Sunday, July 29, 2012
Up until recently, I hadn't put much thought into how Jackie might be as a father. I guess I just assumed he would be Bob Ho from The Spy Next Door.As it turns out, he isn't. According to Channel News Asia, Jackie is donating his entire fortune to charity when he dies. His son, Jaycee, is not getting a dime. His rationale: "If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money."
But it's not this decision that has me wondering about Jackie: The Father (as opposed to Jackie: The Comedian, The Actor, The Kung Fu Star). It's his reaction when his son Jaycee called concerned about his rumored death. I acknowledge that Jaycee may be exaggerating a tad and that Jackie's reaction is not atypical for the older generation of Chinese parents. But still, I imagined Jackie being a little more "progressive" than that. According to Channel News Asia, Jaycee said, "My dad scolded me 'Do you wish I were dead?' That was when I knew it was all false."
I don't think I'll ever get tired of Russell Peters' "Beat Your Children" monologue.
It's brilliant! It's funny because as the child of Asian immigrants, I can totally relate (I laugh now but it was terrible at the time) AND as an Asian parent, I have already caught myself more times than I would like whipping the same criticisms my parents beat me with __ "An 80 is a good score, if that's the best you can do…", "The teacher wrote you are creative and imaginative. Imagine all you can achieve in this world if you stopped daydreaming and focused on acing those tests…" and so on. Chinese parents are masters of the art of the backhanded compliment.
Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, Wolf Dad, Xiao Baiyou, and Eagle Dad, He Liesheng, have been elected the 21st Century ambassadors of modern Chinese parenting by the news media-at-large. Happily, at each instance of this so called " traditional Asian parenting" there have been as large a chorus of Asian outcry as there have been American ones.
It's been half a year since Duo Duo's famous run around the park, dressed in only his underwear, on a cold and snowy winter's morning. His father, the Eagle Dad, had forced him into the cold and then posted his run on YouTube because he wanted "to show that if a child can accept this kind of extreme education when they are young, they can overcome any difficulties the future might hold." He says, "I did it because I want Duo Duo to be strong."
The video of little Duo Duo's wintry run might not have seen any controversy had there been a Golden Harvest or Shaw Brothers logo in front of it. Parents who spent their adolescent years in the 80s will remember a young Gordon Liu in The 36th Chamber of Shaolin enduring a battery of imaginative (sometimes fantastical) but harsh training regiments on his path to become a "Shaolin Master Killer".
Chose any Jackie's early films and you will see the same ludicrously rough lessons. But while this form of training makes for great drama and fantastical action sequences, parents need to know that these movies are make believe and you cannot hope to apply the same tough love tactics they depict and expect to garner the same results in reality.
By Kung Fu movie standards, I am spoiling my children. But I like to think that they work as hard as they play. I also like to think that given the advantages I didn't have, they will be more successful than I have been and able to do more good. I don't believe I coddle my children. Instead I think in the amount of time I spend with them, I model positive problem solving strategies and social skills for them, while telling them they are the most cherished and important part of my life. I don't have to be the high paid executive or the biggest star as long as I ensure they can be.
In homage to the movie that inspired the title of this post, here's a trailer for Jackie Chan's Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (It includes clips of Jackie's character learning and training in Kung Fu):
Originally posted at Cranial Gunk.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
As a parent and a former elementary school teacher, I cringe every time a parent tells me his or her child’s teacher “can’t teach” or “doesn’t teach right” – And when that teacher is a math teacher I drop to the floor, curl up, and squeeze my eyes shut real tight -- I wrap my arms around myself and rock myself and tell myself that everything’s going to be alright –
You see, my mother -- my Tiger Mother – “taught” me math because my American elementary teacher didn’t do math “right.”
The “right” way to learn math was to memorize the “rules” and complete page after page of timed workbook drills. If I failed, I stood in the corner of the dining room, faced the wall, and recited the times tables from zero to 12 until I was asked to stop (and not before).
