Why in the world would any of us take directives on parenting from a legal scholar? With all due respect to my friends and clients who are attorneys, but seriously? I certainly wouldn't suggest that anyone take legal or financial advice from me, a family therapist. So what's at the heart of the uproar in regard to Amy Chua and her outrageously intrusive and controlling approach to parenting?
Chua is a law professor and author of the newly published, controversial memoir "Battle Hymm of the Tiger Mother." While some say that she meant to be ironic and self-mocking, about her endorsement of the "Asian mother as scheming, callous, overdriven and indifferent to their kid's true interests," many aren't laughing.
I've seen children raised in the rigid, demanding, narcissistic way that Chua advocates. Rooting from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds, they end up in my therapy office anxious, disordered and lost for how to find a meaningful relationship with another person. Yes, they may have graduated at the top of their class and have impeccable pedigree from elite institutions, but they aren't content and have no clue how to feel good about their achievements. They have overactive inner critics and underactive inner supports.
My colleague Ken Ginsburg, author of several parenting books, says that when raised with image-obsessed parenting, teens will respond by saying, "I should be what they tell me I must be." The art of obsessive parenting -- aka Chua style -- most often sets a child up to feel of value only when they are pleasing someone else. It predisposes them to psych-out what others might want from them and then make it happen. Over time "being good" at this doesn't work to build real self-esteem, instead it drives them toward a frenzy of perfectionism, self-criticism and self-doubt.
In her essay, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," published in The Wall Street Journal, Chua arrogantly suggests that she knows best and if we don't do as she does, our kids may turn out to be less than. Parent's today, especially mothers, are terrified of being "less than" so they are in an uproar and need to be assured that this is not the guru to follow.
Humiliation and shame successfully break a child's spirit in exchange for submission and control. It may give a parent a sense of domination and power, but it doesn't make a child trust their parent or confide in them when they are in need of guidance. It creates division between the one with rights and the one without, causing resentment, dissociation and a need to distance on the part of the child. Mother, fathers, you decide -- power and control over another to boost your ego, or connection and closeness built upon encouragement and respect? I suggest the later.