What's behind our obsessive Amy Chua disorder?
Over the course of the last 13 days, Gabrielle Giffords survived a shot to the head; Tunisians overthrew their government; Sarah Palin tried to change the meaning of "blood libel"; Sen. Joe Lieberman announced his retirement; Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver died; and President Obama made nice with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Through it all, "Tiger mother" Amy Chua has continued to dominate the national conversation, igniting debate over how best to parent our children.
In reaction to Chua's control-freak parenting style, there's been a tidal wave of Western-mom defense. Unhappy children become unsuccessful adults. Children need to learn social skills so that they can navigate the real world. Chua's style of parenting creates sexual basket cases, and it certainly doesn't create leaders. If the Chinese method of parenting is so great, why are parents in China now following the U.S. model? And then there's my personal favorite, care of Jewish mom Wendy Sachs, who thinks parents ought to encourage a culture of debate -- and not subservience -- in their households. "Perhaps that's why there are so many Jewish lawyers," she argues. Oh snap.
In Chua's defense, the reactors have largely focused their commentary on the part of her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," that was excerpted in the Wall Street Journal -- not the whole story in which she evolves into a slightly less ferocious tigress that loosens up enough to allow her children sleepovers.
Even so, we can't get over the "us-versus-them" parenting debate, which the Jan. 12 episode of "Modern Family" captured so well. So what's our deal -- why are we still obsessing? One theory is that we don't want to admit that maybe we've gone too soft with our Montessori schools and an attitude that children deserve a vote. But I suspect, like Paul Whitefield, that the obsession is pegged to our inferiority complex with China. China might soon become a global superpower, with more money, environmental resources, military muscle and international allies, but we'll be darned if their kids are better than ours.
Personally, I believe in a combo-parenting plan. Hold your kids accountable for good grades, encourage a spirit of competition, nurture their creativity, and have their friends over. If all goes well, that should result in a triple-threat: ambition, creativity and networking savvy, which, in L.A. at least, are skills that are rewarded with a big Hollywood paycheck.
Of course, no parent truly nails it. If they did, what would we have to talk to their therapists about?
-- Alexandra Le Tellier
Photo: Book cover for "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua. Credit: The Penguin Press / Associated Press