April 3, 2011

"I was determined... not to raise a soft, entitled child...."

"Classical music was the opposite of decline, the opposite of laziness, vulgarity, and spoiledness."

I read books with a pen in hand and mark passages I want to be able to find later. That's the only thing I marked in "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," which I'd read about a third of a few weeks ago and picked up and read to the end yesterday. Those 2 quotes appear on page 22 (of the hardback). As you probably know, the book is a memoir written by a lawprof, Amy Chua, who goes to great lengths driving her 2 daughters to learn to play the piano and violin and portrays this intense venture as Chinese.

You're left on your own in deciding whether to hate her for being so cruel or to worry that you should be (or should have been) a whole lot tougher on your own kids. In the process of making that decision, you've got to face up to or struggle to deny the way you are influenced by the extremely high level of accomplishment the 2 daughters reach. There has to be some degree of admiration or envy pushing you around.

See? She's a lawprof, and, I, a lawprof, see the book as setting up a Socratic inquiry. The lawprof keeps her distance as she gives you something complex to try to pull apart and examine. I can see why I marked the passage I marked and then left the pen capped.  There's a very basic goal that is easy to accept in itself: We don't want to raise soft, entitled children. But how do you do that? Here's one example of someone trying to achieve that goal. Now, what have we learned about the goal and how to achieve it?

There's something skeletal about the story Chua tells. The accomplishments of the daughters are documented objectively. There are specific honors that can't be denied. But we can only imagine the cost. Chua presents herself as a cartoon character, and she all but excludes her husband from the picture. I have no idea why these 2 people are married or what their relationship is like. That's one way to write a memoir. I've read other memoirs that deal with ongoing marriages that way. (One is "Dreams From My Father.")

A novelist could find rich material for a brilliant rewrite in "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" (or "Dreams From My Father"). There is so much missing from these stories. Create the flesh that could hang on those bones.

91 comments:

edutcher said...

The one thing that jumped out at me as I read the post was a phrase that doesn't apply, seemingly - stage mother.

You see the same ruthlessness on the part of a parent who must live through the children.

PS Among the "achievements", will an early suicide be one of them?

Michael K said...

Maybe the fact that I am an older parent affects how I look at this. My older son is 46 and my youngest daughter is 20. They (except for the oldest) went to private schools, mostly so I could ride herd on their homework and studies. The public high school in my upper middle class community would not cooperate with my efforts to make sure homework got done.

My oldest son sailed to Hawaii with me when he was 16 in the Transpac Race. When he was applying to college, he wrote his personal essay about the experience and was berated by his high school counsellor for doing so. I guess protest marches were more his style.

My younger son was a fire Explorer Scout and had the experience at 17 of slipping down a muddy hill after putting out a vehicle fire and coming face to face with a dead woman. The drunk driver had forgotten he had a passenger.

My oldest daughter is a lawyer and FBI agent. MY middle daughter spent college summers working on archeological dig in Ecuador at 14,000 feet elevation. They bathed in a bucket. She is now starting a PhD program on full scholarship.

I don't say these things to boast. These were the things the kids wanted to do and I helped them. None of them play classical piano. Three of them are married and two have kids now. The youngest has had a harder time but is shaping up. I have watched schools and academics deteriorate over the 40 years I have had kids in school.

shoutingthomas said...

Whole lotta BS here.

Children of a Yale law professor are going to do pretty well in life.

They've got money, access, status.

You're running low on material, Althouse. Protest fatigue?

Not much to talk about here, sad to say.

chickelit said...

I think that freeman hunt is on to answer here: link.

Quayle said...

Just imagine how far her kids could have gone if, instead of being off at work, Chu was home nurturing and playing with the kids in the down times.

AJ Lynch said...

"She does not talk about the girls' father"...

I wonder ....tiger mother and girls are piano players. Charlie Sheen has tiger blood & plays the piano in his sitcom! Could he be the father?

themightypuck said...

I wonder what the median salary of a violinist is? You can't outsource live music so it might be a decent profession.

LarsPorsena said...

....But we can only imagine the cost. Chua presents herself as a cartoon character, and she all but excludes her husband from the picture. I have no idea why these 2 people are married or what their relationship is like....

Relationship? Sperm donor.

shoutingthomas said...

The stuff of chicklit... egghead version of "Eat, Pray, Love."

Fabulously wealthy, incredibly intellectual, glamorous, interracial couple raises super children! At Yale!

Intellectual porn.

See, I found something to say.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I'm not good with the idea that you must push your children to excel in something JUST for the sake of excellence. Forcing anyone to do something, like playing the piano, when they may not especially like the piano or have the ability to be excellent at it is cruelty.

I would not do that to my child. However, once she started a project, a chore, a hobby I would insist that she complete it or give it her best try.

It is never too young to give a child responisbilities, chores and jobs and expect that they try their very best. Children want to be helpful and feel important about their work.

