INTERNET The classification of mothers into various types brings to the fore the issue of balance in parenting methods and the specific problems confronting immigrant parents Sudhamahi Regunathan
Ever since Amy Chua described herself as the Tiger Mother in her bestseller, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, mothers have fallen into two categories — the hugging Panda mother and the demanding Tiger mother. Not to mention the sacrificing Mother India who is India-specific. Amy Chua’s book was greeted with exclamations ranging from extreme shock to those finding points of similarity. The balance tilted heavily towards the former in the West, and in the East mothers explained the strategy of the Tiger Mom as culture-specific. This brought another book into the world, titled “The Tiger Babies Strike Back”, by Kim Wong Keltner.
As Amy Chua says in her interview, she wrote the book more as a personal diary which catapulted to fame when The Wall Street Journal took out some excerpts that were among the more severe of the mother’s behaviour and published it under the heading, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” This got her many angry mails.
Chua, a professor of law at the Yale law school, has written two other books, “…I have written two academic books. In fact, that is the real me… one on globalization and the other on the rise and fall of hyper powers. Each of them took more than eight years of research in contrast to ‘Battle Hymn…’, which I wrote in two months… it just poured out. I was not even going to publish it. I began writing this book in a moment of crisis. I was trying to raise my two daughters like my very strict immigrant Chinese parents raised me, for now as an adult I adore them and it worked so well. My older daughter was very easy. My second daughter, Lulu, resisted this kind of parenting. We had a very big fight in public when she was 13 and I feared I might lose my daughter if I did not change. It is kind of weird… I changed culturally.”
Chua continues, “My book is about how I was humbled by a 13-year-old. I write asking questions, not answering them. For instance: what is the best way to build self-esteem in children? Probably different answers for different answers. I do not think saying, “… you are the best…” does anything. Real self-esteem has to be earned. I also believe in virtuous circles, like, nothing is fun until you are good at it. It is great if you can instil in children the ability to not give up, to have a work ethic. The lesson I have learnt is that it may not be at what you want. Whatever it is, I would ask if the child is serious and if he/ she is going to be committed to it.”
Chua talks of how she learnt to give up control over her child and says the violin symbolised both depth in contrast to the frivolity around and respect. So when her daughter rebelled, it was actually a defiance of the above two ideas. Chua says, “I have struggled right up to the end, trying to find the balance between what we can control and the so much that we cannot. Happiness is not always through success. Equally, the constant pursuit of success is sure unhappiness. But we have to find the balance. My own thoughts are that parenting is very personal. And we all feel enormous insecurity about parenting. What are they going to think of us 20 years down the line?”
Kim Wong Keltner says that while the mother may think she is spurring the child, she may be spurning them by being aggressive. That said, the speakers in the interview, including Anupy Singla from India, bring up many points about immigrant parents, parenting and the inevitability of the situation. Singla says she too loses sleep at night if her child does not perform well academically, so along with pushing the child she also hugs!
The interviewer tells Chua that his mother was a panda, but the tiger mom sits deep within him and all his life he has been struggling to get away from her! That, by the way, is the secret: Tiger moms are here to stay, they may only become more physical!
My own thoughts are that parenting is very personal. And we all feel enormous insecurity about parenting.