My Life

Am I A Tiger Mom?

In 2011, Amy Chua published a book titled ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’. I have not read the book and I want to make that clear. I did, however, see the controversial article “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” on The Wall Street Journal when it was *all over the news* back in 2011. To be brief, the article discusses different parenting models and more specifically how tough and strict the Chinese side can be as opposed to the Westerner side.

I am a Westerner. I’m beginning to think I might be a little Chinese too! (okay not literally but if you read the article lol come on man follow me here.) Let’s break down some of her points of view.

1. “First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.” – Amy Chua

I do worry about my child’s self-esteem. My head and heart panic when I say something along the lines of ‘OMG really? Stop being lazy, you know how to do this!’.

First, I would not say this if it weren’t true. Our children can and do get lazy. They will get lazy any time you let them and then double up on the laziness next time just because they got away with it before. Example : I give K an easy day from lessons for ANY reason, the very next day she’s determined we should not do lessons because we had a light day yesterday. See? Give an inch, they take a mile.

Second, she knows how to do it! My little one has this incredible ability to grasp a concept quickly and efficiently. I can show her how to do something and within minutes (sometimes seconds) she’s breezed through 10 or 12 problems. I typically stand there with slack-jaw syndrome while she completes the part of the work we are doing. She’s so young, she’s so brilliant! But then my tiger claws come right back out, we go on with the next set. Amazingly enough, if we take a break (potty, recess, lunch, etc) and come back to the exact same problems, more often than not she will give me this completely blank look as if she’s never seen that type of problem. I have so much trouble controlling my temper here. Five minutes ago, you were doing them like an adult and now you have no idea how to add 2+2? She shakes her head and stares blankly. OMG really? Stop being lazy, you know how to do this! (sorry but its true, and I’m always honest with my kid lol) I’ll briefly explain it again if I think she’s having a disconnect moment but otherwise I stand and wait until we’re off and running again.

“Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.”

“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 is 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. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.” – Amy Chua

I am horribly guilty of this. Kaitlynn usually finishes a worksheet within two minutes. Does that mean the entire rest of the time set aside for math needs to be ignored? Nope! Not for me.. Games and fun time are scheduled too so it also does not mean we spend the rest of the time playing. I pull out more worksheets. Sometimes she will finish 10-15 worksheets within a half hour. She’s so quick with her math! This is a blessing for me because she grasps these concepts so easily. But it’s also a struggle for me because she breezed through the 1st grade curriculum in two months. The 1st grade level worksheets are too easy for her. I moved on into second grade level math problems as well as adding multiple worksheets on the same types of problems.

At the end of first grade, she will be proficient in second grade math. Yes, I push her to do more. The challenge of it all is what motivates her, so I take advantage of this. But even if it didn’t come easily, even if she has trouble with something.. we practice, practice, practice until she’s better at it. Your child may be geared to 6-8 problems on a worksheet, but mine is used to completing 100 – 200 a day. All within an hour!

{Because that SOUNDS so horrible here’s an example : Math drills 50 problems each page, 3 pages in one day = 12 minutes because she hasn’t beat the 3 minute mark yet; IXL problems November 6 : 116 problems in 38 minutes. so one day 266 problems 50 minutes total}

She LOVES math so she breezes through it with glee. But even if she didn’t, I would push her in Math. Math is the foundation for our every day life and it’s a skill she has to master in order to succeed in any aspect of life.

“Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it’s probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it’s true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud. By contrast, I don’t think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents.”

I agree with the Chinese side again. I owe my parents everything! My parents worked hard to provide for us kids. We owe them. My child will owe me. She does owe me. She owes me respect for the things I do for her daily and will continue to do for her daily as a mother for the rest of my life. Just as I owe my mom.

“Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own desires and preferences.”

Total agreement, I know what is best for my child. My mom knew what was best for me even when I didn’t. This is a fundamental truth that gets pushed to the way side in today’s world of ‘poor little kids need to be babied’. No they don’t. They are kids, it’s our job to shape them into adults. If Kaitlynn had her wish, we’d never do lessons! We would do art and play every single day and watch cartoons and play outside and so on and on it goes. She is not the parent, I am. She is not the boss, I am. She is not the teacher, I am.

“Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

I respect my child’s individuality. I encourage her to pursue her passion in arts. I support her choices and I provide positive reinforcement. But only when it’s deserved. I push her to show her that she has these amazing capabilities to grasp and learn. I see how she is behaving, I will back her up and lead her through a scenario in different ways so that she can see how it applies to her AND to others. I teach her how to make appropriate choices. I cheer when she gets it right, I reward when it’s outstanding, and I discipline when it’s wrong.

I like Amy Chua and I love her article. I need to buy the book.

Her parenting style is super strict. I think mine is only half as strict. Maybe less, but my values are the same. Parents of the past were a lot more like Amy Chua than they are today. I’m convinced that’s what’s wrong with half of the world today. Parents weren’t strict enough!

In summary, I am a bit of a tiger mom. I push my child to get things right. I dish loads of school work onto her tiny little shoulders. I make her keep reading even when she doesn’t want to. I make her keep writing even when her hand is sweaty or hurting (because she’ll claim both within seconds of picking up a pencil). I do ‘oral’ lessons any time I get a chance in any subject.

Do I sound horrible? Let’s ask my child. She’s only six but she is very well spoken and can articulate any feeling or thought that she has. Here’s the answers she gave me (while watching WALL-E <– another example of my great parenting skills lol)

Do you like lessons? Sometimes.

Do you like reading? Only if it’s on the computer!

What about spelling? I don’t like spelling unless I’m making up my own stories.

Do you like math? Barely! (she said with a grin and a blush)

What would you rather do besides lessons? Play with my bunny and watch TV.

Do I make you do too many lessons? Maybe.

What does maybe mean? Are they too hard? No, sometimes they are too easy. Sometimes they are hard though.

Do you know that I love you? Mamaaaaa! (this is her funny little way of calling me crazy for asking)

Do you know that I think you are like the smartest kid on earth? Mamaaaaa! (haha)

Do you think you are smart? I know I am!

But why do you think that? Because I can read and I am good at math and I love Science. (haha score for mama!)

If you had to choose between homeschool and regular school which would you choose? Homeschool!

In the end, I will worry daily on my own methods of teaching and discipline in general. I will not change my methods because they are working and she is growing into a very intelligent child that is learning to push herself and challenge herself. She is happy, she is funny and quirky, and she is learning at a phenomenal pace that isn’t wearing her down in the least!


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