I spent hours quietly tracing the faint lines and mottled designs in the wood paneling on our dining room wall. Sometimes I’d imagine microscopic race cars speeding around and around the wavy tracks. Sometimes it would be a train – a steam engine – chugging along a dangerous mountain passage with its treacherous curves.
Now, mid way through my 40s, I still stumble on my times tables and I need a pad and pencil to write the numbers down -- so you see why I get a little twitchy whenever a parent tells me his or her child’s math teacher isn’t teaching math “right.”
BUT I’m an adult.
And as an adult, I’ve come to accept math as a necessary evil like heavy drinking at the end of a particularly hard day. I have a truce with math. It accepts that I will always stumble when it comes to doing even the simplest bit of arithmetic in my head and I accept that I will need to do simple bits of arithmetic in my head when I count out scoops of coffee or measure cups of rice to water or figure out the appropriate tip after dinner out.
As a parent and an educator -- a former elementary school teacher, now a curriculum developer – I want more from math for my children. I want them to LOVE math (not just tolerate it like I do). I want them to see as much value in the challenge of solving a particularly complex equation as they do getting to the next level on a videogame. I don’t need them to become mathematicians or engineers but I would like them to have the same enthusiasm for puzzles and disciplined approaches to solutions.
Currently,I am familiar with three classroom math curricula: TERC, Everyday Math, and Singapore Math. The former is well intentioned but often too repetitive and laborious. The latter is my favorite because it acknowledges the need for memorization, appeals to the visual learner, and incorporates Language Arts in its answers. The challenge to the latter is helping students like myself build rote memorization skills.
Unfortunately, I don’t think too highly of the middle. I want to believe it is well intended but where TERC does not provide enough direction, Everyday Math is overly prescriptive. Students spend a lot of time doing math but very little time thinking about it. Their so-called Journal is a repackaging of the traditional workbook instead of a place for students to write about math and construct a deeper understanding of it.
BUT as a result of its over-prescription, Everyday Math is able to offer a well organized site for parents that is correlated to the its classroom textbooks. This is an accessible and easy to use resource for parents wishing to work collaboratively with their children’s teacher to support math learning outside of the classroom. Neither TERC or Singapore Math provide this level of teacher-parent collaboration.
I like Singapore Math because, based on the way it was presented to me several years ago at a National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) conference, students are allowed to draw out a problem. They are literally able to draw pictures to represent the information given within a word problem. Also, a solution is not complete until they write out their answer in a full sentence (meaning the answer to a word problem is not just a digit like “4” but a written statement like “There were 4...”)
And while I like the drawing and solutions written out in a proper sentences, I am burdened by the painful truth that the success of Singapore Math relies on its expectation that students will memorize and quickly access core math facts like multiplication tables.
I draw a distinction here between the teaching multiplication tables and the automatic recall of them. Stumbling on the later does not mean failure of the former. Stumbling on recall might mean devoting attention to teaching and modeling methods of memorization instead of additional teaching of the content itself.
I am a fan of musical mnemonic strategies. Schoolhouse Rock taught me English and Math (as well as American History and Science) --
I should clarify – School taught me English and Math and American History and Science but it was Schoolhouse Rock that helped me remember what I was told.
There are several “Tiger Endangering” mnemonic methods in addition to song. Another favorite is having students create their own flash cards or better yet they create their own matching games where the equation must be matched with the solution.
For example, making the set from index cards and markers, one card might have “4x4” on it and another “16.” With all the cards face down, the goal would be to match “4x4” to “16.” Students would play the same way they would play a store bought matching game with pictures. The exercise builds memory skills and creates associations between equations and solutions.
The Math Department at Kutztown University has posted some familiar math rhymes and anagrams to help students remember their math facts – Including the lyrics to the Schoolhouse Rock “Multiplication Rock” songs. The Mathematics Learning blog has a post on “math mnemonics” that includes an informative comment thread. And the Math Forum @Drexel provides a list of suggested mnemonic techniques from teachers around the world.
I am pleased to say that none of the materials I came across suggested standing in a corner for hours, repeating the times tables.
