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The Tiger Mom in (Scientific) Perspective

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It seems that I can't get Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom excerpt in last week's Wall Street Journal off my mind.  Fellow Psychology Today blogger, Nancy Darling, described Chua's piece as " flinch worthy ".  I couldn't agree more. I flinched many times.

If you haven't yet read it, here's how it opens:

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

-          attend a sleepover

-          have a playdate

-          be in a school play

-          complain about not being in a school play

-          watch TV or play computer games

-          choose their own extracurricular activities

-          get any grade less than an A

-          not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

-          play any instrument other than a piano or violin

-          not play the piano or violin


Self-proclaimed "Tiger Mom", Amy Chua by Commons

Apparently, this piece, though authored by Chua herself, somehow misrepresents, or at least takes out of context, how she really parented, or so Jeff Yang argues .  Either way, I was bowled over by how little autonomy the girls were allowed. It's not just that they weren't allowed to be in a school play. Apparently, they weren't even allowed to discuss the possibility.  Several days after reading it, I'm still not over it.

Part of it is that I don't agree with Chua's parenting priorities. Traditional academic success isn't that important to me. Don't get me wrong: I'd like my kids (ages 8 and almost 4) to be smart, and I really hope that they develop a life-long love of learning, but I'm not about to drill them on multiplication tables (the older one still doesn't have them down) or otherwise "demand" some specific academic outcome. Unlike Chua, I'm much more interested in the learning process. I want them to enjoy learning, because I think learning is fun, and fun (unlike parental demands) is sustainable. I want them to learn because they are curious, not because they're forced. I want them to learn because it meets their own needs, not because it meets mine.

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http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~lyubansk/

Mikhail Lyubansky, Ph.D., is a member of the teaching faculty in the Department of Psychology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he teaches Psychology of Race and Ethnicity, Theories of Psychotherapy, and a graduate-level restorative justice practicum based at a youth detention center. An autobiographical essay of Mikhail's interests in race relations and basketball is available here.

Since 2009, Mikhail has been learning, facilitating, evaluating, and supporting others in the U.S. in learning about Restorative Circles, a restorative practice developed in Brazil by Dominic Barter and his associates. In addition to conflict and restorative practices, Mikhail also has a long-standing interest (going back about 20 years) in race and (more...)
 

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After writing this, I heard from sources I trust t... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Wednesday, Jan 19, 2011 at 8:55:52 PM
Initially, Chua comes from a very good "genetic" l... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 12:43:30 AM
But I would add that considering that Amy Chua is ... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:01:18 AM
Like yours, Mikhail, they were risk takers, except... by Margaret Bassett on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:50:23 AM
US had bred a lot of nutcases through her history... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 4:53:20 PM
It seems Chua's parents are what we call "involved... by phidipidese on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 6:31:54 PM
are not uncommon in any family - no matter what th... by Doc McCoy on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 7:19:08 PM
You are obviously instructing the creme de la crem... by phidipidese on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 11:38:15 PM
No - my students are not the cream of the crop by ... by Doc McCoy on Friday, Jan 21, 2011 at 2:06:40 AM
If we want to be objective we should not concentr... by Mark Sashine on Thursday, Jan 20, 2011 at 8:18:49 PM
Present-day Academia, or as it should be called, Q... by Phil DeGrave on Friday, Jan 21, 2011 at 4:27:16 PM
Dismissing all academics and all academic work in ... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 10:47:53 AM
Liberalism creates spoiled rotten children who do ... by Tim Harney on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 8:22:52 AM
In America we have a problem with unequal rights b... by Tim Harney on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 8:25:41 AM
I like having data, but I like to know where the d... by Mikhail Lyubansky on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 11:03:54 AM
Correct - This is for the US and not China. The d... by Doc McCoy on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 11:51:55 AM
I did not want my children to try too hard or to a... by BFalcon on Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011 at 7:41:27 PM
Hello Mikhail!I quoted only a portion of the avail... by Tim Harney on Sunday, Jan 23, 2011 at 1:23:51 PM
The first President Eisenhower campaign brought a ... by Margaret Bassett on Saturday, Jan 22, 2011 at 11:21:52 AM
I hope this link-in thingy works... Click Here... by Tim Harney on Sunday, Jan 23, 2011 at 10:04:46 AM