With all the publicity surrounding Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom" last year, it got me reflecting about my own up-bringing. I, too, was raised by a "tiger mom." I was pushed to perform in academics and piano. I was taught that only A's are acceptable. I could be anything I wanted to be -- as long as it was a doctor, lawyer, or engineer.
Unlike Tiger Mom, my mother lavished more praise on us. In fact, we were always THE BEST at everything. We were THE SMARTEST, MOST TALENTED, GIFTED kids on the block. We were all whiz kids. She even wrote a book "Raising Whiz Kids," so of course, it must be true.
Our living room wall was covered ceiling to floor in framed photos, newspaper clippings, and award certificates. Our piano could not contain all the trophies we kids had accumulated in science competitions, piano recitals, and essay contests.
Implicit in all this was the message was the idea that our self-worth was based on these extrinsic accomplishments. We were "good" children because we had accomplished so much. She loved to show us off. She loved to brag to anyone who would listen. She was that mom in "Joy Luck Club" who walked down the street holding up the newspaper article about her award-winning chess-playing daughter. The a-ha moment for me was when the little 8-year-old girl looks up at her mom and demands, "Why do you have to use me to show off? If you want to show off, then why don't you learn to play chess?"
It didn't go so well for the kid in the movie. It didn't go over so well for me either when we raised the same issue. She stormed off into the crowds of the Tucson mall, leaving us "ungrateful" kids behind in the food court.
Where is the line between being proud of your kids and using your kids to define your self-worth? What message do we send to our kids when we only expect perfection and excellence? Do we need to push our kids that hard in order for them to be SUCCESSFUL later in life?