Even at the age of 2 or 3 my child had a few 'jobs'. She may not have done them very well or to my satisfaction, but I would never dream of criticizing her. Instead we would do the chore together until she got the hang of it.

Neither would I heap piles of false praise. I hate it when you hear adults say "Good job!!!" in that high whiney voice when they and their child both know it wasn't a "good job". All that does is to encourage the child to NOT try harder and do sloppy work because they know they will get away with it.

Jeff said...

I have not read the book, but I did read the original WSJ article, and while I do think she went to extremes in her family relationships, she made some very good points about our American educational system and personal accomplishment in general.

I remember her writing that nothing worth doing is easy when you start--to get a real sense of accomplishment in the end, one must endure frustration and serious discomfort in the beginning. And it's hard to impose discomfort and frustration on our children.

And Chua's blasts are quite justified in light of the bias against the mastering of facts and prejudice against practice that is systemic in the public schools (and is present in a lot of private ones as well). Every time I read that a school "strives to provide a great learning experience", I want to throw up. It takes a lot more than a pleasant experience to accomplish anything worthwhile, and that's one thing about which Chua is dead on.

Michael K said...

The best experience my youngest has had the past year is a job as a waitress on weekends while she is in school. I wonder if Ms Chua's kids know much about the world ? They will probably be well prepared for a spot in Obama's second administration. I fear these are the people running the country these days.

Ann Althouse said...

"Relationship? Sperm donor."

No, the husband is a highly accomplished law professor. He's obviously in the picture but his role and the marital relationship are edited out of the book. He probably didn't want personal things about him exposed. And it kept the book simple. It's kind of a young adult book, really. Kids having trouble with their parents could read it and get some psychic rewards. It's not an examination of marriage. We get glimpses of the husband, and in those glimpses, he looks really unhappy with what his wife is doing. But obviously, he must also have approved and even participated in pushing his daughter's achievement. It's interesting to me that he chose (I assume) not to be seen doing whatever he did to inspire his daughters' achievements. His invisibility in the story is an editorial choice, just as it's an editorial choice to present the mother's approach in a racial framework. There is a lot missing, and it's done to make the book more interesting and more simple, to make it something specific to be talked about. The success of the book proves that these were great editorial choices (assuming the goal of writing a book is to get a lot of people reading and talking and to make a lot of money).

Hagar said...

I hate people who mark in books.

ironrailsironweights said...

I would like to know about Amy Chua's grooming habits. Asian women have been among the last traditionalists, often remaining in their full flavor states even after almost all other women succumbed to the false allure of the Hideous Pedophilic Bald Eagle. Tragically, that has begun to change, as five minutes' research in the Asian category at Image Fap or You Porn will show. My sneaking (if un-confirmable) suspicion is that not a single hair follicle can be found on Ms. Chua's body. God damn it.

Peter

AJ Lynch said...

Michael:

I agree -most of us learned a lot from part-time or summer jobs in high school & college. We gained practical, common sense knowledge. Obama seems to have sidestepped that learning experience. As far as I can tell, I have never heard him mention any of his summer work experiences.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that the book will have a certain audience, maybe people trying to figure out how to best raise their kids. Mine is in college, and so whatever I can do now would have little, if any, affect, so I won't bother to read the book.

But, 20 years ago, I probably would have read it. And suggest that my, soon to be ex, wife do too (or, it probably would have worked the other way around). We were the type of new parents who wanted to do things right, and turn out a successful, happy, child, which I think we did fairly well at, using a somewhat different approach.

I think that Prof. Chua's approach would have failed miserably with me, esp. as I entered my teen years. They may have worked with her daughters, because they lacked to a great extent what teenage boys have an excess of - testosterone. I look back to my teen years, and the best way to describe my actions during that time might be as passive-aggressive rebellion.

I would say though that the idea of forcing kids to learn an instrument can be counter productive. The problem is that different kids have different aptitudes, and, if they do not have an aptitude for music, they are likely to find themselves in a situation by the time they are into high school where they are working harder and harder for something, and finding that others can achieve that with less work and much more joy. And, as a result, those with aptitude and desire easily leave those without in the dust.

As is probably obvious from that, I lacked that aptitude, as did my kid. I played French Horn into college, but that later was mostly to relate to my music major girlfriend, who did have the aptitude. And my kid tried hard, but didn't have the aptitude to excel either. Other places yes, music no.

Ann Althouse said...

"I hate people who mark in books."

The very first post ever on this blog is about this subject.

Martha said...

Tiger Mom triumphs! Daughter #1-- Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld-- was just accepted at Harvard.

and acceptance at Harvard must be the ultimate accomplishment of every driven, Type A mother.

John said...

The thing that always stuck me about Tiger Mother was how appalling imasculated her husband is. Where the hell was he while she was abusing their two daughters? He never noticed that she was denying them trips to bathroom during paino practice? How did he allow her to treat them that badly and never say anything?