The YouTube clips at the top are from Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid Too. It and the movie that came before it, I Not Stupid, deeply impacted my parenting. Schoolhouse Rock’s My Hero, Zero seemed appropriate for a surviving victim of Tiger Math.
Originally, posted at k2twelve.com.
Sunday, May 08, 2011
How concerned should I be that without the creepy music and with the substitution of an event more benign and commonplace Mrs. Bates sounds like my mother (or any Tiger Mom)?
I couldn’t feasibly write about Mother’s Day this year without mentioning the Tiger Mother.
I joke that my mother and I cannot spend more than two hours in a room together before we start arguing. I like to say that my mother are alike in all the wrong ways and I am like my father in all the right ways (my mother divorced my father when I started college).
Mother’s Day makes me think of James Cagney standing tall atop a fiery oil tank in White Heat – Triumphant despite the facts – Boom!
The other thing that comes to mind is that “Mother’s song.” The one that goes, “M is for the million things she gave me…” The one I don’t know the rest of the words to.
According to Wikipedia, the phrase “Mother’s Day” was trademarked in 1912, making the singular possessive “Mother’s” the official way to spell “Mother’s Day.” On Mother’s Day we recognize mothers and thank them for the “million things.”
I posted some thoughts on these “things” on my blog: Click Here.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
UPDATE: Here's the panel on niche blogging, with me and my awesome co-panelists! I had an amazing time and will write up my thoughts more fully soon.
Saturday, February 19, 2011
So, I recently wrote a short book review on BookDads of Amy Chua's, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I actually had my Mother-in-law read it, too, and initially, as she started reading it, she was a bit infuriated with Amy Chua. As she continued reading it (because it's hard to put down once you get started), the book definitely grew on her, and it made for lots of interesting conversation.
Writing a book review is one thing. Doing battle with Tiger Mom is not something I was prepared for...
Malachy had his first little recital yesterday at school. As performance day drew near, I discovered there was a bit of Tiger Mom inside me, and I didn't like it at all. I found myself saying ugly things, like:
- Come on! You can do better!
- If you don't play it right, then I'll...
- If you don't make any mistakes, then we'll...
- Stop looking at me every time you make a mistake!
- Don't rush! Slow down!
- You're playing it too slow! Hurry up!
Ai ya! There I was judging and mocking Tiger Mom for being so harsh to her daughters, and here I was doing and saying things that should and could have been edited. Do we all have a bit of Tiger Mom within us? What were my reasons for pushing him to practice? Was it for him? Was it for me? Tiger Mom, Tiger Mom, what do you say?
As Malachy practiced, I sensed that he was feeling the stress and pressure coming from within me. I knew he wanted to please me. When he made a mistake, he just stopped to check how I would react. Sometimes I would get upset, and other times I just let it go. At the end of the day, he always received praise and hugs from Mom and Dad. Most importantly, he enjoys practicing and playing, and he definitely has more showmanship than his dad.
The bottom line is that if you want to do something really well, you HAVE TO practice. Once in a while, you can rely on raw talent, but 99.99% of the time, it's about hard work. For things like music and some schoolwork, it's about repetition, repetition, repetition. With the piano, if he didn't practice, he wouldn't have done as well. The crazy thing is that after all the practicing, there was still the chance he would "mess up." Watching ice skating on television comes to mind... So, what's the reward? I guess you feel accomplished when you do it right and do it well. You prove to yourself that you can do it if you work hard. Plus, you get to have all those around you cheering you on.
After the recital, we could tell that he was pleased with performance. Later on, he called PoPo and GongGong (who were at the airport) and told them he didn't make any mistakes. They were so proud, because I had posted it on YouTube, and they had already seen it on the iPhone minutes later. Technology is amazing! He thanked Gong Gong for the practice sessions he had with him when grandpa was in New York.
