We've been hearing about Amy Chua, who wrote "Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother", and before that 'Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior'. Ms Chua describes how she taught her children to be successful by driving them to it. She admits to things like throwing the home-made birthday card her daughter gave her, back at her and telling her it was not good enough. Ms Chua may not have realized quite how some parents from a Judao-Christian heritage would react to that suggestion, or she might not have come out and said it.
I'm not attacking or critisising Chinese people as such. My issue is with the idea that a parent should treat a child that way.
She claims she is doing what is best because she cares enough to be hard on her children. Some westerners go so far as to accuse her of child abuse.
Things Amy Chua include as methods of parenting are: no sleepovers, no play dates, never being in a school play, no T.V. or computer games,no choice of their own extracurricular activities, never get a grade less than an A, never be anything except the best student in any subject except gym or drama and never play any instrument except the piano or the violin. True, some western parents may let their children get away with too much and make too little effort to guide and restrain them, but the Chua approach sounds to me like an abomination. I'm thankful I never was treated that way.
It can backfire, too. One young man of Chinese birth now living in Australia stated for the press that he has lost his sense of attachment to his mother because he saw her as nothing but a taskmaster. Now living in Australia he feels he can be his own person.
Ms Chua also talks about threatening to give her daughter's dolls away if she did not practice her piano music.
She also admits, unless misquoted by the press,of threatening her daughter with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas and no birthday parties if she did not perfect this piano piece.
Underlying this approach is the belief in some cultures that the child is an extension of the parent - and this is where I believe Chua's approach is wrong.
Children are not just part of their parents. They are individuals in their own right, each of them made by God. Apart from Adam and Eve, every child is conceived and gestated in a woman's womb, and the mother feels it and possibly suffers by it. You can understand why she feels she has some claim on the child. Fathers too, unless they are wretchedly negligent, feel intensely for and about their children. I can talk. I'm a father, and I saw all five of ours being born.
But those children, all children, are intended to grow to adulthood and have their own lives. And they have their own connection to God. God has no grandchildren, only children. In the sight of God, ultimately our kids are our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We cease to hold authority over them and they seek God themselves without going through us. We must teach them, but then it is up to them, and they relate to God without us being involved. They are not just part of us, even if they look and sound like us, (which not all kids do!).
This is where I believe the Amy Chua approach is wrong, because it is exceeding the right and authority of a mere human being, even if they are a parent. The time comes when children do not answer to mothers or fathers, and do not exist to gratify the parent or do what the parent wants. They are separate, with their own need to find God and communicate with Him directly, not via their parents. And they must each seek GOD'S will for their life. It may not be the same as their parents' plans!
Recall that when Jesus called some to follow Him, one said 'first, let me bury my own father'. It sounds a bit harsh, but Jesus replied, "let the dead bury their own dead." The point here is, if you have to choose between your family and God, choose God. If your family would be a barrier between you and God, choose God. Your family cannot grant you Salvation.
And your family are only mere human beings. They cannot claim to know all God's plans for your life.
Not only Amy Chua but any human parent needs to know this. Bob Dylan was not a Christian when he wrote and sang, 'Your children are not your children', but what he said was in a sense quite true. Once they leave the nest as adults your offspring must live their own lives, and they best thing they can do is seek the guidance of the Almight in doing this. Human parents cannot always know what is best because they are only human. In childhood and youth, they should give guidance, but only with the proviso that they are only human and their understanding has its limits. We parents do not have lifelong ownership of children, and can't know the future, or what God only can see is best.
Another commentator, responding to Chua, pointed out that success does not guarantee happiness. Quite true. More to the point, success does not give you everlasting life, it won't even ensure that you live a long time on this earth.
I've been told that Japanese culture is also very success orientated and involves great authority by parents over children.
Japan is a society whose population is falling, not because the law requires it but because fewer Japanese want to have children, or even marry. That shows a loss of faith in the future or the worth of begetting new life.
I prayed for Amy Chua and her family, that they find Christ as Saviour. Anything else will finally be revealed as futility. Some humans who had collossal success and fame in this world are still dead. Statues, mentions in history, things and places named after them do not change the fact that their voices are stilled and their bodies turned to dust. Only their souls matter then. And where are they? Did William Shakespeare or Virginia Woolf get to Heaven by being famous? If they get there at all, it will not be because any other human being remembers their names. It will only be because God finds their names written in His Book Of Life.
No amount of talent or achievement in this world will cause that name to be written there. And parents cannot make the name be written there. They should clearly teach their children where the truth lies, but the children must live it themselves.
God has no grandchilden, only children. Success and achievement do not bring us close to God. Only following the words and one who in life was a carpenter, can do that.
Yes, that's right. In His human incarnation, Jesus was a carpenter, not a musical prodigy or champion sportsman, not a great financial success or anything else that the mere world reveres. But He is God. And He alone knows the way.