Chua is a deeply silly woman. If she were poor, she would be called at best a stage mother and at worst the state would have long since come and taken her daughters. But in many ways her imasculated husband is even worse. He makes me ashamed to be a modern male.

themightypuck said...

The best things Harvard produces is dropouts. People who can do. People who can't get diplomas and go work on Wall Street.

ricpic said...

Is there any right way to raise kids? Or to live, for that matter? If you grow up in the tightly scheduled guilt driven upper middle class yes, you achieve, but is unwinding ego free living even possible after such bootcamp brainwashing? No.

ironrailsironweights said...

According to the General Social Survey, adolescents of Asian descent have significantly lower self-esteem than white or black adolescents (though Mexican-American teens rank even lower). I wonder whether Ms. Chua's half-Asian daughters suffer from poor self-esteem. If so, her "tiger mother" child rearing habits may be less successful than she thinks.

Peter

John said...

"Tiger Mom triumphs! Daughter #1-- Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld-- was just accepted at Harvard. "

Because there is no value in producing a happy, productive well adjusted child who doesn't get into Harvard.

The excerpts of the book I have read are (unintentionally hilarious). I love the part about how she wouldn't let her daughters be anything but number one at whatever they did. I guess she is so blissfully un-self aware that it never occurred to her that only one kid in the class can be number one making such a dictate a little difficult for everyone to practice. The whole book is about her figuring out, after her one daughter finally rebels, that she can't torture her kids to success. She apparently before that had the wisdom and empathy of a 12 year old.

ironrailsironweights said...

Chua's husband sounds like a classic Mangina. Which really isn't surprising given their mixed ethnic marriage. Asian women generally aren't caught up in the whole Alpha-loving, chicks-dig-jerks scene, and often will consider dating and marrying Beta males that other women LJBF and ridicule. Now, not all non-Asian men who marry Asian women are Betas, not by any means, but a significant portion are. My guess is that Chua's husband is among their ranks.

Peter

John said...

"We get glimpses of the husband, and in those glimpses, he looks really unhappy with what his wife is doing."

But he never does anything about it and allows his crazy bitch wife to continue to abuse his daughters. Disgraceful.

themightypuck said...

He might be very Alpha and just waiting until he has a son.

Freeman Hunt said...

I've been arguing about this book all over the place, but I agree with pretty much everything in Althouse's post.

The only thing I disagree with is it being a given that the reader must be heavily influenced by the daughter's accomplishments.

Since both daughters are still relatively young, I thought the great (and unavoidable) absence in the book was the outcome of Chua's parenting style for her daughters. It's how the kids turn out that matters. What kind of adults will they turn into? We don't know yet because they aren't yet adults.

It could be that their childhood accomplishments snowball through adulthood. Or it could be that one or both of them are burned out and looking to take it easy when school ends. Or the outcome could be something in between or something else entirely.

And then, of course, it's a sample size of only two.

So yes, I think the book is intended as more of a discussion prompt than a how-to with end product examples.

John said...

"He might be very Alpha and just waiting until he has a son."

So he cares so little about his daughters, he lets his wife abuse them? That is even worse? And have you seen this woman? No way would she have ever married anyone with a set of balls.

Michael said...

On Marking Books; I am in favor. I have hundreds that are in perfect shape, in perfect bindings, that I read forty years ago. Now, I got at the things with a vengeance and when I am done they are marked, the spines sprung, and in dreadful shape. My life has gone in the opposite direction.

On Children: I have a friend who went to Harvard and then to Harvard Law. He has four children, all went to Harvard, all went to Harvard law. I sometimes wonder what a horror their life could be. But perhaps I wrong, perhaps it was bred in the bone.

Michael K: I have them from 30 to 14, under two administrations. All privately educated, each their own person, none pushed to do what they have no passion for. My youngest is a hockey player and a poor one but he loves it. Oldest son in Panama saving the world. Daughter happily working like a mad woman at an intense poorly paying job.

virgil xenophon said...

As a "pre" "Baby Boomer" born in 1944 and hence learned to read pre-TV and grew up on a college campus going to a Univ Lab School as the son of college professors, the ONE take-away/admonition I WOULD subscribe to is that much of basic education is NOT fun--that much has to be--SHUDDER--"conned by rote" (to use a term from my parents/grandparents generation) in order to have ANY sort of base-line foundation from whence one can exercise "judgement" about what is academic B.S and what is worthwhile as one progresses. As we all know today the let-the-students-teach-themselves meme with teacher as "facilitator" is much in vogue. If ever there was a cringe-worthy phrase that makes me want to reflexively reach for my gun it's: "I learn so much from my students." Really? Then why are you their teacher? Let's face it: K-12 students brains are pretty much empty vessels needing filling with all that's necessary to be an informed citizen of the world. Lets use an analogy borrowed from the USAF pilot training. NO instructor pilot (IP) would EVER allow his students to solo on their first flight--no matter how precociously intelligent and physically coordinated they are. Yet EXACTLY THAT approach--solo on first flight--is now the standard in elementary ed instruction. The little dears are so "creative" you know..