Gong Gong had him stop and start over every time he "messed up," and Malachy never complained. From the other room, we would hear him play, Father, I Adore You, again and again and again. He only got a check mark from Gong Gong when he played it without any mistakes. Gong Gong was tough, but never mean. When Malachy came out of the room, he felt good about his practice session. I learned from Gong Gong that Malachy didn't mind some hard work. ;)
Here's to more doing battle with Tiger Mom again and again and again... ;)
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Her article has spawned several follow up WSJ articles. From “Western mothers” like Ayelet Waldman and Hanna Rosin to interviews with mothers in Hong Kong, the response has been negative to gently understanding. Amy has also ignited the blogosphere (Asian American and beyond) through heated posts and comments about her article and book. Cynthia Liu’s post at Rice Daddies lists some of the other bloggers with something to say about Amy’s article.
Like Cynthia I’ve been writing about “this” for some time now. While I am not a fan of “free range” parenting as advocated by educator Alfie Kohn, I am also not a fan of what has been stereotypically depicted – and widely accepted – even by Asians - as “Asian parenting” by people like Amy Chua and the Kim sisters. Bullying and denigrating your children are not acts exclusive to Asian parents - Just as academic success is not exclusive to their children (or are they immune to academic failure).
I shudder when I am reminded of how close I was to becoming “Chua Chinese” (Please Note: I am using Chinese as defined by Amy) – a Chinese parent so obsessed with controlling the ends there is no thought given to the consequences of the means. Despite my background as an educator and having actual classroom teaching experience, once my eldest entered Pre-K I fell easily in line with what I perceived as the tenets of being a “proper” parent molding “proper” and successful children.
I would be a full Chua Chinese parent if I hadn’t just by chance seen Jack Neo’s movies: I Not Stupid and I Not Stupid Too. There is a scene in the former where a mother on the advice of her coworkers beats her son with a switch because he failed to score to her satisfaction on a test. The crying boy begs, “Please mommy don’t hit me anymore…” The scene is particularly poignant because the actress playing the mother does a good job of conveying her confusion at her actions. She is not sure it is the right way to parent but her peers seem so confident and judge her poorly for not doing it (so she does it).
The latter film is poignant because it begins by putting the following question up on the screen: When was the last time you told your kids you loved them? I read that Jack Neo, the film’s writer, director, and actor, was deeply affected by Zhou Hong’s philosophy of Appreciation Education when he was writing the sequel’s script. It shows. It overtly restates Hong’s descriptions of Appreciation Education.
What Chua Chinese parents don’t tell you is the fate of those children whose wills prove too hard to break. I Not Stupid Too touches upon it but it is Royston Tan’s 15 that explores it. Royston Tan’s 15 takes a close (though overly stylistic) look at gang life in Singapore, a country that identifies the cognitive capacity of its citizens as its greatest natural resource.
There are Chinese who exist and thrive outside of the harsh world of the Chua Chinese. Asian students whose wills may have been broken by their parents but who as a result did not fall into the next buckets their parents have set out. Instead these broken wills found healing ointment in street gangs and other subcultures.
The "Chinese" that Chua refers to no longer exists as she understood them. China is changing. The Chinese are changing! And that impacts both Chua Chinese parents and "loser" (Chua's words) Chinese parents like me who seek a connection with an ethnic heritage from which to build and evolve our children’s sense of themselves.
It’s easy for me to point fingers. It’s easy for me to blame Chua and her disciples for perpetuating social stereotypes and ignoring the truth of the matter. But it is not right. I have confessed to my own “coercion." Like Ayelet I feel guilty about it sometimes but that doesn’t always stop me. When all is said and done, I'd like to believe that all parents want what's best for their children. The challenge is putting our egos aside and getting out of our comfort zones to really understand why we tell our children what we do. Parenting is like teaching – to excel and become successful at it means you - like your children - do not stop learning.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Dear Asian America,
As so many have pointed out through gut-wrenching personal testimony and the horrible statistics surrounding high suicide rates among young APA women–and a high rate of untreated mental illness in our community overall–Amy Chua‘s book hit a nerve. Big time.
