Thursday, May 12, 2011


You may get a post about THIS book every day until I finish it.  I am in love.  And if that prompts you to pick it up and read it, don't judge me for saying this:  of all the "parent-help" books I've read -- this is by far the best.

Which is ironic because it is not marketed or published as a parent-help book.  It's actually NYTimes Bestseller material.  A witty (sometimes nauseating) read in which a mother shares her most intimate acts of life:  child raising.  She shares this experience with you so bluntly and comically I can't help but laugh out loud at least once each chapter.  I also can't help but see parts of my parents in her style.  And all the fears I feel as a parent are the very mistakes she claims Western parents make.

I think in order to truly appreciate this book and Ms Chua's tone you must have a close friend or colleague who is a Chinese mother.  Chua's own admission:  that doesn't mean they have to literally be Chinese.  Just demanding.  A Chinese mother is disgraced when her child brings home an A- or silver medal.  A Western mother takes said child out for ice cream and rewards them with a weekend sleepover.

Her explanation of the differences is the very reason Asian (European and even some South American and African) countries consistently score higher on Educational standards.  "Going to the park" was not a phrase Singaporean children understood.  Having been a teacher to a Chinese/Japanese student who completed all extra-credit opportunities despite her 98.7% grade, I can truly appreciate the sacrifices Chinese mother's make for their children.  

I know Chua would disagree with my consensus, but I think it is possible to balance both.  I, of course, think my own parents did that perfectly.  One example keeps coming to my mind.  Christmas recital, 1996 (or was it 95, or 97?).  All I know is I was scheduled to play "Santa Claus is Coming to Town."  The recital was a week away and I couldn't get through two bars in a row without making a mistake.  I was convinced the song was too hard and I just would sit this recital out.  My father, rightly so, figured that meant I could also sit out the rest of my current Basketball season.  Surely, if I had the time to dribble (my brother's) ball down the road to my Uncle's house every day for an hour of practice, I could spare an hour to learn this song.

At the time I remember hating him.  Teary eyed and screaming, my heart just knew my father was an evil soul.  He didn't care one bit about what I wanted or what was good for me.  I couldn't learn this song.  But with the threat of no Basketball looming over my head I had it memorized in three days.  No lie!

The satisfaction of performing in that recital, with my piece memorized was much greater than the average Junior Jazz Basketball game.  And it lasted longer than all the games combined.  I think Chua's theory fits well here:  you don't build a child's self esteem by letting them find all the things they enjoy while dilly dally in a bunch of different "genres", you build their self-esteem by making them practice something they hate until they are good at it.  Nothing is fun until you master it.  Nothing is fun until you start beating your old record and seeing your own improvements.  If this means a parent has to shout disappointments at you, so be it.  In the end the satisfaction of proving you could do something you thought impossible will have a much larger impression on your character than being yelled at for bringing home a B+.

1 comment:

Scott and Claudia said...

Sis, you were so kind about me. As I began to read about the piano practicing, I could only imagine what you might say next! Thank you for sweetening up what I'm sure was a very sour nature. Well I know how I too often yelled and reduced my poor children to tears and "hate my father" language! But I managed through it by telling myself it was because I loved them so!!!!
Love, Pa

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