(I know, but I exaggerate only slightly. We all now readily acknowledge--in fact its become a standing "late-nite" running joke--that the "self-esteem" everyone-gets-trophies movement has triumphed over real accomplishment and mastery of skills K-12., so let's not kid ourselves)

Bruce Hayden said...

One thing that I think has to be taken into account when modeling child rearing on how this woman did it, is that not everyone is the same. She comes across as Type-A. Some of us are Type-B, and fairly happy like that. My mother was a high achieving Type-A, and she could never understand why a majority of her sons didn't want to emulate her.

I look back 40 years to when I was in college, and sometimes compare myself to a classmate who would get maybe a point lower on math and physics tests, but graduated with straight A's, went on to YLS, and was managing partner of one of the larger offices of one of the biggest firms in the state by 40. In the end, he did the homework, and I didn't, when it wouldn't have helped my understanding.

Yet, now I realize, I wouldn't have been happy as that high powered lawyer. I am a lowly worker bee attorney at a comparably sized firm, which means that I make a lot less than the top attorneys do there. But that also means that I have a lot lower stress level, and I appreciate that. So, I can go skiing before work some days this spring, and that is just fine.

Getting back to child rearing - my kid works at the 90-95% level, instead of the 100% level required by the author of her kids. That still works out to a 3.95 from a good college. But there are times that homework isn't totally completed, because of social functions over the weekend. Or, because of gospel choir, hiking club, etc. Or, just talking to friends.

The important thing to this kid it seems is balance. And, apparently having achieve it fairly well, is extremely happy. If they don't go on to YLS, I won't be disappointed (ok, maybe a little, since I am second generation lawyer).

So, I am happy for the author, her husband, and daughters, for all being driven, Type-A, achievers. But that doesn't fit with a lot of us, and I wouldn't have been happy being raised by her, and likely wouldn't have turned out nearly as well as her kids did. For my kid, what we did worked well, and that is what is important to me.

Ann Althouse said...

"The only thing I disagree with is it being a given that the reader must be heavily influenced by the daughter's accomplishments. "

I didn't say heavily. I said "to some degree." An issue, while reading, must be: to what extent am I affected by knowing how well this method worked and by my own envy? Either you engage on that level or you're doing something in the denial category. It's just a question fo how conscious you are about this and how much you want to deal with these cross-currents of thought.

Many people get into the idea of: Well, what's so great about being a highly accomplished classical musician? Is that a good career choice? Etc. etc.

I think you ought to at least ask yourself whether that is a psychic defense against envy.

John said...

"My youngest is a hockey player and a poor one but he loves it. "

Michael,

Didn't you get the memo from Ms. Chua? Children are supposed to never do anything they can't finish number one doing. How dare your son do something for the joy of doing it. My God he might turn out to be something besides a neurotic over achieving drone.

Ann Althouse said...

There's also the line of thought that says: Yeah, they are Yale professors and those girls had every advantage. Sure, they accomplished. That says nothing about regular people.

There's some truth to that and some measure of envy. To what extent do you care about examining the emotional component of the judgment?

To me, it's *the* most interesting thing, but I've had many encounters in life with people who are so well defended about the emotional content of their judgments that they actually get quite angry with me.

One reason I blog is so I can say these things from my remote undisclosed bunker instead of where I have to see the faces of the people I piss off.

John said...

"I think you ought to at least ask yourself whether that is a psychic defense against envy."

So it is out of envy that I find this woman silly and morally repulsive? I don't think so Ann. You might want to ask yourself if your defense of her is just class snobbery. Imagine if she were poor and treated her daughters like this while making them beauty queens or basketball players rather than living a tidy white upper middle class existence? My guess is Ms. Chua would have a lot fewer defenders even though she would be morally no worse.

Ann Althouse said...

"Didn't you get the memo from Ms. Chua? Children are supposed to never do anything they can't finish number one doing. How dare your son do something for the joy of doing it. My God he might turn out to be something besides a neurotic over achieving drone."

Well, if you read the book and get to the end, you'll see there is development on that point. The younger daughter takes up tennis for her own reasons and plays according to her own standards and requires the mother to back off, which the mother does.

So don't say "never"...

lemondog said...

Chua’s father is distinguished in his field. No mention of her mother.

Was Chua herself driven by a demanding parent or self-driven by the need for approval from a high performing parent?

Chua presents herself as a cartoon character,....

How does she do that? Does she poke fun at herself or exaggerate perceived shortcomings?

What is the purpose of the book? Does the book smack of self-satisfaction, or does Chua sense something lacking in her soul?

LarsPorsena said...

"..Tiger Mom triumphs! Daughter #1-- Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld-- was just accepted at Harvard. "

Another Han passes the mandarin entrance exams.

