God Loves Tiger Moms

Dear Korean,

I'm writing in response to what you've discussed in your post about Professor Chua's article: in general, you seem to espouse the stance that hard-line parenting is best. If I'm correct in recalling your mentioning Christian faith somewhere in your blog, how do you reconcile your faith with your support of Chua's parenting? Regardless of whether children are happy playing piano more than an hour a day, could they actually become godly in an environment that emphasizes personal achievement over human relationships? I fail to see how a God who calls rich young men to lay down their riches - who tells us to love Him and others extravagantly, and as a pursuit higher than acquiring knowledge or doing good works - could possibly be squeezed into the busy lives of Chua's daughters.

Katherine


Dear Katherine,

You recall correctly -- the Korean is a church-going Christian who takes his faith seriously. That means that the following caveat is necessary:

ATTENTION, asshole atheists who troll the Internet. The Korean respects atheists. The Korean does not respect assholes. The respectable atheists write thoughtful books, articles and blog posts about their beliefs. The asshole atheists go around the Internet, latch onto any marginally pertaining to religion, and screech and holler about how religion is stupid and so are the religious people. The Korean takes all comers -- if you want to debate religion with him, send him an email. Don't shit on the comment board just because religious people want to discuss religion. It is a sad statement on you people that this kind of caveat is even necessary.

With that out of the way, the Korean must add another caveat. While the Korean is a serious Christian, he is not any sort of authority. It's not like he attended a seminary. This is just what he thinks, based on what he believes. Take this post for what it is.

Now, onto the question. Katherine is actually asking two questions. First question is -- could Tiger Cubs become godly in an environment that emphasizes personal achievement over human relationships?

This question begins from a false premise. The greatest misconception about Tiger Parenting is that it leaves no room for human relationships. The champion of this misconception is New York Times' David Brooks, who wrote:
Participating in a well-functioning group is really hard. It requires the ability to trust people outside your kinship circle, read intonations and moods, understand how the psychological pieces each person brings to the room can and cannot fit together.

This skill set is not taught formally, but it is imparted through arduous experiences. These are exactly the kinds of difficult experiences Chua shelters her children from by making them rush home to hit the homework table.

Chua would do better to see the classroom as a cognitive break from the truly arduous tests of childhood. Where do they learn how to manage people? Where do they learn to construct and manipulate metaphors? Where do they learn to perceive details of a scene the way a hunter reads a landscape? Where do they learn how to detect their own shortcomings? Where do they learn how to put themselves in others’ minds and anticipate others’ reactions?

These and a million other skills are imparted by the informal maturity process and are not developed if formal learning monopolizes a child’s time.
Amy Chua is a Wimp [New York Times] (emphasis added)

(Would you be surprised that this article was sent or referred to the Korean a few dozen times? No? Ok, let's move on.)

Brooks might have a point if indeed formal learning utterly, completely monopolized a child's time under Tiger Parenting. But that is just not true. It is not as if Prof. Chua chained her daughter to the piano. Prof. Chua's daughters went to school, where they surely must have had many group projects for which group management is crucial. Prof. Chua's daughters surely must have hung out with their friends during breaks in school. Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld has a boyfriend, for crying out loud. This misconception lives on because often, critics of Tiger Parenting have no idea what Tiger Parenting actually looks like. So they conjure up the most horrifying image, and spend their time railing against that specter. In essence, this is no more than a variation of the "roboticity" argument, which is wrong, wrong and wrong some more because it just has no basis in reality.

As Katherine correctly implies, being a godly Christian entails sharing your faith with your fellow Christians. Tiger Parenting does not foreclose this type of sharing. The thriving Asian American churches all across America are proofs that Tiger Cubs have no problem getting together to share their faith. (As the Korean explained previously, Asian Americans are not the only Tiger Cubs of America -- but they serve as a reliable indicator of Tiger Cub behavior, because they are most likely to have Tiger Moms.)

Let us now address Katherine's bigger question:  How does the Korean reconcile his faith with Tiger Parenting?

The Korean believes that Christianity can serve as a guardrail to prevent Tiger Parenting from going wrong. The Korean has no doubt that Tiger Parenting is superior. But as he explained previously, that does not mean Tiger Parenting is perfect. And one of the greatest imperfections of Tiger Parenting is that unless it is firmly backstopped by love, it runs the risk of becoming an ego-tripping trophy creation by the parents.

By submitting oneself to God, a Christian parent will have a healthier perspective on what they can do for their children, and what must be left to God. Following God's words serves as a good reminder that no one can do exactly what s/he wants to do. On a more practical level, regular participation in church service and activities increases the social interactions over which the critics of Tiger Parenting so worry. This way, Christianity can serve as an essential complement to Tiger Parenting.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.