But, let’s make this flood of commentary and outrage NOT about Chua’s book, but about the damage a certain kind of patriarchal, homophobic, and authoritarian, high-stakes parenting can do.
Yes, I said homophobic. The narrowness and rigidity of what makes for the Right School, the Right (Ethnicity) Mate, the Right Job…you don’t think it ends there, do you?
Let’s face it, if a parent feels no limits on yelling, belittling, and coercing a kid into high achievement because the ends justify the means, what’s to stop that parent from issuing beatings in the name of the greater good? Because many who harshly discipline their kids say they use corporal punishment for the same reasons–out of love. I’m not saying everyone who experienced corporal punishment is permanently psychically damaged. No. But I am saying that as with any parenting method that is harsh to begin with, extremes of emotional and physical abuse cannot be far behind.
And let’s also face this fact: many in our community may be book smart, but many also have a low Emotional Intelligence Quotient. This ranges from a lack of expressiveness, to parenting that is bullying and insensitive, to social awkwardness and a failure to know how to shmooze.
There’s a dark side to Asian Pacific America. The intensity of immigrant aspiration can feed it just as much as it feeds our other sides.
And there’s also a highly functional, balanced, warm, demanding, and nurturing kind of enlightened APA parenting. One that focuses on each child as a unique person and that is lovingly demanding of that’s child’s best, whether it’s at school, at a sport, in the arts, or as an ethical, caring human being.
Many of us, having had tough adolescences or periods in college where it took a while to sort things out, are now parents. And we’re resolved to improve upon the good and the bad that we inherited. So what does that enlightened APA parenting look like?
I’ll tell you a secret: I agree with Amy Chua on a couple of things. We don’t watch tv in our household. (Dvds, yes, but no tv.) Homework comes first. Pay attention to what the teacher asks for, because you will have to deliver according to the standards they set. You WILL learn a second language. But otherwise? Have fun. Read for pleasure. Go outside and climb a tree, or something. Enjoy traveling when we go to new places, because whiny kids can just as easily sit at home. Don’t you want to draw or paint? Stick with the guitar for at least a year–you’ll thank me when you’re 15. Pick something and excel at it. Pick something you love, and do it regardless of how good you are at it.
If Amy Chua’s failed experiment in implementing 1960s Confucian parenting methods isn’t the way, what is?
I’ve been blogging about this since 2003, when my son was born. At that time, after lots of discussion with my spouse, also Asian Pacific American, we decided that we would try non-violent parenting. So far, it’s worked out well for us. Our son is extremely close to the both of us. There’s a tremendous sense of trust. All our physical contact (including my husband with my son, of course) is hugging, kissing, and other warm expressions of affection. And I really like this. Hands are for Hugging, don’t you know? (Granted, he’s 7 and the teen years are ahead of us yet, so I’ll let you know how that goes.)
But I’m asking you–affluent parents plotting how to get your kindergartener into Stanford, working class parents wondering how to get your kid into Bronx Science–how will we all encourage our kids to excel at being themselves? And do it without breaking them?
We’ve all heard President Obama’s warning that the country that out-educates us tomorrow will out-perform us tomorrow. (I’ve always maintained he’s the first Asian American president, much in the same way that Bill Clinton was the first black president.)
But let’s not go nuts trying to respond to President Obama’s observation.
Here’s our chance to raise our Emotional Intelligence Quotients. This is our “It Gets Better” moment, so to speak. How can we widen what we understand as excellence? Achievement? And happiness? And still equip our kids with whatever skills they need to not only survive, but thrive in an unpredictable and fast-changing world?
Go. (You don’t have to be Asian American to leave a comment.)
Other APA blogs on this subject:
Monday, January 10, 2011
Wow! There are so many things I want to comment on after reading that excerpt... I'll just do it stream of consciousness because there are so many things to unpack in Chua's book and in the reactions of the APA blogosphere over the weekend.
First off and full disclosure, while my parents were first gen immigrants, my upbringing was decidedly not the result of stereotypical "Chinese parenting." My parents always encouraged me to get good grades, but they never discouraged me from choosing my own activities. For instance, I never even touched a piano or a violin growing up. In fact, when it was time to pick an instrument in a fifth grade music class, I went for the drums so I didn't have to learn to read sheet music!
