Hello, Rocochet-ers (Ricocettes?). First, thanks, Ursula Hennessey, for nudging me to continue posting here. I’d like to say the reason I’m so lax is that I’m juggling a book deadline, a new e-letter project that will debut in February, the regular stuff I write for pay and a host of media appearances. I am, but the problem is actually (middle aged confession alert) bunion surgery. Who knew keeping your foot elevated would be so…time consuming?
Claire mentioned the hoopla about Amy Chua’s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” when it was first excerpted in the Wall Street Journal. It’s been mentioned in a couple of other posts as well. In fact, in the ten days or so since that WSJ article appeared, the blogosphere has been consumed with this topic, including a defense of her mother by Chua’s elder daughter. (I wrote a column about it for today’s Washington Times, too.)
Oddly enough, I have some sympathy for Amy Chua. Her parenting memoir has stirred an unimagined negative response, though I’m not sure why she didn’t consider that comparing her “Chinese mothering” tactics to “Western parenting” wouldn’t create acrimony. She does call us Westerners lazy, after all.
But like I said, I feel for her a little bit. Back in 2008 when I released “Bringing Up Geeks: How to Protect Your Kid’s Childhood in a Grow-up-too-fast World,” I took a fair amount of heat for proclaiming loudly and proudly that I didn’t let my pre-teens have Facebook pages, cell phones, or movie dates with boys.
I advocated a stricter sort of parenting, in which mom and dad make rules intended for our children’s well being, and kids are expected to obey those rules…because we say so. I said parents ought to stop buddying up to their kids and instead, play the role that only they can play: mother and father.
I said family time was more important that a busy adolescent social life. I said too much media corrupts childhood innocence. I said the most important aspect of parenting is instilling values and virtues, not making kids happy or assuring their success in some field of competition or another.
I said parents needed to stop following the herd and instead carve the path that reflects their own values and beliefs. I said kids yearn for spirituality and it’s the job of parents to help them grow in faith –not mine – but whatever every particular set of parents happens to believe.
Frankly, I didn’t think any of what I said was rocket science. The whole “geek parenting” model is based on the common sense notion that it’s better for kids to be themselves and to grow up with limits and high expectations, than it is to help them climb the ladder toward popularity and social prominence. In short, I said it’s not good for kids to be too cool.
Still, I’ll never forget the person who called in when I appeared on NPR’s “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” and said I was a cruel, cruel woman for denying my children the essentials in life that allowed them to have friends and be accepted. I was condemning my children to a life of loneliness and isolation. Someday, assuming they hadn’t all jumped in front of train during high school, they would resent me. (They don’t.)
If you’ve followed any of the debate about Amy Chua’s parenting ideas, you know why I can relate just a bit to her experience. But only a little.
Like Chua, I’m not a child development or parenting “expert.” I’m a mother of four with an English degree, which means I have a lot of opinions and experiences, and a knack for writing them down. (Chua’s a mother of two with a law degree and an endowed professorship at Yale Law School, but in all honestly, I think two extra kids trumps a juris doctor. I’m just sayin.)
Unlike Chua, my book wasn’t a memoir but was, in fact, an attempt to instruct other parents in the common sense practices that work in my home.
Chua’s (fabulously successful and yes I’m jealous) book has brought to the forefront the subject of what constitutes good parenting, and that’s a good thing. For more than seven years, I’ve been writing and speaking about the connection between our society’s parenting skills (or lack thereof) and the end result – a generation without authentic good character or a moral compass to guide it. The consequences to our nation are becoming more obvious every day.
Unfortunatley, as I said in my column, her book has stirred the wrong debate. Instead of obsessing over our kids’ potential for success or their quests for happiness, we really ought to focus on the condition of their hearts. When developing the character of our children is our primary objective, the rest tends to fall into place.