I believe my children can be high achievers in school without my screaming and threatening. My parents never screamed or threatened and I was always on the honor roll. I believe there are other ways of motivating, encouraging, and rewarding children without berating them.
One value overlooked in the excerpt (I admit I have not read the whole book) is kindness, which I believe to be important. How can I expect my children to possess empathy and demonstrate kindness to others if I am not empathetic and kind to them? That doesn’t mean I don’t have rules or don’t enforce them. It doesn’t mean I never get angry. But principally I want to treat my children with kindness and respect because that’s how I want to be treated and I want them to learn that from me.
To make your way in the world today requires more than just intelligence and hard work. You need to be able to make friends and forge meaningful relationships. I suppose Chua prohibits playdates, sleepovers, and participation in school plays and other noncompetitive extracurriculars because they take time away that could be spend studying and drilling and practicing. But I’d like my children to enjoy getting to know people, learn how to navigate social situations, and figure out how to make good decisions about who to spend time with and how to spend their time without my complete control. If I don’t allow this to happen now, how will they know how to behave and interact when they’re on their own at college or later?
Chua’s assertion that most rankled me was her perception that Western parents believe their children are fragile instead of strong and treat them as such. I believe my daughter is strong, but also human. She is not invulnerable to pain or hurt. I believe I have a lot to teach her, and sometimes it’s hard to get kids to do what you want them to do even when you know it’s right, and they get upset. I know my daughter is strong and resilient enough to learn from mistakes and correction and go forward. But I don’t need to test her strength by insulting her, calling her names, or inflicting punishments that far outweigh her transgressions.
Finally, I don’t want my house to be a warzone or my family combatants. If I make myself miserable by railing wildly on my daughter until she perfects something she’s struggling with, I’ll make her miserable too. We’ll both be miserable. I’m sure my husband will be made miserable in the process. That doesn’t mean I won’t push and encourage her to do her best. It doesn’t mean I won’t expect excellence when I know it’s within her reach. But creating a culture of crazy isn’t going to help us achieve anything, except new heights of craziness. Maybe that worked for Chua, but it’s not the way I want to raise my family.