According to the Associated Press, Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother “has dominated school-gate conversation in Hong Kong, with parents soul-searching over how much they demand of their children.” The rest of the article, however, doesn’t indicate that there’s much soul-searching going on. Instead it showcases the insecurities of parents who are trying even harder than Amy Chua to be “Chinese parents,” probably because, you know, they actually live in China.
Take Jachinson Chan, for example, whose daughters, aged 11 and 13, “are ferried to an extracurricular activity every day of the week — from Spanish to guitar, tennis and extra mathematics.” He says, “We’re a joke among our friends because we don’t have that many activities.” In China, mastering the piano and violin – as Chua’s daughters have done – is no big deal. Chan says, “If your kid is in primary school and he or she can play the piano really well, the schools will yawn. You need trombone, for example — something that not many people want to play. Parents are encouraging their kids to play the oboe.”
The oboe is pretty high up on the list of Instruments That Will Never Get You Into a Rock Band, but come on, Tiger Parents, you can do better than that! What about the harp? Hammered dulcimer? Piccolo? The best part of having your kid learn one of these instruments is that they can cheer themselves up when they become one of the 82% of Chinese students that isn’t accepted to college.
Here’s the worst part of the story: “A survey by retail group Plaza Hollywood in April said more than two-thirds of Hong Kong parents placed a higher premium on their child’s grades than their health” and “Media reports have said that children as young as three are being taught for 10 hours a day at some kindergartens.” (And I thought Kumon classes were a crazy idea!)
Maria Leung, a Hong Kong mom, blames “China’s Confucian parenting values” for her helicopter parenting. “Hong Kong children have a very unique style,” she says. “They may be overpowered by their helicopter parents,” Leung says, but adds that for Chinese parents, hovering implies “really taking care of the child.”
Parent-child relations are so stressful in Hong Kong that a local charity “has launched a campaign simply to encourage parents to spend more time with their children.” Chinese parents aren’t used to simply being with their children. Chan says Hong Kong parents are “much more goal-oriented: everything we do as a parent has a purpose.” I get that. Everything I do as a parent has a purpose, too. Like when I turn the television on so I can get some work done – I flick that remote with purpose. I push the buttons, “1-2-9,” with agility. I tune out the squeaky voices of the cartoon characters on the screen with great ease and I write about Chinese parents who are taking their kids to oboe lessons. (My daughter is excelling at the egg shaker, thank you very much.)
Leung says Chinese parenting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, even in China. According to the AP, Leung “recalled that at the end of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, Chua adapted and relaxed her approach to parenting.” Leung told reporters, “She learnt a lesson. I hope tiger mothers here can learn the same lesson as Amy.”
Babble Dispatch: The Over-Parenting Crisis