Early this year, the American media was flush with excitement. A new species had been discovered- the Tiger Mom.
Amy Chua, successful Yale University professor and uber “Asian mom” of two daughters created a firestorm after claiming Chinese mothers are better than the rest in her Wall Street Journal article on virtues of Asian style parenting. Her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chided American moms for their permissive parenting style and counted the benefits of being strict and stern with kids.
All this riding on popular understanding that Asian kids, compared to other ethnic minorities, do well in school and are more disciplined- applying the model minority myth.
What about the kids?
Missing in this debate, the kids and their perspective.
I was raised by wannabe Tiger parents. Yes, you can see they failed and I am glad they did.
Parenting focused on raising young achievers and ultra focused kids denies the children their childhood and robs them the freedom of making mistakes. My parents wanted me to be a Doctor or an Engineer. I hated math and had no interest in science. But the intense pressure and the environment where you feel lees worthy if you do not measure up to the “other” kids made me hate school altogether. I was almost held back for a year in 9th grade and failed every math test in junior high.
And there are hundreds like me scattered all over Asia and in Asian families in America. The push for success and achievement is actually hurting kids. They are forced to value success over honest hard work, achievement over learning and experience; and in many cases pushed to follow a career path chosen by the family instead of the freedom to dream and choose.
There is no denying that children need structure and discipline. They need guidance and encouragement too. Forcing them to abandon simple pleasures of childhood for the sake of future filled with grand achievements is wrong.
The media circus following Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article and her book made me wonder why is the mainstream media in this country incapable of examining the other side when it comes to popular myths regarding the minorities.
The picture of smart Asians and model minority myth is so appealing that they went along with Tiger parenting and failed to show the damage it does to kids. Only after some outraged parents raised their voices, there was some attempt to examine.
Imagine a mother from any other ethnicity or religious group had tried to claim that their style of parenting is better than the rest, on national media! But the good Asian myth was allowed to perpetuate.
Strong discipline and moral foundation is necessary to set up kids for future success but Tiger style parenting focused on success and achievement is nothing but a patenting gulag and is nothing to be celebrated.
Hope the next time an Asian fad comes along, the media will respond differently.