Life since mid-last year has been a frenzy, and I marvel at those who work full time, have kids, and still find the time and energy to vent meaningfully and intelligently, rather than collapsing into bed and falling asleep before your head hits the pillow. Don't get me wrong - I do vent, and a lot, but it tends to be work-related, face-to-face, and I therefore am careful of the words I choose and the company I keep.
So, now I get a chance to chill, although it took a major op to make me find the time again to blog (the op wasn't related to hypoblogging).
While I was recuperating, one well-meaning but deluded soul mistakenly assumed that, because I have three kids, I must therefore read parenting books. Note: number of parenting books I have read in my life = 0. Number of parenting books I intend to read = 0). The proffered book: "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother".
For those who successfully missed the storm of self-righteousness, congratulations. Amy Chua has been making herself known for defending her ultra demanding parenting style (not that I'm aware of anyone publicly challenging her, so why she wrote the book, I'm unsure). Ms Chua asserts that her extreme "Chinese"-style of parenting produces superior children.
Chua didn't let her own girls go out on play dates or sleepovers. She didn't let them watch tv or play video games, or take part in activities like crafts. Once, one of her daughters came in second to a Korean kid in a maths competition, so Chua made her daughter do 2,000 maths problems a night until she regained her supremacy (the daughter's supremacy, presumably). Once, her daughters gave her birthday cards that she deemed to be of insufficient quality, so Chua rejected them and demanded new cards. Once, she threatened to burn all of her daughter's stuffed animals unless she played a piece of music perfectly.
Through a leap of logic that isn't immediately clear to me, the result of this was Chua's daughters got straight As, and won a series of musical competitions.
Well, if mother (and presumably father too?) and daughters are content with this strategy, then I wish them all the best and ask that they don't contact me to boast when my sons come back from their tennis lessons with broken tennis racquets because they discovered rugby balls can't substitute tennis balls.
I believe Chua is actually protecting her children from the most intellectually demanding activities, because she doesn't understand what is cognitively difficult and what isn't. Practising a piece of music for four hours requires focused attention, but it is nowhere near as cognitively demanding as a sleepover with 14-year-old girls. Managing status rivalries, negotiating group dynamics, understanding social norms, navigating the distinction between group and self: these and other social tests impose cognitive demands that squash any intense disciplinary or tutoring sessions.
If you hadn't already guessed, I'm ambivalent about Chua's ideas. Admittedly, I only glanced at the book briefly before deciding its rightful place was in the hospital sterile rubbish bin (never a pleasant place). She fails to approach the issue of child rearing and education from any systematic, well considered perspective. I say this as a parent who admires the Montessori-style systematic and logical approach, and related disciplinary techniques. But I also think diversity in parenting styles is fine. To each their own.
But Chua led me to ponder (ok, recovery from a major op is boring) what a similar list might look like for a state-hating libertarian parent. Here's what I came up with.
My sons will not:
- be punished for not getting an A;
- be conscripted by the state to fight in its wars;
- be subjected to pro-state, pro-environmentalist propaganda, without the mother giving them anti-propaganda vaccinations at home;
- be forced to recycle;
- be lied to by their parents;
- be spanked or otherwise abusively punished;
- be taught that it is their duty to pay taxes;
- be taught that aggression in any form, private or public, is okay;
- be made to feel they have an "obligation" to "give something back" to "society" (quote marks used because I'm not sure what those words really mean);
- be talked down to just because they are children;
- be unaware of libertarian intellectual traditions;
- be made to feel their parents can't wait for them to grow up and get out of either parent's house;
- be made to feel like they are unwanted or a burden;
- be allowed to object to at least 10 kisses a day;
- be treated like less than a full human being with rights and dignity, just because they are "under age".
I confess, with my kids I am a labrador, to the extent that I will even eat their unfinished dinner. I'll stick to this for now. It's easier, more fun (if a little daring at times), and seems to be working for everyone.
May this be a lesson to anyone who deigns to give me a parenting book.