The first thing that struck me after reading the excerpt published in the Wall Street Journal was that Chua seems to have a whole lot of time on her hands if she's spending all those hours being such a hardass. My parents worked such long hours everyday that, even if they wanted to chain me to a piano, there was no way 1) we could afford a piano, and 2) that they had enough free time to worry about me practicing the piano.
See, I grew up in a small rural town in the south and my parents worked 14 hours a day, six days a week at the family restaurant. So I grew up in a working-lower-middle-class home. My memories of parental pressure didn't involve hours practicing scales or memorizing elements of the periodic table. Instead, their expectations primarily revolved around me helping out at the restaurant if I had any free time. This isn't to say that I was a bad student. I was an okay student. In elementary school, I was part of the Gifted and Talented program, and I took honors and AP courses throughout high school, but I was also encouraged to play sports, make friends and enjoy life as well. I even brought home the occasional C (mostly in math and science, go figure) and the house didn't crack in two.
I actually look back on my childhood warmly and fondly. I was surrounded by uncles and cousins and grandparents who all had a hand in helping to raise me. I remember sitting in the restaurant's back office watching "Wheel of Fortune" with my grandmother and great grandmother (neither knew a lick of English, but loved watching the contestants react to winning or losing on the TV), play basketball with my uncles and football with my cousins on the weekends, even, god forbid, had sleepovers at friends' houses! In fact, the first time I encountered the stereotype of the overbearing Chinese parents--probably in something written by Amy Tan, I couldn't relate at all. The idea was foreign and exotic to me. Which is probably why people love reading about it so much.
So, three-and-a-half years ago, I became my own "Chinese" parent when my daughter was born. Early on, my wife--who came to America from Japan when she was a high school freshman--agreed that we would provide our daughter opportunities to be successful, but that we'd never force them on her. And in her first three years of life, she's already taken more "lessons" than I did my whole childhood! Most recently, she's been enrolled in a Developmental Dance class for toddlers at the university where my wife works; she takes soccer lessons at her daycare, and took infant swimming lessons her first two summers. A few months ago, her daycare started giving her homework--which usually involves coloring something or tracing a letter or two--once or twice a week, and occasionally my wife attempts to help her recognize hiragana. All of these activities do not come at the expense of playtime, or trips to the library, or eating meals as a family, or just spending quality time together.
Ironically, I was having dinner with my father a few weeks ago and the topic of my parenting skills came up. Believe it or not, my dad thought that I was a little too strict. His reasoning? I didn't let her watch television. "That's not exactly true," I told him. My dad was basing his conclusion on the fact that the television is usually off when they come over to visit. And to be honest, what's the point of visiting your grandkids if they're preoccupied with the tube the whole time?
Even when YeYe and GaGa (that's what my daughter calls her grandmother. It has nothing to do with the meat-dressing pop star) don't visit, it's true that we limit the amount of TV she watches, because trust me, she could definitely stare at Kai-Lan or Dora for hours if we let her. Heck, that would probably make it easier on us too. Ya know, Nick Jr. is a heckuva babysitter. Instead, we have a pretty standard routine: after she gets picked up from school, she usually spends the early part of the evening playing with her toys with one of us while the other gets dinner ready. Then, when dinner's served, we all sit together and talk about her day. After dinner, she picks up her toys before we sit on the couch and fire up an episode of Dora the Explorer or Micky Mouse Clubhouse (thank god for DVRs). After that, and a discussion about what she just watched--usually facilitated by her--it's upstairs for a bath, a book (actually two), and bedtime. Plus, hugs, kisses, and "I love yous" before lights out.
See, my Chinese mom and dad think that's "strict." And "Chinese mother" Amy Chua probably thinks that I'm incompetent. I like to think that it works. Our daughter's healthy and happy. What more could we ask for?
FYI, this is cross-posted at my own site.