Fashion for Tiger Mothers

Everyone I know is talking about Yale Law professor about why Chinese mothers are superior to Western mothers. The piece is an teaser from Chua”s upcoming book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, on how to raise successful children, successful being defined in this context as “high-achieving to the extreme.”  Chua contrasts Western parents” permissive parenting strategies — and by permissive I mean “allowing children to do things other than schoolwork and practicing piano” — with her own Chinese style. Apparently, the piece received the highest number of comments ever on a single piece on the WSJ”s website. No wonder. It”s a piece intended to provoke a strong reaction. Here”s one very thoughtful response by Cynthia Liu.

I have been discussing this piece with my husband and my friends since it appeared over the weekend. And I have lots of serious thoughts about it. But nobody wants to hear any of those. Instead, I thought: if I were a Tiger Mother, what would I wear? It just so happens that animal prints continue to be a hot trend this winter.  I was browsing the latest Gilt Groupe sale today and I came across some items that no self-respecting Tiger Mother could live without — “cause you know a Tiger Mother is too savvy to pay retail:

When drilling your preschooler in the elements of the Periodic Table, remind them that AU stands for gold with this . (One can”t help but wonder, were Tam”s parents devastated that she didn”t grow up to be a concert pianist/cardiologist? Oh well! Their loss is our gain.)

Need to tell your child that she is “garbage” for being disrespectful to you? Nothing reinforces the point like this (above right), also by Vivienne Tam. For all intents and purposes, it looks just like a black Hefty bag!

When stomping on your”s child dream to play a villager in the upcoming school play, be sure to sport these chic . These 3.5 inch pumps are also useful for towering over your lazy, self-indulgent child during those marathon piano-practicing sessions.

Speaking of piano, it can be hard to stand there for hours on end, denying water and bathroom breaks — hey, those police interrogators know what they are doing! — while your seven-year-old works on getting the right hand and left hand to play the different rhythyms in Jacques Ibert”s charming piece, “The Little White Donkey.” When your resolve starts to weaken, usually about hour nine or so, glance down at from celebrity jewelry designer Kenneth Jay Lane. The tiger”s fierce visage will remind you that you, the mother, know what”s best for your child, and her own wishes and desires are meaningless.

Are you reading Amy Chua? I smell a cross-promotion coming on!

All photo credits courtesy of Gilt Groupe.


    • Emily says

      I predict that all kinds of animal mother images are about to emerge. I claimed to be a polar bear mother while freezing my ass off on the sledding hill this afternoon.

  1. Carollina says

    So Emily, just wanted to let you know I read the book. I recognized a lot of details, big and small. Let me be clear that I am not a good Asian mother (my youngest is a theater kid and I can’t get either of them to practice more than 15 minutes at a time). That said, here are my two quick reax:
    1) Amy Chua is right in her larger point. American parents are too permissive.
    2) However, a good deal of what she labels “Chinese parenting” is in fact her emotional tone-deafness. For example, reading her infamous “birthday card” episode, what is clear to me is that Ms. Chua is pissed at her husband for not doing enough for her birthday. Why couldn’t she just come out and say so? I found that weirdly passive-aggressive and un-Asian. (In my experience, passive-aggressiveness is more a Western thing. All the Asians I have ever known dispense with the passive and go straight for the aggressive.) She recounts that her husband “forgot” to make a reservation at a decent restaurant for her birthday, which is why the family is eating at a mediocre restaurant. It’s ALWAYS the spouse’s responsibility to set up more than 20 seconds to make a birthday card if the kids in question are seven and four.

    The author plays up the outrageous bits to gin up more publicity and sell books, which is good for her but too bad in the larger scheme of things. There are aspects of Asian parenting that would be better for the society in which our kids are growing up, and it would have been better in some ways for Ms. Chua’s kids if the author had more societal support. Unfortunately, the way she tells her story, the vast majority of Americans who read her book will relish the outrageous bits in the fascinated-by-a-car-wreck kind of way and congratulate themselves on not being like her. It’s odd the way the author winds up undercutting support for the parenting model she supposedly espouses. (BTW, I don’t think her books is actually a full-throated support of Asian parenting. I think she recognizes that it failed with her 2nd daughter.)

    Anyway, I loved your fashion commentary on the book. Do you know the Randy Newman song “Korean Parents”? You could have that playing in the background and have a multi-sensorial blog post!

    • Emily says

      Carollina, how quickly do you read? That’s amazing. I agree with your point, not having read the book yet myself. I think that Amy Chua had a valuable point to make but it is going to get lost because of the extremity of some of her anecdotes. Someone recommended a book to me called “Nurture Shock,” on the problem of over-praise and low expectations, and I am thinking about checking that out.

      • Carollina says

        Yes, I am fortunate in being able to read quickly. It served me well in high school when I could do my homework and read a Robert Ludlum novel in the same night :/

        BTW, I wish I could edit my first comment to read, “American parenting is a reflection of American cultural norms (which are often too permissive and overly concerned with self-realization).” Gee, is that sentence actually different from the one I actually wrote?

        I can’t help it. My reax to Ms. Chua’s book is tied (probably unfairly) to my reax to the reax to the local screening of “Race to Nowhere”. I also realize that a lot of my concerns are institutional, not cultural in nature (such as the fact that the US has the shortest school day/school year in the industrialized world & Illinois has the shortest in the US). But then again, don’t our institutions correlate at least somewhat with our cultural values?

        My take on all of this is also shaped by knowing that the Korea my parents emigrated from in order to start a family was, as Newsweek recently noted, very similar to Afghanistan (extreme destitution, no industry, and infrastructure pounded almost back to the Stone Age). Now Korea is perhaps the most wired country in the world; its internet infrastructure is far superior to what we have in the US. In the meantime, (I know those internationally normed tests aren’t necessarily the be-all and end-all), US students are number one in self-esteem AND NOTHING ELSE.

        Okay, enough of me ranting. Thanks for the conversation, Emily.