John said...

"Well, if you read the book and get to the end, you'll see there is development on that point."

And Chua is how old and has had children for how many years before she realizes that? That is one of the biggest reasons I find her so objectionable. She seems to have written a book about how it took her until her 40s and until her children were teenagers before she achieved the wisdom and empathy of a well adjusted teenager. And we should listen to such a childish person why?

Ann Althouse said...

"So it is out of envy that I find this woman silly and morally repulsive? I don't think so Ann."

I think there is a question about what the mix of your reasoning and emotion is. Clearly, you come on strong with denial. I think you should be less shallow and more sophisticated.

"You might want to ask yourself if your defense of her is just class snobbery."

Why are you characterizing me as defending her? Did I really do that? That's your perception. You also perceive me as being in her social class. That is your perception. Where does that come from? What are your feelings around that? If you don't care about such things, why don't you? I am a snob in the sense of looking down on people who don't want to talk about the complexity of the mind's operations.

"Imagine if she were poor and treated her daughters like this while making them beauty queens or basketball players rather than living a tidy white upper middle class existence?"

What's with the "white"? She's Chinese!

Generally, I think poor women who stress accomplishment and hard work are greatly admired.

"My guess is Ms. Chua would have a lot fewer defenders even though she would be morally no worse."

The press is full of stories about poor and working class people who are tough on their children and get them to achieve. And Chua absolutely did not get off the hook for the really abusive things in the story. She doesn't excuse herself either. She purports to tell it straight, not to claim that she's a great hero.

I'm more interested in the things she doesn't tell. She makes some savvy choices about how to present herself which include some confessions that have shock value. That's storytelling.

John said...

"The press is full of stories about poor and working class people who are tough on their children and get them to achieve."

Contrast the treatment of Chua with the treatment of Richard Williams the father of the famous tennis playing sisters. He also drove his daughters. And his daughters are a lot more talented, rich and successful than Chua's kids. And Williams has been vilified by the media, as are most stage parents.

And yes, she may be Chinese but her lifestyle is upper middle class white all the way. She is most definitely a part of the class that the media identifies with. And yes, she has had some mild criticism in the media. But she is guilty of abusing her kids. Had she been poor, she might be in jail. There are people out there who have lost their kids, at least for a time for less.

And no I don't envy Chua. I am successful. What is their to envy about Chua? She seems to have a lot of emotional problems. No professorship, even one from Yale, is worth that.

John said...

"She doesn't excuse herself either."

No Ann, she just exploits it and writes a book to make millions via the movie rights. Did it ever occur to you or to Chua that mayber her daughters didn't want their home life splattered all over the Wall Street Journal? It wasn't enough for her to abuse her daughters. She now has to exploit that abuse and the "lessons she learned from it" to make money. For Chua there seems to be nothing in the world that doesn't revolve around her. And no situation or mistake that is ripe for exploitation. The woman is just awful.

jamboree said...

The whole book is an exercise in trolling.

Do Not Feed The Trolls.

John said...

Make you a bet Ann,

In ten years Chua is divorced from her husband and estranged from at least one of her daughters.

Belkys said...

You can't outsource live music so it might be a decent profession.
But you can hire a foreign socialist to direct the orchestra like LA did

Freeman Hunt said...

Many people get into the idea of: Well, what's so great about being a highly accomplished classical musician? Is that a good career choice? Etc. etc.

I think you ought to at least ask yourself whether that is a psychic defense against envy.


That makes sense. I didn't have that reaction to the book, so I'm coming from a different perspective.

I liked Chua. I thought she was funny. Was she a pushy parent? Does she, perhaps, have some character flaws (bit of a temper and tendency to be overbearing) just like anyone else? Sure, but she also obviously loved her daughters, and I admired that she was willing to spend so much time with them and truly cared about what lives would await them as adults. Also that she wasn't so rigidly locked in to her method that she couldn't evolve her style over time.

If it turns out that her method fails, it will not be because she couldn't be bothered and didn't try.

As it stands now, it seems to be working out fine. If it were me, I would do certain things differently, but I don't know if those changes would create the same, better, or worse results.

I suppose the admiration that could push me around would be the admiration for the way both daughters developed both work ethic and the ability to strategize for improvement. The second daughter illustrated that these were transferable to other endeavors. The girls were raised to be go-getters, not people who just wait around for something to happen for them. I think Chua did an excellent job there.

My hunch is that both daughters will continue to do very well. I think they've processed through their childhood experiences so well, partially through the writing of this book, that most anything negative Chua brought to her parenting will be almost entirely mitigated.

As you mentioned though, there is a lot that isn't there. Most importantly, how is their moral development? How do they treat other people? I don't remember there being much indication either positive or negative.

But the book isn't about that. It is what it is.

It has sparked long and intense discussion among parents I know, and that's been great.

Maguro said...

Sounds like kind of a self help book or how to manual for affluent white women who want their kids to achieve like Asians without being complete grinds.

