herald

Monday 11 December 2017

This Celtic Tiger Mom has no Battle Hymn, I just want my children to end up happy

I just want my kids to be happy. And they are. Very.

Lying on the couch watching The X Factor. Playing with the dog while Snapchatting.

They were born in the Celtic Tiger era following decades of massive economic growth in this country.

They're more privileged than any previous generation of Irish children.

They're what Tiger Mom Amy Chua would call "soft" - Western kids with a sense of entitlement.

Every now and then, I wonder will they ever be able to hold down day jobs.

avoid

"Soft" is exactly what Amy Chua wanted to avoid when rearing her kids, Sophia and Lulu.

Though they were the kids of rich law professors she wanted them to have the rearing she herself had, as the child of poor Chinese immigrants in Boston.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, her 2011 book, is the manual for hard child-rearing.

Her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, had a more privileged upbringing but he congratulates his wife on the way the kids were reared, saying that if it had been left to him, "they might have been garbage men".

Which would have been quite some achievement for two girls.

But there was no garbage involved in what Amy Chua wanted for her kids. They had to play classical instruments and they had to go to an elite American college.

She got them to practice their piano until one of the girls left tooth-marks in the wood and threatened to burn their soft toys if they didn't succeed.

Plonking away through piano exams is just learning how to conform.

But Amy Chua doesn't seem to understand originality.

It's no surprise, after all of this, that neither of her kids is a musician.

One of them has just blown Chua's mind by joining the army where the discipline will be nothing new.

The other phoned her from Harvard last week saying she wondered if she could stick it.

I pity them having the humiliations of their rearing shared with the nation.

There were calls for Amy Chua's arrest on child abuse charges after the publication of Battle Hymn but some of this hysteria was probably caused by anxiety in the US that China was going to achieve world domination.

And I'm sure it didn't hurt the sales figures any.

Amy Chua seems to love the limelight and she's back this year with a new book called The Triple Package, co-written with her husband, which she discusses on Wednesday at Dublin's Mansion House at a sold-out event for businesswomen.

The two show that certain immigrant groups in the US are more successful than others, including the Chinese, the Nigerians, the Cubans and the Indians and explain it's because these kids are raised by parents who are desperate for success.

Who wants desperation, though? Amy Chua admits that she and Jed didn't look for happiness when doing their research, they just looked at which groups had the most money.

So who buys the line that money alone is going to make their kids happy?

Who wants it?

Not me.

Since I read about Amy Chua, I've been beating myself up about being tougher on my kids.

pretend

But why pretend they're going to have to forage for their food in the snow when they can open the fridge?

My grandfather made the massive leap out of poverty for our family. I don't see why I should encourage my kids to keep leaping.

I don't want them to dissect the atom or emigrate to Mars. I just want them to be kind to others, pay their way and have partners who smile.

They can be "garbage men" if they want, my daughter included.

And if it's what Amy Chua calls "failure", I'm cool with that.

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