Tiger Mom Rap!

That’s right – this is what Amy Chua would be rapping about if she were to use hip hop to express her views on extreme Asian parenting.

Listen to/Download the Tiger Mom mp3 for FREE:
Jen Kwok – Tiger Mom Rap (2:38)

Written/performed by Jen Kwok.  Produced by soce, the elemental wizard

UPDATE:  If anyone wants to make a YouTube video of Tiger Mom Rap! (i.e. lyric, sideshow, lip sync, etc.), you have my blessing.  Just please send me the link and give proper credit to myself/producer and link back to my website.  In return, I will send you Jen Kwok pins, pens and something handmade ;)  jenkwokfunnygirl[at]gmail.com

Tiger Mom Rap Lyrics
by Jen Kwok

Ungh.  Rarr.  Ungh.  Rarr.

Yo, I’m the tiger mother
Hardcore parenting like no other
But I’m also a professor at Yale
And I got a crazy ass new book on sale
Talkin bout how Chinese mothers are superior
Rest of ya’ll with Montessori are inferior
I don’t allow sleepovers or play dates
My kid’s have fun doing math on a milk crate

Cuz they’re gonna be tough!  So tough!  After they have been broke down emotionally first.

Let me tell you bout my battle hymn
Piano violin piano violin
Extreme Asian parenting

I raise my kids to be high achievers
Building on their minds all the time like beavers
Cuz DAMN my kids never get less than 100 on a test
If they did I would flip the f*** out
So I found the key to perfection is assimilation
Don’t let my daughters out the house so life’s a simulation
Now I’m selling my techniques like a corporation
And I’m married to a guy named Jed!!!

Let me tell you bout my battle hymn
Piano violin piano violin
Extreme Asian parenting

Hippie western parents are ok with a B-minus
Mediocrity is like the blanket on Linus
I ripped up the birthday card you gave to me
Cuz it’s more Hallmark than Papyrus
I want my kids to feel like Rocky – “Adrian!”
But first they gotta feel like Gollum  – “Precious!”
Practice a billion times till you get this
If you’re not perfect you will get an eye infection

So you better keep practicing.  Better get perfect.  Or else…you will turn into garbage. A large garbage can.  They’re gonna pick you up on Sunday and Tuesday nights unless there’s a holiday and you’ll be living at the landfill like Oscar the Grouch.

Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours to be good
Well I say 500 bajillion 74 to the pi times infiniti divided – no, not divided….

Let me tell you bout my battle hymn
Piano violin piano violin
Harvard, Columbia and Princeton
Piano violin piano violin
I’ve got to make perfect children
Extreme Asian parenting

I’m crazier than all the other moms
Crazier than Natalie Portman’s mom in Black Swan
Barbara Hershey!!!!!  She was so powerful in Beaches
I’m crazier than Joan Crawford
No wire hangers? No wire hangers? No WOODEN hangers!  No plastic hangers!
No titanium!  Or crochet!
I only like these velvet ones I got from Crate & Barrel

©Jen Kwok 2011

Amy Chua is Not Superior

I read a frightening article this past weekend entitled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.  The author, Amy Chua, justifies her stereotypically tough “Asian” parenting style as the proven way to raise tough and successful children.  For example:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chua’s argument might sound enticing, but she sounds more like a GE manager or a Malcolm Gladwell wannabe than a mother.  We get it – it takes a lot to be skilled at something.  In this day and age of post-American Idol instant “success” for essentially doing nothing, it’s refreshing to hear – and it seems like Americans are trying to get back to a model of hard work (i.e. Protestant work ethic?).  Part of me also wonders if this might be a well timed article to promote a well timed book to capitalize on/assuage people’s fear of China “catching up”.  Can’t this be construed as a “Take it from me, an insider who is now one of you!” coming from an overachieving Chinese-American Yale Law professor married to a guy named Jed?

Someone please get her a gong.

