Sunday, 9 March 2014

Book: The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (+ my rants on Chinese parenting)

If you are a parent, you should read this book and then read my blog post. If you are an Asian kid with tiger parents, let's totally empathise about how miserable our childhoods were.


"Unjustified as Mrs. Kazinczy may have been, she was still a teacher, an authority figure, and one of the first things Chinese people learn is that you must respect authority. No matter what, you don't talk back to your parents, teachers, elders." - Amy Chua in The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

WHAT? WHAAAAAAT?

That is one of the most disgusting things I have ever read.  And if Amy Chua could see me right now, I would vomit the bok choy and mi goreng I had for lunch all over her book in a furious display of disapproval. 

For a Yale law professor who is married to another Yale law professor, this woman can be ridiculously atavistic. One of the overwhelming themes in this 'satirical' auto-biography about raising her daughters is that all ADULTS ARE GODS and even when they're manifestly wrong, children must treat them like they're right i.e. smile and take their shit.

Well....fuck


NO.



I despise this sort of Chinese style parenting and I disagree with the idea of 'respecting' your elders so much that you aren't allowed to speak up and reason with them. If I ever became a mother, I would treat my children like mini-adults, training them to think for themselves and encouraging them to try their hand at winning an argument with cogent reasoning (even if it's on the topic of 'why we should watch TV first and do homework second').  

To derogate your kids and oppress their thoughts is just tyrannical - I mean, hasn't anyone read Ender's Game already? Children are never 'stupid' - they're inexperienced, and their thought processes are much more sophisticated than some adults would ever imagine. To think that it's okay to win arguments by yelling (anything tantamount to:) "BECAUSE I'm your mother" or "I'm the one who puts a roof over your head and food on your table" is therefore, ridiculously fascist and in a way will actually indoctrinate your children with the idea that it is okay to ignore other people's opinions and to impose arbitrary rules upon others if you are their superior. 



This is also something my dad firmly believes in. He used to be an Eagle Dad (dad version of tiger mum) and during our countless screaming matches, I would protest about the inevitability that I would lose the argument because, DUH, I was the 'child' and had no real power in the relationship. For example:

"This is so unfair! So many people have told me that I'm good at drawing!"

"DRAWING AMOUNTS TO NOTHING. DO YOU WANT TO BECOME A BEGGAR LIVING ON THE STREET??? DRAWING IS FOR IDIOTS. I SAID NO DRAWING LESSONS AND THAT'S THAT."

"I HATE YOU!"

"LIVE WITH IT CINDY. I'M YOUR DAD AND I'M THE ONE WITH THE MONEY AROUND HERE. YOU WANT TO CHALLENGE ME ABOUT IT? WELL TOO BAD, THIS IS THE NATURAL HIERARCHY OF POWER AND PEOPLE UP THE TOP GET TO DO WHATEVER THEY WANT WHILE THOSE AT THE BOTTOM ARE SLAVES TO POWER."

- my dad, in those exact bloody words.

And no doubt, it's not just my dad. I know a lot of my peers who believe that it is also a 'way of life' that powerful people get to treat others like shiet - and accepts it. It's a traditional way of thinking and unless we're living in Japan, South Korea or some other heavily Confucian-infused culture where it would be impossible to speak back to a superior without getting abused/fired, I think it's bullshit. 

ugh.

And that's exactly what Louisa, Amy's younger daughter, thought of it. She turned out a bit like me. After suffering under dictatorial rule for years and years, she started to rebel at every opportunity. 

Yelling back. Throwing things across the room. Banging on walls. Crying and screaming unabashedly in classy restaurants and threatening to throw glass cups onto the floor/table/wall. Dobbing on the parents to teachers. Telling our friends.

It was war. 

And in the end, Louisa won. That's really what the whole book is about in the first place. Amy Chua wrote this book because she is the world's biggest humble-brag.

By the time she admitted that Chinese parenting was tearing them apart and had apologised to her daughter, she had already vaunted for 300 pages about how both her daughters had become academic geniuses and musical virtuosos, with Louisa, still a preteen, being invited to play the violin at concerts and stuff. 

SO IN CONCLUSION, Amy Chua still believes that despite all the pain and suffering they both went through, it was definitely worth it.  At least for her, she says.

DO YOU THINK IT'S WORTH IT?
 What if you tried the same method with your children (pushing them really hard at school and music etc.), produced a mean maths machine who won every single gold medal at Maths Olympiad, only to lose their love? And what if, due to your constant subjugation, your son turns into a guy with no self-confidence? 

Wellity well well, here comes the turning point. Apparently, Louisa and her mum made up and now they love each other very much. But every child and family is different. In my household, my dad and I are pretty much still at loggerheads every second. We're totally dysfunctional and I can't remember any time we've ever said "I love you" (compared to Amy and Louisa, who apparently have always had a habit of writing little notes of love to each other). And Amy has to understand that not every Chinese parent is a Yale Law school professor with perfect English and connections to the best academic resources in the world (there was one night where she invited a whole bunch of Supreme Court Judges to a family dinner). The fact that her daughters are still grateful for what their mum has given them despite her fascist tutelage really fucking depends on these sort of things.

The only thing I will respect Amy Chua for is her dedication to her children. That's it. Things like her unhesitating willingness to make hour long driving trips at 6am so that her children can attend music lessons, or to spend her pensioner's savings on their tuition. 

I mean, my parents yell at me for still being on my L plates, and yet 90% of the time when I ask them to sit beside me while I drive somewhere, they will say they're "way too exhausted" = can't be fkd. Seriously mum?!?!

Anyway. Chinese parenting is a bet of a lifetime.

If you succeed to win back your children's love after making their lives miserable, then it's worth it. Really worth it. 

If you don't, your children will hate you forever and never want to speak to you again. 

The only certain thing in both situations - they will have no childhood.