Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tiger Mother, meet Dog Mama

There has been more hoopla about poor Amy Chua’s book entitled “Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother” than anyone could have imagined. In an article she wrote about her book in the Wall Street Journal, she stated that her teenage daughters have been raised in a “tiger mother” style home with exceptionally strict rules. Her rules include no sleepovers, no TV, no computer games, no school plays, nothing less than an A, and copious amount of instrument practice each day. The instruments must be either piano or violin.
No exceptions.
No whining.
Her daughters have appeared on many media clips saying they find nothing wrong with their upbringing, especially since they know no other way of life.
The Tiger Mom herself has appeared over and over, defending her book and proclaiming that it was never meant to be a how-to book, just the way she does things.
But that doesn’t mean that a zillion mommy blogs out there aren’t doing their best to trash this poor woman who has put her own life out there for all to see, tear up, rip apart, and spit back out, while the Chua daughters spend hours on the violin and reading classic novels.
So it would be remiss of me to not throw in my own two cents, because if you asked my own kids, they would tell you that I can be pretty mean sometimes myself.
I do let my kids watch TV, but not channels with commercials. Sometimes I force them to play computer games just so they stop fighting (although four out of five times they then fight over the computer.) I allow them to play video games only if I’m allowed to play and get dibs on the guitar or race car of my choice. But I also force them to do other things, like the dreaded daily piano practice that sends my average child into a dramatic whorl of sloth-dom, careening into sluggish sobs on the floor because he or she would do anything rather than practice.
They are also forced to get good grades, or the best grades I believe they can get. They are expected to try new foods, clean their plates, have spectacular manners, and go to bed when we tell them.
If they don’t, there are consequences. If they do follow the rules set forth, there are rewards. It’s the reward part that sets me apart from the Tiger Mother and makes me realize I’m nothing more than a big, fuzzy Dog Mama.
I like to watch my “puppies” grow. I force them to do things that will better themselves and make them better, stronger, and smarter. There are no exceptions, and if there is whining, it will rightfully be ignored, as mothers of all types have been doing for thousands of years regardless of what part of the Earth they come from.
If you’ve ever seen the way an animal raises its young, there’s plenty of tough love to go around. (Consider the little birdie being pushed out of the nest, forced to fly.) But there’s also plenty of the not-tough love, too, which is what I think makes me less of a tiger and more of a dog.
I like to snuggle my kids. I like their warm skin, their stinky breath, the way they get all sweaty when they fall asleep when they cuddle under my arm as I read them books.
I also like to watch them succeed and see their smiles when they are rewarded for going beyond the normal call of kid duty. They get showered with as many gifts as I can give because I know they work hard when they do their very best, and I can only wish that trips to the toy store or their favorite meals out were as inexpensive as dog biscuits.
For as many different parenting styles as there are out there, one bottom line remains: we do what we do because we want the best for our children. And if this Dog Mama ever had a chance to meet up with a Tiger Mother, I can guarantee no fight from my side. If anything, I’d shake her hand, roll over, and see if she wanted to go fetch a cup of tea.

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