Judging from the sales of the bestseller “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother“, many parents seem to have taken to the perfectionistic parenting philosophy of the author, Amy Chua, but not realising that there could be a flip (and detrimental) side to it.
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Chua disclosed that in raising up her two daughters Sophia and Louisa, she forbade them to “get any grade less than an A” or to “not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama“.
“Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, “You’re lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you.”” wrote Chua in The Wall Street Journal.
“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.”
Now, Chua may have succeeded in raising her two daughters this way, but one should be cautious about emulating her, as highlighted by a recent case in Singapore.
Recently, a straight-As student who attended a top school in Singapore committed suicide over scoring two Bs in her GCE “O” levels, reported Singaporean daily, The New Paper.
The GCE “O” levels is the final exam for teenage secondary school students in Singapore and except for two Bs – in English and Mathematics – the student had scored distinctions for her other subjects.
The only child left a note for her parents: “Mum, I am sorry for being a disappointment. I should have done better.”
“Dad, I am sorry you will not have the chance to walk me down the (church) aisle to give me away.”
The teenager jumped to her death just three hours after learning of her results.
To add to the tragedy, three months after the 16-year-old had plunged to her death, the teen’s mother also killed herself.
According to Madam Ng Siang Mui, the grandmother of the teenager, the teen’s mother had been grief-stricken and guilt-ridden over her granddaughter’s death.
The teen’s parents used to fight over their daughter’s education. The mum wanted to push her to excel and her dad felt that the child should be left alone.
Said Madam Ng, “My Xiao Mei (her granddaughter) was always affected whenever her parents fought over her studies.”
“My son-in-law felt very sorry for his daughter. He used to approach me to help him talk to my daughter, to ask her not to push Xiao Mei too hard. He felt that they should let Xiao Mei be, as she was a good girl.”
“Whenever I tried to broach the issue with my daughter, she’d get angry and tell me not to interfere with the way she wanted to bring her child up.”
“She often compared Xiao Mei’s results with those of her friends’ children and would ask, ‘How come so and so can do this and you cannot?‘”
Xiao Mei’s mother wanted her to get into medical school.
Madam Ng said that a month after Xiao Mei’s death, her father moved out.
“That broke my daughter’s heart. I think it was then that she, too, gave up living.”
Madam Ng recalled the conversation she had with her daughter a day before she killed herself.
“She told me, ‘Ma, I shouldn’t have pressurised Xiao Mei in her studies. You didn’t do that to us when we were young and we all turned out fine’.”
According to The New Paper, Xiao Mei’s father is now mentally unstable and seeking psychiatric help.
Madam Ng was originally reluctant to speak to the media, but changed her mind later because she hoped that sharing their story could help save lives.
It should be highlighted that Xiao Mei is Chinese, and her profile fits that which Amy Chua had written in the The Wall Street Journal about children raised in Chinese homes.
That said, although Chua esteems the draconian Chinese approach in pushing their children to achieve academically, it’s clear from Xiao Mei’s case that there is a detrimental aspect of it, which Chua did not mention in her book.
Above: Amy Chua (author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) with Hillary Clinton (Source: Facebook)