The book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” has been getting a lot of attention recently. If there was a television show called “Extreme Parenting” the author, Amy Chua, would be the host. She really pushed her two daughters. They couldn’t have sleep-overs, they were expected to get top grades in the glass, and they were forced to play the violin and piano and practice every single day …even on the weekends and on vacation (seriously, her mother would tape the sheet music up on the television sets and make them practice even when they were in Europe.)
A lot of people in America couldn’t relate to what Chua wrote. And in fact, some thought the Department of Children and Families should have been called in. She has even received death threats for the way she raised her daughters. She does admit to calling one of her daughters “garbage” once in an attempt to motivate her because that’s what her own Father did to her. That’s something I don’t agree with.
I interviewed a South Florida woman, who is also Chinese American, and says her parents raised her with that some “Tiger Mom” mentality. She recalls one time getting a 96% on a test, and instead of her Mother praising her, she asked her why she didn’t get 100%.
Well …Lisa Hu Barquist was salutatorian of her high school class. Her twin sister was valedictorian. They both went on to Yale. Lisa is a very successful attorney. Her twin sister went on to become a very successful doctor. They both are classical pianists. So perhaps this Tiger Mom stuff really works?
Lisa, who is honestly one of the most generous and sweetest women I know, is a mom to 5th grader Clarissa. And Lisa has extremely high expectations of her daughter. Just as she does for herself. She says she looks as children as rubber bands. What she means is that you have to pull children to pressure them, but you have to know when to stop pulling so the rubber band doesn’t break. She says that she considers each child as a different size rubber band. And that she looks at Clarissa as an industrial strength rubber band. Clarissa does get straight A’s and is a very mature, well-spoken young lady. And for the record, Clarissa told me she enjoys having strict parents. She thinks they are making her smarter.
Looking back at my childhood I actually wish that my parents were harder on me. I did pretty well in school. But I think if they would have demanded better grades, I could have gotten them. I know that my Freshman year in college at Indiana University I enjoyed my newfound freedom a little too much and didn’t get the grades that I should have. But my parents didn’t sit me down and have a discussion with me over this. They just assumed that I would improve them …which of course I did. Perhaps they knew that I would beat myself up far more than they ever could.
I’ve been reading Amy Chua’s book and I must admit it has been stressing me out a bit. In it she says that when her daughter was just 18-months old she knew every letter of the alphabet. Well, I consider my boys very bright …but they are now 25-months and they can’t do that. So I have been working on the alphabet a bit more with them. It is such a fear that we have as parents …that our children will fall behind.
I really like Lisa Hu Barquist’s viewpoint. That each child should be treated differently and that we should have high expectations for our children because, oftentimes, they will meet them. She thinks many Westerners are doing a disservice to their kids by not expecting them to get good grades, or excel in an activity. And when they don’t do well at something, letting them quit.
A word of caution though that I didn’t include in the story that aired on CBS4. Lisa says that being raised by a Tiger Mom had turned her into an over achieving adult. And this isn’t always good. Lisa works long hours, volunteers for many community activities, and, she admits, can be stressed at times. For her twin sister, that high stress as a doctor led to a heart attack five years ago that put her in a coma. Lisa wanted me to share that story too.