“When I was a child, my mother said to me,
‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general.
If you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope.’
Instead I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
– Pablo Picasso
For a while there, I heard a lot of growling about the Tiger Mom book review in the Wall Street Journal. I read through the brief excerpt in the Wall Street Journal, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, relieved at not recognizing too much of myself with the exception of getting somewhat impatient on occasion when drilling piano. Ouch! An abundance of comments bloomed on the Sonlight Forum. The WSJ printed a rebuttal article by a Western parent. World magazine had a review of the book. So did a lot of other people.
Initially, I shrugged and dismissed it, telling my husband, “It sounds like parenting to meet society’s expectations, with a growl and a snarl.” So, to my surprise, almost a month later, there is still a lot of noise over it. Mom blogs are still talking about it. Child Psychologist blogs quote statistics. Chinese American moms are disavowing or embracing the Tiger Mom’s tactics… Just google Tiger Mom!
Does it strike anyone else as a classic case of the tail wagging the… tiger?
What most interests me, is that a month later, people still seem to be questioning, discussing and condemning Ms. Chua’s tactics. I haven’t seen much talk on the value of the standards that she is so hatefully desperate for her children to exceed. Meanwhile Western parents defend their permissiveness, their children’s lack of time management and comparatively poor performance in a variety of ways, while sniffing that their children are at least social and happy. Few seem to take issue with the standards that are driving the parenting, like the tail wagging…well, the tiger (mom).
Maybe this is more on my radar, because I let go of “parenting to meet society’s expectations” when I chose to homeschool. It’s not that homeschool parents don’t have standards and expectations. They do, but the homeschool community approaches this area somewhat differently.
I haven’t read a homeschooling book, or heard a homeschooling speaker yet, that didn’t emphasize the fact that every child is different, with strengths and weaknesses, and gifts and struggles. Further, because many within the homeschooling community have a decided Christian worldview, it is acknowledged, it is understood, that every child has a God-given purpose and a unique place in His plans.
Like the firm disciplinarian parent who refuses to spank, homeschooling requires a lot more creativity, observation, sacrifice, and significant strength to reject the one-size-fits-all methods, inadequate standards, and conformist behaviors imposed by government schools and accepted by secular society, and seek instead to craft new ways to inspire and insist upon individual excellence.
Rather than get my fur ruffled by Ms. Chua’s sarcasm regarding the “losers” who are “special in their own special way,” I struggle against a sad condescension for the Tiger Mom. It is not appropriate for me to condescend, I should have compassion. She congratulates herself on pressuring her daughters into a mold of her own making. It’s a form of idolatry - of herself - forged in the fire of extremely ugly behavior, yet with a realm of influence limited to the tiny sliver of the world in which she desires to succeed. It is a religion whose practice is formed of mostly shallow, often short-term and eternally inconsequential standards that matter only to those who worship at the same altar. It would be easy to fall into the same pit.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, as this parenting philosophy was being promoted, discussed, attacked, and defended, I was beginning to delve into a book by Michelle Anthony, Spiritual Parenting An Awakening for Today’s Families. The contrast could not be greater. Here is a quote:
In this book we will explore what it means to seek God as our primary audience-to please Him alone with our parenting and seek Him alone for the strength and power to do so. Spiritual parenting is not perfect parenting – it’s parenting from a spiritual perspective with eternity in mind. It’s a way of parenting that declares, “I want to parent the child or children that God gave me in such a way that I first honor God, and then second, create the best environment to put my children in the path of the Divine…
…As spiritual parents, we enlist ourselves as students of our children, to learn about them specifically as the children God has entrusted to us. Not only do I need to learn how to rely on God (since His Word makes it clear that he alone is the one who changes hearts), but I also need to learn how my children are fearfully and wonderfully made in order to best guide them on the path that God has designed specifically for each one. It’s not about adopting a “parenting style” that works for all my children, because I will need to adapt my parenting to the uniqueness of each child (while still retaining my authority and values). Michelle Anthony
It is our human nature that drives us to doubt our chosen course of action by comparing ourselves to others. Ms. Chua’s book seems to stir up a lot of that. Sometimes we emerge from this evaluation with a self-gratulatory manner, sometimes with defensiveness, sometimes with a wary, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” It is good to evaluate our goals, and question our methods, and reaffirm our values. I have a great deal to learn about my new journey in homeschooling and spiritual parenting. My personal examen leaves me firmly committed to the goal of putting my children in the path of the Divine. His standards, are gold standards, that will never lose value, now or forevermore.
As for the tail wagging the tiger…there but for the grace of God, go I.