I recently read a fabulous book, The Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. WOW! What an amazing book! I was humbled as well as completely flabergasted by the candidness of the author. I found myself being taken through similar emotions as the author as she first defends her nation's parenting style and then openly admits her own faults and weaknesses as a mother. I think it's just an amazing book, a must read!
There were some real take home messages I gleaned from this book as well. First, the level of respect that is taught in the Chinese culture is impeccable. There is an order of heirarchy that doesn't exist in quite the same way in Western cultures. Second, how do we balance work and play for our children? Third, why do I parent the way that I parent? And fourth, no parenting style is absolutely bullet-proof.
Respect & Obedience
"One of the first things Chinese people learn is that you must respect authority."
"In Chinese culture, it just wouldn't occur in children to question, disobey or talk back to their parents. In American culture, kids in books, TV shows, and movies consistently score points with snappy backtalk and independent streaks. Typically, it's the parents who need to be taught a life lesson - - by their children."
When I read these statements, I wondered why? I consider msyelf a pretty strict parent when it comes to teaching respect for authority (my husband may disagree at times). Some days I feel like I'm constantly having my children repeat something they said because their tone of voice was not quite respectful enough. Still, I found myself with a child who seemed to be born with a flare for questioning authority and so I wondered how all Chinese people could be born without that personality trait. How much really was nature vs. nurture there?
Then, reading further, I was almost comforted to find that she was "given" a child with the same challenging temperment and I felt better. :-) It was interesting for me to see how Chua eventually was able to see that the relationship was bigger than the fight.
Play vs. Work
Which brings us to the next question: How do we balance play and work in our home? How much do I push and how much do I just let my kids be kids? I think we can all see that there really isn't enough work happening for our youth in America, but where's the balance?
" [My mother-in-law] saw childhood as something fleeting to be enjoyed. I saw childhood as a training period, a time to build charater and invest for the future."
"What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it's crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up."
I loved this quote, actually. And I believe it. I think sometimes we parents give up too easily when our kids put up a fight. I believe that children need to be shown what they really can accomplish through hard work. Life is not always going to be fun! For instance, today we had a little battle over math, my daughter and I. She missed several problems and when I told her to fix them she got very upset. I asked her to change her attitude or she'd need to do another page. When she stormed off in a huff, I assigned the extra page. She came back with all answers on that page 100% correct. Now, I do not want math learning to be like this every day. But this wasn't about the math, this was about the attitude. With this, we definitely need to choose our battles and recognize what is driving the push . . . is it that I want my daughter to get 100% right on her math or is it that I want her to learn something greater?
I really do want my children to look back with fondness at their childhood. I want them to remember family camping trips, running around barefoot all summer, playing games and eating junk food! But I also want them to build their characters and this is best done through those hard work lesson moments.
Why we do the Things we Do
Later on in the book Chua's husband, I think, asks her the question, "Are you doing this for your children or for yourself?" She responds that this is "a Western question, but not unimportant."
Why do I want my children to be respectful? Or take a bath every day? Or learn how to clean a bathroom? Am I teaching them these things for them or for myself? I can honestly say that some of the things I teach my children are because of the society in which I surround myself. I don't want my children to be a poor reflection on who I am. This is not the best reason for training them, but I'm trying to be honest. Mostly, I can say that I am teaching them for their benefit. My goal as a mother is to send them off with testimonies of their Savior, able to take care of themselves and with eyes watching out for others in need. And, I do believe learning how to clean a bathroom is a step in that direction! :-)
No Parent is Perfect
Through the first half of the book I was almost convinced that the author was completely right, "Americans are slackers!" (my quote, not hers). And yet, just as she discovered herself, motherhood is a journey for all of us. Studies show that different parenting styles produce different results. I agree. But there is also the individual child to think about in all of these parenting scenarios. I think it's important to go through the motherhood journey with each child individually, not as a group. Yes, there are things we do as a family or because we are members of this family. But individual personalities and choices need to be considered when appropriate. The way I teach my daughter to play the piano is completely different than the way I taught my son. It may take a little longer, but it's the process not the end result. Motherhood is all about the process, not the end result. I need to remind myself of that more often!!