Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Diane Rehm is interviewing Amy Chua this morning over her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amazon included this review excerpt from Publishers Weekly:

Chua (Day of Empire) imparts the secret behind the stereotypical Asian child's phenomenal success: the Chinese mother. Chua promotes what has traditionally worked very well in raising children: strict, Old World, uncompromising values--and the parents don't have to be Chinese. What they are, however, are different from what she sees as indulgent and permissive Western parents: stressing academic performance above all, never accepting a mediocre grade, insisting on drilling and practice, and instilling respect for authority. Chua and her Jewish husband (both are professors at Yale Law) raised two girls, and her account of their formative years achieving amazing success in school and music performance proves both a model and a cautionary tale... (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Her book sounds pretty shocking and hard-edged, but she's has an interesting take on parenting. She believes that self-esteem comes more from actual achievement and not a parent's puffed-up praise during the child's youth, so she feels like her discipline and pushing benefited her daughters more than coddling and allowing play time would have. She also emphasized in her interview that there's an arc to the book and that later she questions and pulls back on some of her methods, particularly acknowledging the individuality of her second daughter and adjusting to a (somewhat) gentler, more lenient parenting style.

I absolutely believe in positive reinforcement, but I'm also suspicious of this everybody-gets-a trophy child rearing culture... because eventually everybody does have to enter the real world where they really do just care about what you can do and they aren't going to give you the benefit of the doubt and you have to work really hard and them's the facts. And how loving am I really being if I repeat over and over that she is the best basketball player ever... and she's not? I mean, children figure this stuff out pretty quickly, right? Will hyper-praise make my words meaningless to her? How do you navigate that?

I'm really curious how Christianity plays into and directs parenting style. I've been thinking about how grace and an unconditionally loving Father God dictates how one disciplines and motivates. I'm wondering about self-esteem and security and how to establish those in Bradly in a practical way by making them about her identity and not her behavior and achievements and trophies... but at the same time, to encourage her to fully use her gifts and work hard and stretch and invest her talents. Oh me. Are we ready for all this?

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