I have just finished Amy Chua’s book, ” Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. It was a quick and easy read, I managed to finish the book in one day. A friend of mine loaned it to me and it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.
Last Tuesday at gym, Ally had a meltdown and we are talking the mother of meltdowns. Ever since we’ve changed her class, she has struggled at the beginning of most lessons. She is intimidated by the older children and just by the sheer size of the class. Her coaches have been nothing short of wonderful through it all. Each week before class starts, we have a prep talk. I explain to her what I expect her to do and at the same time, warn her of the consequences if she doesn’t behave.
We walk into the gym and once the kids gather for their warm ups, I can see her lower lip beginning to quiver. I stay next to her for the first few minutes than slowly make my way to the mat beside the children. The minute she saw me walking away, she lost the plot. She screamed and cried and no one could calm her down. I took her aside since she was disturbing the rest of the kids and spoke to her. But I could tell that she wasn’t listening , she was too absorbed in her crying and screaming. I knew the only way to snap her out of it was to do something drastic, so I became the Tiger Mother. I threatened her with punishments , she screamed. I scolded her for her behavior, she screamed. Basically you could see where this was going. In the end I got extremely upset with her and walked her back to the mat and told her to pull herself together. I walked away, ignoring her crying and screaming. Max chose to act up at that same moment so he got a telling off as well. I could feel all ther other mother’s eyes on me. The majority of parents were expats and one mother had this look on her face like she could not believe how I had just treated my child. I knew everyone was watching and judging my parenting skills, I even overheard one mother telling another about how Chinese mothers are so hard on their children.
Am I proud of the fact that I had to threaten, scold and punish Ally in order for her to participate? No. But I needed Ally to know that we had paid for her classes, I spend my afternoon driving her to and from the gym, dragging Max along and therefore she was expected to do her best. The funny thing is, once she gets into the class, she is absolutely fine. It’s always the first 10 minutes that are an absolute nightmare. I don’t expect her to become an olympic gymnast, but I expect her to put in 100% and to try her best.
I don’t necessarily agree with Amy Chua’s parenting tactics, yet I can see some of her points. She pushed both girls to learn a musical instrument. Her younger daughter reminds me very much of Ally, she questions and argues whenever you ask her to do something or does the direct opposite of what you’ve asked her to do, just because she knows it will annoy you. Yet Chua pushed her to continue practising and learning the violin cos she could see that her daughter had the real potential to become a great musician. I feel the same way with Ally and her gym, she has great potential and is the ideal built for a gymnast. She loves the sport, but obviously has to work through this huge hurdle. Which is why week after week, I go through this stressful routine with her.
Chua once locked her younger daughter outside in the snow because the girl was being defiant. I once placed Ally outside the gate of our house because she was rude and disrespectful. I said to her if she wanted to live under my roof, she would have to learn to obey my rules. She was 3 years old. I know many parents would be appalled by what I did. I had to make a point and made sure it stuck in her mind. True enough to this day she has not made that same mistake.
I am the first to admit that I run a tight ship with the children. I expect them to toe the line, when they cross it, they know there are consequences and they know that I will carry out those consequences. On the flip side, I praise them when they are good and throughout the day I give them hugs and kisses.
Am I a Tiger mother? Maybe to a certain extent, I like to think that I’m a fair parent to the children. One who isn’t unreasonable but not one that they can step all over. At the end of the day, I’m trying my best to raise my kids in the way that I think it’s right.