2011 is a tough time to be a parent in America. Explaining to our children why a nine-year-old was shot and killed in a rampage in Arizona. Managing the amount of pop culture exposure one's child should have (if any) to keep from being a social outcast at school. And now, grappling with the fear that if one isn't a "tiger mother," we're dooming our children to a life of mediocrity, if not outright failure.
I'm still working on the first two, but as for being a tiger mother à la just-released memoir "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," that's something I'll never be, even though my daughter is Chinese by heritage.
If you ask her, PunditGirl will gladly tell you that, as far as she's concerned, I am the strictest mom in the world, so, by author Amy Chua's definition, maybe I have a little of her Chinese mom in me. I admit that I lean toward an unmovable line in the sand when it comes to things like getting homework done, the very little amount of back-talk I'm willing to put up with and when lights must be off at bedtime. But if you ask some of the other moms I know, they'll tell you that I'm a bit lenient -- while we have a "no Wii" rule on school nights at our house, I do let PunditGirl watch some TV after dinner during the week if all her work is done, because I know she'll spend at least half an hour reading on her own before bedtime, and there's nothing like family movie night with popcorn here chez PunditMom.
But in our house, there's no sleep or water deprivation, as apparently was the case in Chua's household, the intention being to create musical prodigies. And while I'm no saint and definitely lose my temper sometimes, I steer clear of name-calling or mockery as a way to motivate our daughter.
By her own admission, Chua has called her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, "garbage," "worthless," "barbarian," "common," "low," and "disgusting," among other choice put-downs. Chua's book is filled with anecdote after anecdote about how she wields unrelenting command and control over her girls, threatening to burn her children's stuffed animals and claiming that if her daughters don't perform as expected, her five-year plan for success will mandate no birthday, Christmas or Hanukkah gifts.
So what am I? The "too-easy" mom who thinks it's always a good time for some hugs, or the taskmaster who wants her child to look at me when speaking? I think I'm neither, but the exercise of asking myself the questions makes me wonder how we've become a society of self-doubters who will take advice from pretty much anyone who claims to have the secret parenting formula, regardless of how outrageous it is.
Unfortunately, that's exactly why "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is destined for the bestseller list. Just as we were fascinated with "Mommie Dearest," we're willing to take medical advice from celebrities like Jenny McCarthy, and we also rush to buy any new parenting tome that claims that it will set our kids up for the Ivy League, even if it involves the most extreme forms of parenting.
Even if parents are shocked at Chua's methods, we are still a society of competitive helicopter parents who know that it's become increasingly difficult to get our kids into college, and even harder for them to find good jobs when they graduate. In our "please give me the secret to perfect parenting" culture, if one mother is viewed as having a magic wand (or should I say a magic whip?) that will turning her child into a prodigy with Harvard potential, even if the methods seem harsh, there is sure to be a substantial audience.
Joanne Bamberger is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom. Her forthcoming book, "Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America," will be published this spring by Bright Sky Press.