Tiger Mom to Parents: "Nevermind"
Last night I attended a talk given by Amy Chua, of the famous “Tiger Mom” fame, in front of a group of interested parties. She spent most of time debriefing the crowd on her initial intentions for her book, the detour taken when a Wall Street Journal excerpt was published, and the intense negative reaction that she has engendered. All a misunderstanding, she said. She was trying to be flip and her dogmatic tone is just part of her “zany” personality. Her critics don’t “get” her.
I get her. As a second-generation Chinese-American and the mother of a teenager, I am intimately aware of how Asian and western parenting practices clash. I, too, have a zany and sometime brash sense of humor. I like to tell stories and exaggerate my opinions for laughs.
So I was with Ms. Chua until last night when she had the chance to make her point to a group of demographically-similar professionals. (The event was sponsored jointly by the Asian-American Journalists Association, Asian American Artists and the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance.) Jeannie Park, the moderator of the event and a crazy-accomplished Asian-American daughter and mom herself, asked Chua for take-away lesson from the Tiger Mom saga. “What is your legacy?”
There was none. Chua, the micro-managing, Harvard-educated Yale professor with a successful husband and two high-achieving daughters, retreated. She’s not offering any advice to other parents, she says. The book is a memoir, not a how-to. The lesson? Ms. Chua hesitated. “No more sleepovers?” she offered lamely.
What a disappointment. Could it be that after all the Internet traffic, media reaction, and television appearances, Tiger Mom doesn’t have a message? Surely someone has some wisdom on how to harass the power of Asian parenting practices for the benefit of a new generation of American children.
My son is 16 years old and I think it’s fair to say that I’ve been debating this topic his entire life. How do I guide him? What can I teach him? Some of the ways I was raised were good and some were bad. Now, which ones were which?
Ms. Chua got on a soapbox, only to slink away after she gathered a crowd. She leaves the question hanging. How can Asian parenting practices benefit our American children?