Freeman Hunt said...

John, your comments could be summed up by writing, "I haven't read it."

The daughters helped to write the book.

William said...

The conflict is between Ms. Chua's duty as a writer and her duty as a parent. Her duty as a writer is to get her book talked about and sold. She succeeded there. My guess is that she used a certain amount of hyperbole and sensationalism to achieve this effect. The incidents she detailed probably happened, but there were probably other acts of tolerance and kindness that she minimized. Her duty as a parent is to raise happy, successful children. The kids seem well launched. The nagging may have been interpreted as a form of loving, which, of course, it was......I wonder if there isn't a certain amount of sex discrimination among Asian families. If there are tiger moms, there are also a lot of baby boys treated like Emperors.

The Crack Emcee said...

After reading the book, my friend's ultra-liberal baby mamma has switched to raising their kid like this, and the kid - a good kid - is totally rebelling. Acting out, getting into fights, behaving in ways he never did before.

My friend, a pretty conservative father, is actually happy to see it because it indicates to him that, in time, he'll finally get his son to himself, when the baby mamma can't deal any longer. She's one of those who'll do anything to keep the kid from his father's influence (shooting guns, etc.) so Amy Chua is having an effect, though not the kind anyone's expecting.

Freeman Hunt said...

Written by the eldest daughter.

Seems pretty well-adjusted and well-prepared for life to me.

reader_iam said...

Do recommend the book, Althouse?

ironrailsironweights said...

He might be very Alpha and just waiting until he has a son.

Considering that Amy Chua is close to 50, that's not too reasonable a prospect. Unless he ditches her and snags some young chick, which is always a possibility.

Peter

Freeman Hunt said...

I think the daughter's essay highlights that context is everything. Being relentlessly nagged by a loving and affectionate mother is far different than being nagged by an icy and emotionally unavailable one.

Methadras said...

NO MORE WIRE HANGERS!!!

themightypuck said...

It is human nature to be tricked into over weighting anecdotal evidence. I doubt Ms. Chua would have written the book if her daughter ran away from home and got into porn (although you never know). Parents (especially mothers) really want to believe in their ability to mold their children and are easily tricked or cajoled into all sorts of educational snake oil (I've heard of parents paying college tuition prices to have quacks babysit their preschoolers).

Alex said...

I'm reading a lot of ENVY in these comments. Ya'll can't stand Amy Chua's success and the fact that her daughters will be the elite and your children won't be. Bow down to your Han masters!

themightypuck said...

From Tyler Cowan's blog a week or so ago.

http://askakorean.blogspot.com/2011/03/ask-korean-news-north-korean-special.html

Now that's some real Asian shit. None of this white people Asian shit.

ken in sc said...

My step-son is self driven. He has none of my genes but he grew up in my house from age six. He has two masters degrees from different schools and a PHD from Harvard. He is currently teaching at Yale. My step-daughter is a tax lawyer with two law degrees. Me? I'm retired and my wife's out of town. I am totally non-driven.

mm said...

"Tiger" or not, nearly all parents of high-achieving kids are "home-schoolers" to some degree.

Sometimes kids 'get it' early on and parents can guide from the background. My goal (through college) was that at every transition point, no options were closed off.

When son was in HS, he got a D in chem and I made him take the class again. Teacher was not pleased - said my guy was bright enough but just couldn't 'do' chem. Turned out, he could. After graduating in pre-med from UCLA, he decided he liked teaching and became head of the Chem Dept at one of the best private schools in LA - also much in demand as tutor of sprouts of Tinsel Town 'names'.

I became a single parent during the HS years and immediately realized I knew nothing and went to principles so simple, both dad and kids could understand -"Reward" and
"Elimination of distraction".

$$$$ for every "A", $$ for every "B", reduction of above for any "C" and complete forfeiture for any "D". Also, 2 hours at the dining room table five nights-a-week. No TV. No music. No phone. I didn't force them to do homework -if they just wanted to stare at each other for two hours, OK with me. They were not as pleased with this as they were with 'bribery' and did try sitting there and day-dreaming for a couple of nights. And then, the strangest thing happened. Their friends thought this arrangement was so novel, they had to see for themselves. For the next two years, our house became a study hall for 8-10 kids almost every night.

Maybe we were just lucky. But, even "knowing what I know now", I doubt I'd change much.

Chip Ahoy said...

Bow down to your Han masters

That reminds me, I intended to check out a new Chinese restaurant today that opened up nearby next to Whole Foods.

Kirby Olson said...

Chua was on Charlie Rose and said it was the AMERICAN success story, not the Chinese success story (she said this kind of thing couldn't happen in China, but she said, work ethic still counts in America. Her husband is Jewish. She has a retarded sister who works at Wal-Mart, and participates in the Special Olympics. There's nothing wrong with Chua. She just doesn't think sitting in front of the TV popping cheese curls and waiting for the welfare check is how America should roll. I'm with Chua. I haven't read the book, but I thought she had the right values when I saw her on Charlie Rose.

