I will just say right now that I am not a Tiger Mother

I read9780143120582_BattleHymnOf_CVF.inddI read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother this week. I had heard that it was a book about how to get your children to practice their musical instruments. Or something. Actually, I had heard that it was a justification of the way Asian parents push and push and push their children so that they all become prodigies and geniuses.

"I know I'm going to hate it," I said to my friend, "but at least I should be able to get a blog post out of it." (Which isn't a great motivation for doing anything in life, really, but it does bring a silver lining on the odd occasion.)

I did hate it when I read it. My eyebrows just about jumped off my head when I read these things that the mother said to her daughters while they were practising their piano and violin:

– Oh my god, you're just getting worse and worse.

– I'm going to count three, then I want musicality!

– If the next time is not perfect, I'm going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!

A few times, I read paragraphs to my daughter, who looked stunned and said, "Are you serious?"

Things like banning all sleepovers and play dates, making (no, that should read forcing) her two daughters to practice, sometimes up to 6 hours a day, including on holidays and including while they travelled to Europe. Things like screaming matches, teeth marks on the piano (the child genius clearly wasn't coping at times and needed a good chew) and the way the mother used guilt, shame and criticism to get her children to achieve the outcomes that she had chosen for them.

The book describes the success and failure of this Chinese mother's method. Daughter one thrived and succeeded and even appeared to enjoy the massively high standards and pressure her mother put on her life. Daughter two fought it from the very beginning and, at age 13, started breaking glasses and yelling at her mother in a restaurant in Moscow, refusing to do anything more.

On one hand, her parenting, in my opinion, is abysmal. Screeching, yelling, forcing, dehumanising and always, always bargaining for more. On the other, who can argue with two daughters who play the piano and violin like angels?

A day later, though, and I don't despise the author like I thought I would. She says on her website, "I’m not holding myself out as a model, but I do believe that we in America can ask more of children than we typically do, and they will not only respond to the challenge, but thrive.  I think we should assume strength in our children, not weakness.  And I think it is 100% All-American to do so!"

I agree with what she has said, obviously with the caveat that I am Australian. I think we can expect more, both of ourselves and our children, but I seriously doubt that her method is healthy. Yes, she respects her children by seeing that they can achieve highly, but she is so focused on the outcome that I think she has neglected to show respect to her children in the process and the day to day. 

I am waiting for the follow-up book, which no doubt will be written in about 20 years, by one of the daughters – if not both – with their take on the whole thing.