Last week, I talked about the breakthrough best-selling parenting book by Amy Chua called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. If you missed it, you can get caught up here. That’s her on the left coaching her daughter Lulu with her violin practice. They are going on day four without sleep, practicing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons Suite for Lulu’s recital at Carnegie Hall.
Amy Chua is a Chinese American and a Yale Law School professor who decided to raise her two daughters the traditional Chinese way. To describe her strict parenting approach as “spare the rod, spoil the child” is like saying jumping off a 1,000 foot cliff headfirst could result in an owie. She re-defines the meaning of the phrase “tough love.”
Since reading her book, I have wholeheartedly embraced Chua’s breakthrough parenting philosophy and am here to share with you my Six Simple Steps to becoming a Tiger Mom (or Dad). Follow these six steps to the letter, and before you know it, you will be amazed at the change in your child’s performance at school. Get started today, and you can pretty much mail your child’s acceptance letter to Harvard in a couple months – unless, of course, she had her heart set on Oxford.
[The fine print: In a small number of cases, my Six-Step Tiger Mother system may result in a lifetime of emotional scarring to your child’s psyche. In rare cases offspring may sever all communication with their parents for the rest of their lives. This approach may result in serious cases of parental or child depression, emotional exhaustion, or chronic shouting matches over why your child is not allowed to have any friends over. Do not try this approach if you want to have any relationship with your child in the years ahead. Your mileage may vary. Not recommended for anyone living in Vermont. Do not try this if your first name begins with the letter C.]
Step 1: Become Chinese. Admittedly, for some of you, like my fair-skinned, red-headed wife of Canadian-Scottish ancestry, this could be a bit of a stretch at first. But trust me, becoming Chinese will make the remaining steps much easier. If you can’t become Chinese, then at least shoot for becoming Vietnamese, or perhaps Indonesian. At least make an effort. Start by practicing smiling uncomfortably and bowing a lot. Sell your Ford Fusion and start riding a bicycle everywhere. View anyone from Japan with suspicion.
Step 2: enforce a policy of ZERO TOLERANCE for first time offenses. Whether it be failing to do their homework or not making their bed, in the world of the Tiger Mother, there are no second chances. First offense: Instant grounding for a week. Second offense: No college for you, little lady. Third offense: You are no longer a member of this family. Please leave now. And remember, when it comes to kids rudely talking back to their parents, one taser is worth a thousand words.
Step 3: Insist on a Juilliard School of Music mastery of their choice of musical instrument (permissible choices include violin, cello or piano). Say that it’s your seven-year old Luke’s birthday today, but he has still not mastered Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3. No worries. Just tell him to keep practicing until he gets it perfect. Inform Luke that you can always celebrate his birthday next year, and then donate his birthday presents to charity. I’m sure the local Humane Society needs a Play Station 3.
The next time he whines that he has been practicing for four hours nonstop and he’s tired and wants to go to bed, remind him that “Sleep is for winners, not losers, like you.” For starters, watch the inspiring family film, Glengarry Glen Ross. Remember, little boy, Cookies are for Closers.
Step 4: Establish a clear set of academic achievement standards. No more A’s for Effort. No more consoling your child when he gets a B- on his science paper with phrases like “I’m sure you did your best.” Don’t settle for anything less than 2300 on their SAT’s (out of a possible 2400). And that’s if they’re in 5th grade. Once they reach high school, their SAT scores better be MUCH better than that.
Parents of high school seniors, remind your child that anything less than Valedictorian means paying for college on their own, thanks to the shame they’ve brought on the family. Don’t wait too long to get started. We recommend beginning no later than month five of your pregnancy if you want your child to stand any chance of beating out the competition. The Changs next door started in month three. And their girl, Fiona, now eleven, just got accepted to Berkeley. Better get a move on.
Step 5: Be quick to withhold affection and approval for the slightest shortcomings. Too often kids fall short of their potential because they weren’t pushed enough. Look at me. I write a humor blog. Need I say more? Parents often make the mistake of telling their kids how proud they are of them “no matter what.” You probably hug your kids and remind them every day how much you love them, don’t you? How could you be so cruel to your kids? You barbarian!
I tell you, nothing like some seriously conditional love to snap your kids into action. Remind them every day that caring parents like you simply cannot give their love to a child who obviously mailed it in and got a mere B+ in Algebra II. Make sure your child understands that unless she makes first string on the Girls’ Varsity Soccer team, you will have no choice but to update your will to give her portion to her younger brother. Can’t spell “hippopotamus”? No bedtime story for you, Benny. You can never remind your child often enough just how much of a bitter a disappointment they have been. It builds character. They will thank you for your tough love (albeit perhaps 30 years after you’ve passed away).
Step 6: Avoid any activities that could expose them to fun. Having fun means your kids are wasting time when they should be working on their physics term paper or discovering a new element for the Periodic Table. Hanging around with neighborhood kids will only delay their cognitive development and prevent them from obtaining that $175,000/year entry level position at Johns Hopkins when they graduate from Princeton. (Note: Harvard, Yale, MIT and Stanford are also acceptable institutions. University of Florida? Don’t insult me.)
You see, for us Tiger parents, we know that “Fun” is nothing more than a euphemism for “Failure.” Be sure to protect your impressionable young children from destructive distractions like sleep-overs, music (other than classical), birthday parties, Sponge Bob Square Pants or anything with the name Disney. Never let them near a computer until they have reached 18 unless it’s to finish their research paper conclusively disproving Einstein’s Theory of Relativity – for which they had better get an A or else someone is sleeping in the backyard pup tent for a week.
Longitudinal clinical studies show that if you apply my proven Six-Step Tiger Mothering system, there is a 20% chance your youngster will grow up to become an extraordinarily highly successful standout in their chosen field. [Note: Acceptable chosen fields include Head of Research at GlaxoSmithKline, Chief of Surgery at the Mayo Clinic, Attorney General for the state of Massachusetts or first violinist for the New York Philharmonic]. Do not be confused by the studies’ footnote findings that indicate a remote (45%) chance your child could grow up to hate their parents, become a psychotic serial killer and turn to a life of drugs to ease the pain of their cruel, bleak existence chasing after their parents’ dreams.
So right about now, you may be asking yourself, “Can I really become a Tiger Parent?” And the answer is, ABSOLUTELY YES, YOU CAN (unless you’re anyone living in France or you’re my brother-in-law Carl, in which case, um, no. Don’t even try.)
Good luck as you embark on your new role as a Tiger Parent. You’ll thank me later. I have to wrap this up. I need to waterboard my youngest. Seems like someone forgot to brush her teeth after breakfast again.
That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.
© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011