updated 5 Apr 2011, 16:35
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Sun, Jan 30, 2011
The New Paper
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Dear Amy, your kids would eat mine
by S Murali

FOLKS, have you read about "Tiger Mum" Amy Chua?

For those who haven't, she is the Chinese-American professor from Yale University who criticised American parents for their "weak" parenting style in her bestseller, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Some of Chua's methods when her children were young included not letting them watch TV or go for sleepovers; forcing one of them to do 2,000 maths problems in a night when she finished second in a class test; and threatening to burn all the stuffed toys of another for not playing a piece of music perfectly.

What is MY battle hymn, you ask?

Let's just call it a little lullaby, shall we?

I feel guilty asking my daughter to stay 30 minutes past her bedtime, even if she makes silly mistakes doing her maths.

When my son's big puppy eyes tear up, I can't bring myself to scold him, much less threaten to set his stuffed toys on fire.

So Chua's kids would probably eat mine for breakfast. Or, more accurately, I wouldn't fancy meeting Chua in a dark alley any time soon.

It's not that I'm a wimp or anything. It's just that I cannot justify putting my kids under that sort of pressure. I think they are stressed enough already.

Take my six-year-old son's recent football experience. He just went to Primary 1 and during his orientation last year, I signed him up for football lessons because the little guy is crazy about the game.

But on the morning of his first training session, he came to me crying .

"I don't feel well," he said, in tears. "Please don't make me go."

After trying to persuade him for about 20 minutes, I gave up, not wanting to stress him out, as he was to go for his first day of Primary 1 later that same day.


Later, I tried to talk to him about it but he insisted that he didn't want to go, as he was "too tired" and "not feeling well".

Only later did I find out from his mother the real reason. He was worried about going for football training with me, as he believed that I would judge him there.

"What if I am not the best player there?" he told his mother. "What would Acha (father) think?"

He then added that he was not sure he could tackle all the other boys and be faster than them on the field.

I was really taken aback. I never realised that I had put such pressure on the little guy. I know I have talked to him about football and how he needs to be fit to play the game, so that he can run faster than the other players.

But I don't recall saying that I expect him to be the best player. And I surely never said that I would be disappointed if he wasn't.

Unfortunately, his understanding of my expectations were completely different. And it was enough to stop him from even trying to go for training.

I can imagine someone like Chua not only insisting that he attend training, but signing him up for extra lessons with Fandi Ahmad.

But I have come to the realisation that I am not a Tiger parent. I'd rather see a smile than the tears of a child pressured to do something he'd rather not.

I am not giving up though. I told my son that we would try and rejoin the training in April. That would give him time to settle down in school and me time to help him understand that it is important to try and be the best, but it's okay if he's not.

Would I love it if he were to play for a top club like Manchester United one day? Sure. But I would rather that he not do it if it means his recollections of his youth are soured. Or worse, if he ends up with memories of a father he'd rather not be around.

In other words, if such levels of excellence cannot be accomplished without subscribing to the Amy Chua school of parenting, then so be it.

I suppose I will have to live with him playing for a team like Liverpool instead. Heh, heh.


This article was first published in The New Paper.

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