Monday, January 17, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

I made the mistake today of watching a daytime talk show. I try very hard not to watch daytime t.v. Most of the time, it either makes me feel like an ambulance chaser or, worse, if I watch the opening segment of "The View", my blood pressure elevates to the point of bordering on a stroke. My politics and values just don't mesh with some of the opinions stated and things are said that bother me much more than they should. Usually, I just stay away. "The View" was my mistake today.

The focus on the discussion that annoyed me today was Amy Chua and her new book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Allow me to preface my comments here by saying that I have not read the book, I am only responding to what I have heard said about the book in the media over the last few days. I normally wouldn't even consider reading something like this but I will admit, after all I have heard, I did go online to see if our local library had it, just out of curiosity.

If you live under a rock and haven't heard about it, the book is supposed to be a memoir of Amy Chua's raising of her children, I believe to be two daughters. Supposedly, she says a lot of controversial things, in particular, stating that Chinese parents love their children more than Western parents do because they do more to ensure their success. It is being reported as almost a kind of manifesto on how parenting should be (no playdates, straight A's all the time, no extra curricular activities other than music lessons and those only either violin or piano and a need for perfection ALL THE TIME). Of course, it has created a media frenzy with emphasis on 1. how awful these parenting practices are for the emotional well-being of the children and 2. that they play on cultural stereotypes.

My first reaction was to wonder why those who think the book is so awful would bother to comment at all. I am sure that Amy Chua must love the publicity - if I am thinking of reading the book, I am sure that I am not alone and the book is probably already in another print run, making her a great deal of money. If you hate the ideas espoused in the book, why give it attention? Why bother? Obviously, the woman is presenting a recipe for raising children with emotional problems and research on long-term emotional success emphatically proves that... just because someone asserts that snow is hot doesn't make it so and at a certain point, what's the point in arguing?

My second reaction is the one that I think this discussion is really all about. I felt just the teeniest twinge of self-doubt. Am I giving my child enough of a push to be successful? Am I too easy on her? Do I put too much of an emphasis on being "happy" and not enough stress on building the skills she needs to be able to compete in the global economy? The louder we yell, the more defensive we are feeling. What middle-class parent doesn't wonder whether her child should be signed up for just one more lesson or whether not doing what friends are doing is going to leave the child behind?

Frankly, I am finding the discussion annoying and a play on the anxieties of parents. I will not read the book and I most certainly not be sending Amy Chua my money. Most of all, I will not be watching "The View" again any time soon.


  1. I guess I've been living under a rock because I've never heard of it.

  2. Count yourself lucky... it's a big "popular culture" thing right now. There was an op.ed. piece in one of the major papers - the Washington Post or the New York Times or something like that and the discussion has spilled over.

  3. I hadn't heard of this book, and reading your post about it makes me not want to hear anything about it! That is insane! I love how my parents raised me, and my plan is to raise mine in a similar manner. I would have liked to take more lessons in things like piano, or dance, but we had no money for such things, so we just did stuff at home... which was great.