On Having the Courage of Your Convictions
Parenting is undoubtedly tough. Whatever we do, there are books telling us we're doing it wrong, family members telling us we're doing it wrong, complete strangers telling us we're doing it wrong...
Just a couple of weeks into the New Year, there's some new and original parent-bashing. This time by author and Yale law professor Amy Chua in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
In her article in the Wall Street Journal, she tells Western parents where they're going wrong and how Chinese parents raise such 'stereotypically successful children' (her words - not mine).
To say that her thoughts of how to raise children successfully are at odds with my own would be a gross understatement. The following excerpt from the Guardian sums up her views very well:
Chua argues that western parents, with their emphasis on nurturing their children's self-esteem and allowing free expression, have set their children up to accept mediocrity.
"Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently", she says.
If their child doesn't achieve perfect exam results, the Chinese parent assumes it's because he or she didn't work hard enough.
"That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child," Chua says.
And it is crucial for a mother to have the "fortitude" to override her children's preferences, because to enjoy anything you have to be good at it, to be good at it you have to work, and children on their own never wish to work, she adds.
(Nor is it just solely in the arena of schoolwork that a healthy disregard for your child's feelings is recommended. Where a western mother would tremble, a Chinese mother, Chua says, would not hesitate to say to her child: "Hey fatty ? lose some weight.")
I disagree in the strongest possible terms to her approach. There are countless reasons why her approach makes me deeply uncomfortable. I also find the notion that Western parents are setting up their children to accept mediocrity both ridiculous and insulting.
I'm also irritated by the title of her WSJ article - "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" - though I realise of course that provocative article titles are still very much en vogue to create stand-out and debate.
But, much as I disagree with her approach, I can't help but be impressed by her. I have to admit that she has the courage of her convictions, and as a parent, that's something I sometimes struggle with; but I'm working on it.
Her approach is not right for me as a parent, and it's not right for my children.
But I will take a leaf out of Amy Chua's book (figuratively speaking).
In the future I hope to strengthen my confidence in my own style of parenting. I hope not to have my head turned by every new book, article or opinion that's expressed. And I would strongly encourage you to do the same.
Trust your gut, do your best and do what feels right for you and your family. Have the courage of your convictions. That's good parenting.