Let’s face it: an overwhelming number of the modern world’s greatest achievements have come from the United States. Behind all of those accomplishments are human beings, all of whom, presumably, have mothers and fathers. So I ask: If this is true, why are American parents — more specifically, American mothers — so insecure about the way they raise their children? Why are they so certain that somewhere else in the world, parents in other countries and cultures must be doing it better?
First it was Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” comparing American mothers unfavorably to their Chinese counterparts, and finding Americans terribly lacking when it comes to producing classical music virtuosos and getting kids accepted to Harvard. Chua made moms very existence did not revolve around schlepping children to study with the world’s top violinists, and drilling them in algebra and chemistry feel horribly lacking.
Now, after the mommy brigade has barely recovered from Chua-mania comes “Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting” by Pamela Druckerman. The title alone turned my stomach with its implication that if French parenting is wise, the Americans version must clearly be unwise. The British publisher of the same book judiciously injected a little skeptical humor into the title, naming the book “French Children Don’t Throw Food” (because, really, would the British ever admit that the French possessed superior wisdom?)
We’re almost at the end of 2011.
So can we be done now with the “animal” parents thing? There is no way you can pretend like you don’t know what I am talking about, what with the Oxford English Dictionary having just voted “tiger mother” a runner up for word of the year (the winner was “squeezed middle” aka the 99%).
For much of the year, we have had to endure the nonstop and still ongoing hype over Amy Chua’s “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” But the animal parenting has not been limited to large cats. Lisa Belkin reminded us in her Parentlode blog (for those of you who missed the memo, she recently ended her Motherlode gig at the New York Times and jumped over to HuffPo and gave her blog a more egalitarian name) that there are also “panda dads,” “hippo parents” (not a weight reference), “koala moms,” “pussycat moms,” “free range parents” (as in chickens, and the parenting style advocated by Forward contributor Lenore Skenazy), and “chameleon parents.” Belkin does a nice job explaining what all these different parenting styles are in a slideshow that accompanies her post.
I had decided that I was going to stay out of the “Tiger Mother” fray, but a visit to the local public library made me change my mind.
If the number of holds at the library on Amy Chua’s “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (83) as compared to those on Wendy Mogel’s new parenting book, “The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers” (7) is any indication, then the answer to Allison Kaplan Sommer’s recent post asking whether Chinese mothers leave Jewish mothers in the dust would be a resounding “yes.” And that worries me.
In fact, Kaplan Sommer referenced a Jewlicious post that mentioned Mogel’s book. Being that it was Jewlicious, Mogel’s main point about the importance of letting kids screw up, learn from their mistakes, and find their own way (within reason) was humorously paraphrased for maximum satirical effect. I, on the other hand, am dead serious about following Mogel’s sage advice, given the fact that it is possible — if not probable — that the kind of pressure put on kids by the kind of parenting advocated by Chua has contributed in some way to the recent cluster of teen suicides that has plagued my over-achieving community of Palo Alto, California.
For those of you not plugged into the ongoing chatter in the parenting blogosphere, the buzz over the past week has been the great debate over Chinese so-called Tiger Mothers.
It seems that Yale Law Professor Amy Chua’s piece in the Wall Street Journal struck a chord to which no writing or blogging mother could remain indifferent.
The piece was an excerpt from her book, which has since rocketed up the Amazon charts titled The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
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