Amy Chau’s column in the WSJ has triggered an avalanche of discussion, both online and in real life. On the playground, in the parenting blogosphere I have heard of not much else this week.
The accepted paradigm among parents right now, it seems, is the “Happiest Toddler on the Block”, attachment parenting, self-esteem building, organic food, child-centered model. How’s that for stringing together a bunch of cliches? Parents I know, especially those parenting after IF, have such high standards for themselves, and they all seem to be centered around making sure your child is happy and secure. Very noble aims.
So Chua’s article, which reveals a parenting style that seems totally at odds with this prevailing philosophy, has provoked much outrage and hand-wringing. The example the author gives of teaching her daughter to play a difficult piano piece through tactics that seem unimaginable to me (the denial of bathroom rights, verbal insults and just plain meanness, if I can put my own interpretation in here) makes me nauseatingly uneasy. I could never be that cruel to my children.
But I think people’s reaction to the article also highlights how difficult parenting is. I think at heart we all want our children to be wildly successful. Who doesn’t want their children to attend Ivy League schools, play Carnegie Hall and fully live up to their potential? (I do, if I’m being honest with myself.) But, in order to help our children achieve these goals, is it necessary to use tactics that make us deeply uncomfortable and will possibly scar our children for life? Will our children’s happiness depend more on their level of achievement or our level of support and how do we mix the two in an appropriate way?
All I can come up with is that I have to parent in a way that feels true to what my kids need. My kids need my love and support but they also need limits and ways to cope with the demands of the world outside our home. If I can successfully provide the right balance of those things, I hope to bring them much joy and happiness.