Michael K said...

The mother's behavior seems an awful lot like that of many Asian mothers. Larry Elder used to talk about walking past the public library in his neighborhood in LA. Outside were black kids doing tricks on their skate boards. Inside were Korean mothers standing over their kids doing homework.

There is another book, written by an Asian female anesthesiologist about her experiences with a similar mother and how she hates her. It came out a couple of years ago.

chickelit said...

I find the notion of the mom's success somehow being "Chinese" racist and offensive. She's just an immigrant mom, terrified of American "laxidasical" parenting style.

I've seen similar success in the children of Europeans and I've seen Asian "Tiger moms" flop terribly as parents and be miserable themselves.

I've also seen success in good old fashioned American parents.

John said...

"She just doesn't think sitting in front of the TV popping cheese curls and waiting for the welfare check is how America should roll."

Neither do the people who are criticizing her. Just because you are not lazy doesn't mean you should fall into the other ditch. If Chua's daughters are great, good for them. But they are great because they have chosen to do so not because of their mother's bizare and abusive parenting methods. That is the conceit of Chua that makes her so offensive. Your children are people to. They choose their own destiny. You can't mold into what you want to be. If her whole book is about her discovery of that benile point, then she is an idiot with no sense empathy or self. And why bother to read a book by such a person?

John said...

"I think the daughter's essay highlights that context is everything. Being relentlessly nagged by a loving and affectionate mother is far different than being nagged by an icy and emotionally unavailable one."

No. The essay just shows that she was lucky in that her daughter turned out like her father and just rolled over and put up with the abuse. There is no evidence from the essay that her daughter is any different than any of the other ten million or so east coast upper class brats.

I say to Chua's parenting methods the same thing I say to Bobby Knight's coaching methods. Sure, Knight's players all graduated and his program was never on probation. But, Mike K at Duke and Roy Williams' players graduate to and they have also never been on probation. So couldn't he have done that without throwing the chairs? Same thing with Chua. So what her kid got into Harvard. So did several hundred other kids and several thousand got into schools just as selective. And it happens every year. And I bet most of their parents didn't do the things Chua did.

Jason (the commenter) said...

But the children of well to do Chinese people are known for being spoiled and decadent. Entitlement is one of the defining characteristics of the Chinese upper class! What is this woman thinking?

somefeller said...

"Tiger Mom triumphs! Daughter #1-- Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld-- was just accepted at Harvard.

Boy, it'll be quite a scene if she brings a townie home for the holidays!

WV: whizess, what a young woman needs to be to get into Harvard.

somefeller said...

But seriously, the main thing that jumps out at me from this story isn't that this is what a Chinese parent is supposed to do, but that Chua is approaching things from the classic immigrant (of any ethnicity) perspective - you have to work twice as hard and rack up the accolades because you don't have other networks (connections, rich relatives, etc.) to back you up. This isn't necessarily a bad thing in itself, but it seems a little odd to keep it going past one generation.

Also, Chua appears to make the classic mistake of assuming that the main determinant of success in life is what school you went to, but she isn't alone in making that mistake (it's the bread and butter for so many college counselors and admissions officers!) so it's hard to single her out for criticism on that score.

prairie wind said...

John said, He never noticed that she was denying them trips to bathroom during paino practice? How did he allow her to treat them that badly and never say anything?

This made me chuckle when I read it. When I was in grade school, we went to the restroom before or after recess and after lunch. Maybe after PE, too. We went when we were allowed to go and I don't remember anyone wetting their pants in class. Today, kids go to the bathroom when they want to go. It seems that we've forgotten that waiting to use the restroom is something that children are able to do. So when Chua doesn't let her girls go to the bathroom, I don't get too excited about it. (While I don't remember it happening among my classmates, I suppose some kids did wet their pants at school. Funny thing is that it STILL happens once in awhile, even though kids no long have to wait to use the restroom at school.)

I've heard several comments (here and elsewhere) that it would be cruel to subject a child to music lessons if the child isn't particularly interested or gifted in music. Why not? Do you expect your child to learn to read only if they are gifted or interested in it? Children can learn to be musicians. The Suzuki method of teaching music proves that over and over again. Will all Suzuki-taught children become Perlman? Nope, but not all "gifted" children who love violin will become Perlman either.

John said...

"if the child isn't particularly interested or gifted in music. Why not? "

Playing a musical insturment, unlike reading, is not an essential skill to have in society. Yeah, I suppose there is some intellectual value to be had from the pursuit of it. But couldn't that same value be gained by doing something the child enjoys?

And of course Chua's insistence on only classical music is especially humorous and pathetic. I guess if one of her girls were the next Louis Armstrong, they would have been out of luck. The fact that she insisted on only classical shows that Chua was posing more than anything else.

lemondog said...