Packaging this “Chinese” parenting as a guarantee for raising successful children is like selling “Pearl Cream” as the ancient Chinese remedy for great skin.  It’s mumbo jumbo.  It’s Tiger Balm.  It might address some superficial issues and smell like it’s working, but doesn’t cure anything in the long run.

Having been raised myself in this “Chinese” way (i.e. piano lessons, no sleepovers, etc.) I do think that there were some benefits to being protected and pushed a certain way.  I didn’t realize it was love at the time, but my parents were certainly trying to prepare me with the tools to be successful and live a happy life.  I did get ahead of my peers.  However, being forced to do something doesn’t necessarily mean you have learned it, and developing a model of being driven by the outside world is a gateway drug to unhappiness.

For one thing, this model puts almost all the emphasis on external measures of success:  parental approval, high grades and being better than other people.  Amy Chua claims that her daughter had higher self esteem after figuring out how to play cross-rhythms (something I struggled with myself as a young pianist, so kudos to her at age seven!).  However, the pattern I see is a young girl being forced to do something that is not her own personal goal or desire.  That’s the opposite of discipline.  After she is finally able to do it, it is worthwhile to her because it pleases her mother.   That’s the opposite of self esteem.  Discipline and self esteem come from within.  How can you teach that by only using external measures?

Let’s talk about Asian women and depression.  A few months ago, PBS ran this article about the the high rates of suicide and depression among Asian women.  One of the responses to the article on this discussion board about Chua’s article is from a woman whose sister committed suicide despite having all the material and career achievements and being “every Asian parents wet dream come true”.

These two articles remind me of this monologue from Young Jean Lee‘s play, “Songs of the Dragons Flying to Heaven”:

Have you ever noticed how most Asian-Americans are slightly brain-damaged from having grown up with Asian parents? It’s like being raised by monkeys—these retarded monkeys who can barely speak English and are too evil to understand anything besides conformity and status. Most of us hate these monkeys from an early age and try to learn how to be human from school or television, but the result is always tainted by this subtle or not-so-subtle retardation. Asian people from Asia are even more brain-damaged, but in a different way, because they are the original monkey. Anyway, some white men who like Asian women seem to like this retarded quality as well, and sometimes the more retarded the better.

I think that sums up a lot.  It’s an angry portrait of an Asian-American, but I think there is a lot of truth to it, and I think a lot of people would at least have an inkling of agreement with it.   My parents came to this country as immigrants, and they had to deal with living in their culture within American culture.  My fellow first generation Asian-Americans and I are trying to figure out how to merge and reconcile the two even further.  You win some, you lose some.

I wasn’t allowed to go to sleepovers until after high school (i.e. after everyone stopped having them), but I got to be in student council and organize the homecoming parade.  I had so many community college credits while attending classes in high school that I qualified as a college junior even though I was technically a freshmen, but I also went CRAZY partying because I never got to do so until I left home.  I studied classical piano through college, but now I play ukulele.  I studied management and spent as long as I could stomach it (8 months) at a Big Four accounting firm, but now I am a writer/actress/musician/comedian.

Many lessons I learned from my parents – the hard way.  Many I had to learn myself – the harder way.  There is only so much parenting you can do.  Someday I hope to learn that myself.

I don’t agree with Amy Chua’s views, but I appreciate that she appreciates our culture – as damaging as it can be.  However, it’s time for a change.  As corny as it sounds, East can and should meet West.  There’s got to be some sort of balance.

When I went home for the holidays this past year, my mother taught me how to crochet.  There were no books, no diagrams – just her crocheting at barely half speed as demonstration. If I had a question, she would “explain” by showing me the entire step again and following it up with “This is so easy.  If you can’t get it, there’s nothing I can do for you.”  You bet this tough love made my 28-year-old self determined to “get” crocheting, lest I be shamed for not being able to do something grandmas do in their sleep.  However, it stirred in me something I hadn’t felt for a long time.  I needed that approval from my mom.  But deep down, beneath all the lessons I learned from myself, I buried it.  And all that was left was love.

My first scarf.