Thursday, January 13, 2011

Battle Hymn of the "Tigger" Mother

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I’ve been reading with interest the reviews of Amy Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In it, Chua describes raising her two daughters the “Chinese way,” which seems to be a rigid method revolving around educational drilling, hours of music lessons and practice (piano or violin only, with or without any natural talent or inclination on the child’s part), and a parental demand for excellence (as defined by being better than everyone at everything). The “Chinese way” also calls for verbal abuse: browbeating and shaming a child who does not live up to those parental expectations of perfection.

In an interview with ParentDish, Chua described the difference between the Chinese way of parenting and a Western approach is that, “…Western parents worry much more about their children’s self-esteem whereas Chinese parents don’t. They assume strength rather than fragility, and because of that that they behave very differently. A lot of the techniques and things they say seem very harsh to Westerners.”

Well, maybe they seem harsh because they are harsh. Why parent harshly: being abusive with your language, not giving your child room to make choices that allow for her personal giftings, and demanding perfection? Growing up is hard enough.

I think I prefer to be a Tigger Mother. “Bouncing is what Tiggers do best,” the sage striped one often said. And bouncing aptly describes my Western parenting style.

Bouncing babies. Remember those years? Or perhaps you are in the middle of them. I remember bouncing, rocking, walking, and driving around colicky babies. I remember waking Rich in the middle of the night, at my wits' end, asking him to take over. I remember being guarded in how I spoke and the tone I used when my babies were babies--and still today. I didn’t always succeed, then or now, but I also remember asking my kids, time and time again, for forgiveness. Why? Probably because I had a Tigger Mother who refused to be harsh with me, and whenever she failed or thought she had failed, she was quick to ask my forgiveness. Imagine that: Parents who don’t expect perfection because they know they can’t live up to such a ridick-orous notion! Parents who, through their own failings, point their children to the salvation only achieved through the blood-bought perfection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Bouncing schedules. Contrary to the Tiger Mother, this Tigger Mother has long advocated bouncing my schedule around my calling as a mom. That meant incorporating play dates, oh yes, many years ago, which always turned into fun times for me, too! It has meant putting off things I wanted to do because there were games or recitals or choir productions where my presence would have been sorely missed. I’m no martyr, so don’t get me wrong here. It’s not like I have ever thought of this as a sacrifice. The sacrifice will come when I realize that my kids have grown up and I don’t have to juggle a schedule anymore.

Bouncing balls. I do have a pianist in the family, actually, but that was because she wanted to play the piano. And for the record, I admit I did force one year of piano on both of my boys, requiring them to get those piano basics in and learn to read music before choosing another instrument, which they did. David plays bass guitar, and Derek plays the drums. Yeah, my house is not quiet! But besides music, we have had bouncing balls around here forever! Basketball and baseball are the games of choice, with only a slight foray into soccer, one season’s worth, many years ago. I cannot imagine being a Tigger Mother without a ball bouncing, somewhere, at all times!

Interestingly enough, I read about the "Chinese way" the same day that Derek and I were reading about the Puritan way of parenting in The Light and the Glory. In the book, Peter Marshall and co-author David Manuel discuss how the Puritan way of parenting varies greatly from today's Western way (Tigger Mothers aside, of course, LOL), and the irony of this juxtaposition of views was not lost on me. Here's an excerpt:

Unlike most modern parents, the Puritans knew that their children did not belong to them; they belonged to God. Consequently, they did not possess them; on the contrary, they considered that their children had been entrusted to their care by God. They were to protect them, raise them, and teach them, training them up in the way that He would have them go. In other words, parenthood was a sacred responsibility in Christ, and if they failed to live up to it, they would be directly accountable to God.
Parenting is something I don't take lightly (thus the name, Mom Seriously). While it's fun to compare a Tiger Mother to a Tigger Mother, it's not fun to think of children being raised with no knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The keys to Christian parenting have never changed: (1) Be on your knees and (2) be in God’s Word on a daily basis. Please do not let the simplicity of that statement deceive you. It is difficult. But there comes a point in motherhood when you have to get serious. You will either be driven to it out of desperation (when things are falling apart) or you will be determined from the beginning (when time is on your side). The most important thing you or I will ever do as moms is lead our children to Christ—not for a one-time prayer or trip down the aisle, but for a day-to-day, moment-by-moment, life experience.
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1 comment:

Jenifer said...

Rebecca!!!!!! I am googling images for our Disney trip scrapbooking that I am making....

I liked this image in Google search of Tigger among the thousands so I clicked on it and IT TOOK ME TO YOUR SITE!!!!!! =)

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