He might be very Alpha and just waiting until he has a son.

Considering that Amy Chua is close to 50, that's not too reasonable a prospect. Unless he ditches her and snags some young chick, which is always a possibility.


Number 6 on past Law School Dean hottie list

reader_iam said...

Just an observation: I've met many a parent who doesn't see the point in having their children take music lessons if they're not particularly talented or interested in music but yet insist that every child ought to get involved in a team sport at least for a while, on account of the discipline and unique attributes such participation can provide.

wv: nonag

LMAO! Seriously. Sometimes I swear blogger's just f'n' with me.

John said...

And the idea that people find Chua objectionable out of envy is especially offensive and annoying. I will freely admit there are people I am envious of, Brazilian soccer stars, Formula 1 drivers, the hosts of Top Gear, Derek Jeter just to name a few. Crazy abusive Yale law professors, not so much.

themightypuck said...

We now know that Prof. Althouse is envious of Amy Chua for nothing to do with her child raising techniques and everything to do with her hot silver BMW driving hubbie. We also now know why hubbie has his wife and children on a long leash. He was busing fighting off the advances of his students.

themightypuck said...

busing = busy DOH!

Michael K said...

"And of course Chua's insistence on only classical music is especially humorous and pathetic."

There is a theory with some evidence that practicing classical music, especially Mozart and Bach, at an early age improves math skills.

I can't prove that rap makes kids stupid but I do wonder.

prairie wind said...

Perhaps learning to play classical music is a good place to begin because the music is disciplined and teaches so much about music theory and music history along the way? A classical music education is no barrier to someone who wants to be a rock star. Learning to play Beatles songs or folk tunes and moving to classical does not seem to be as easy. I could be wrong.

Another thought about kids and restrooms and what kids are able to learn: Used to be that children were potty-trained by age 2. Now it is USUAL for parents to begin thinking about potty-training after the child is three. Parents need to raise their expectations of what their children are capable of doing.

Old Dad said...

Parenting is a crap shoot. There are no experts, Chinese or otherwise. If Tiger mom raised happy kids and got a good pay day from her book, good on her, but she doesn't know shit about parenting. And neither do I.

When I would whine to my mom about my kids, she'd tell me to shut up, keep loving them, and do the best you can.

I guess that's right.

Martha said...

Amy Chua parents by demanding excellence. Not all children are able OR want to deliver excellence. The amount of self-discipline, focus, and maturity demanded by Chua is incalculable.

Two of my three sons graduated from Harvard--both Phi Beta Kappa. My parenting style was nothing like Ms. Chua's. In fact I firmly believe that my sons would have gotten into Harvard regardless of what kind of parent they had. They demanded excellence of themselves.

I think that by demanding that her daughters be #1 in everything Amy Chua is/was ridiculously short-sighted and narrow. There is more to life than being #1.

SteveR said...

She's very tiresome

David said...

I don't give a damn how she parents. That's up to her (and her husband?). Lot's of parenting styles can work.

I do criticize her making her parenting, and thus her children, a means of self promotion. Those kids are going to be under a microscope for their entire childhood. Not a good move, mom.

Lucius said...

In my experience, anybody who plays or even professes to love Classical music, is looked upon as some sort of Pod Person until they've been seen grinding their ass against a pole to the sound of "Baby Got Back." It's demanded of you to pay the Pound of Flesh to the gods of popular culture.

So I wonder what kind of scenes these prodigies might be impelled to in their social life in college-- and what, if any, effect that might have in undoing all the high-minded good effects of their mother's mode of raising them.

Alex said...

In my experience, anybody who plays or even professes to love Classical music, is looked upon as some sort of Pod Person until they've been seen grinding their ass against a pole to the sound of "Baby Got Back." It's demanded of you to pay the Pound of Flesh to the gods of popular culture.

What are you talking about? There is plenty of good pop music infused with classical. I mean heck, putting strings on a pop song goes back to the 1940s!

Lucius said...

Strings alone don't really make it "classical"-- though of course they've made for a nice touch in a lot of pop songs.

Classical training/taste in music invites the mad urge in a lot of people to demand shows of solidarity, particularly by way of mad debauchery.

Or just pure trashiness, a la Vanessa Mae.

Alex said...

I guess you never heard of the alternative pop/rock genre. There's plenty of intelligent, modern music there.

Lucius said...

Alex, I'm not challenging the intelligence of pop music one way or another (I just replayed Bjork's "Homogenic" last night if that matters)-- what I'm pondering is whether the 'discipline' of Classical music actually has some specific impact on these kids that stays with them for life, or whether it's something that brushes off them.

And I'm also noting, a la "Black Swan", the way the perceived 'restraint' or 'innocence' of a personal fondness for Classical music acts like Idiot Catnip on the vast majority of people one might socialize with, for whom the "Eroica" Symphony is more obscure than the Epodes of Horace.

knox said...

She's very tiresome

LOL. Indeed.

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