s because they practiced for 3 or more hours a day, every day, since they were four.
Maybe some people are as shocked as they are because they just assumed that Asians were good at these things naturally, that their parents were just as relaxed in their education as the average American parent and just happened to spawn genius children. I’m not saying that all non-Asian American parents are lazy and don’t care about education; I’ve seen my fair share of ambitious parents that would impress even Tiger Moms. But the outcry against Tiger Mom’s parenting style does show the extent to which non-Asian American children are being pushed at home. You don’t get straight 4.0’s by being allowed to sit in front of a screen for 4 hours a day. Shocker.
Then there’s the “psychological and emotional abuse” in the homes of Tiger Mom’s everywhere. “Oh lawd, save those poor Asian children! Adopt those Chinese babies away from their abusers! Bring them over to civilization and freedom!” (Insert patriotic American anthem)
Come on, have you seen the amount of psychiatric drugs consumed in America? Anti-depressants and Ridalin usage are on the constant rise in this country (I think I read 1 in 10 adults take anti-depressants recently), and I can almost guarantee that Asians have the same ratio of “mentally scarred” adults.
Granted, we don’t talk about it much. We’re a little touchy about that.
This parenting style does of course have its drawbacks. Several would-be Tiger Mom’s in America I know pushed it a little too hard, and their kids did end up rebelling or being disconnected from their families. But that happens across the board in all cultures, not just with Asians. Overall, if done correctly, Tiger Mom children (Tiger Cubs?) are ridiculously ambitious and motivated to excel in everything they pursue, which they do indeed accomplish. Success in everything they do is the ultimate goal, trying their best and pushing their limits to reach the greatest heights is the ideal ending for the Tiger Mom’s parenting.
A far cry indeed from the classic Western style of parenting of catering to individuality, creativity, and self-esteem building. America’s success in entrepreneurship and innovation known around the world can be credited to such upbringings if combined with the right type of child who has the motivation to continue with innate ability and/or strong interest. They are confident, can think for themselves, consider things outside the box and pursue what many Asians would consider to be reckless career paths that do sometimes end well.
But do we really need to give trophies to every single kid that played T-ball? Even the ones who lost? It’s not that we should rub it in their faces that they didn’t get 1st place, but for crying out loud don’t proactively support their normalcy. If it’s all about having fun, great, let them have fun and pat them on the back for enjoying the game, they don’t need a trophy for that. All we’re doing is telling kids that last place and first place are the same thing: you still get a shiny plastic trophy and a pizza party. Why would they be motivated to do any better?
Both styles of parenting have their pros and cons, and some of these results are more obvious and measurable than others. But there should be no reason for this public bashing/cheering that’s going on simply because one Asian woman was publicly and proudly honest about the way she raised her children.
I guess my point is, don’t try to categorize other cultures with your own biased labels, there are many other paths to success and happiness than the one you chose. And it may or may not include mandatory piano lessons.