DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Confession: I Could Be A Tiger Mother

Written by: on May 27, 2015

Technically speaking I hold immigrant status in the western country of my residence. However, the reality is that since all but the infant stages of my life have been lived within Canada, I understand what it is to live under some of the lofty expectations of immigrant parents in a new land. They wanted the best from us. My father, especially as an educated and hard working teacher turned Vice-Principal, understood the challenges that we naively thought we could easily conquer. I can’t speak for the others, but I remember him constantly drilling in to my lackadaisical approach to school, work and life that “good enough wasn’t good enough”. To my deafened ears (I wish I learned these things earlier) he would remind me that we live in a “white world” and therefore my efforts needed to be better, my achievements needed to shine brighter and my determination had to be stronger just to get an equivalent chance against those who looked the part. My father, he could have been a Tiger Mother.

tiger-and-cub-by-law_keven

That’s the way Amy Chua describes herself in the often comically self-effacing, sometimes sad, but mostly enlightening look at her development as a mother to her two daughters, in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. As an American child of Chinese parents, married to a Jewish man, Chua makes this statement summarizing the book and the tension of her parenting turmoil:

 “Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.” (p. 63)

To a Tiger Mother achievement is everything and frankly that’s where the rebellion of my youth has continued into my adulthood. Even though my early work experience validated my father’s own difficult track through the education system, I just felt that there had to be more to this. However my lack of ability to articulate or discover another way just led to frustrations that led to my dropping out of high school. It wasn’t that I couldn’t achieve, but it was more that I didn’t see the point – there had to be a better way, because how good is good enough when it always had to be better. And what happens if/when failure occurs:

“The Chinese parenting approach is weakest when it comes to failure; it just doesn’t tolerate that possibility. The Chinese model turns on achieving success. That’s how the virtuous circle of confidence, hard work, and more success is generated.” (p.146)

So now here I am, co-parenting children born in this country with my beautiful Northern Irish (yes, she’s white) wife, both of us knowing we have Tiger Mother tendencies. However, we’re learning that Jesus loves the Tiger Mother and that the concept of “good enough isn’t good enough” is still important. In a society that is geared toward mediocrity, our biggest parenting task has been encouraging (this is open for interpretation) excellence. Good enough really isn’t good enough, excellence makes a difference. However our focus has been directed towards excellence in character, in habits, in conduct, as it is reflected in the Lord Jesus Christ. If there is excellence in these areas then we’ll deal with the results, but more importantly, excellence in these areas allows the life of Christ to recognized in our children and through our children toward others. Just as Amy Chua reveals, as a recovering Tiger Mother, I still fight against my own inclinations and recognize that our parenting influence on our children is a long way from being revealed as a “because of” or “in spite of” conclusion. While trying to measure against the shifting achievement standards of our culture may be tempting, I’m going to do my best to submit my Tiger Mother tendencies (yes, the ones I’ve fought against all my life) toward the excellence found in the life that Christ offers. I could be a Tiger Mother, but I want so much more for my children:

“I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”

-3 John 4

About the Author

mm

Deve Persad

8 responses to “Confession: I Could Be A Tiger Mother”

  1. Telile Fikru Badecha says:

    Deve, Thanks for sharing! I agree with you that as followers of Christ we are to excel both in inward character and in good deeds for the glory of God. As you noted this is not easy in a society geared toward mediocrity but by the grace of God available to all of us in Christ, we seek to grow, mature and do our best.
    I also like this: “While trying to measure against the shifting achievement standards of our culture may be tempting, I’m going to do my best to submit my Tiger Mother tendencies (yes, the ones I’ve fought against all my life) toward the excellence found in the life that Christ offers.” Blessings.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Telile, thanks for your encouraging words! May we all continue to pursue excellence for the glory of God.

  2. Deve,

    Thanks for your post. It was a good experience to learn a little more about your story — about your father, about your growing up years, about your high school career, about your wife, and about your family. Thanks for sharing these things here. It was really good to get an inside view into my friend Deve.

    I love when you shared what is most important to you in your family, “…our focus has been directed towards excellence in character, in habits, in conduct, as it is reflected in the Lord Jesus Christ.” So how does that play out in the lives of your children? As pastor’s kids, how are they doing with all of this? When my kids were young, I was in full-time ministry, and frankly, I find myself almost too busy to be a good father. Thankfully, as I said in my post, my wife was there for my kids and they are mostly who they are today because of her. Hallelujah for that! None of us can redo what we did with raising our children; it is what it is. I am so grateful for God’s grace in allowing us to make mistakes and picking up the slack for us. Would love to chat with you about all of this over tea in Hong Kong. Let’s plan on it.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      I look forward to a nice cup of tea and conversation with you, Professor…Certainly for our family, the Lord has been faithful in providing for our needs so that my wife has been able to be home with our kids. This has definitely provided much needed stability for them during these years. Our hope is that they have been able to grow up without too much of a burden of being PKs, but likely the future will have much to reveal about this. There have been a couple of instances where teacher’s aware of my work, have put unfair expectations on our kids. For the most part though they seem good. Thanks for asking that question.

  3. Liz Linssen says:

    Hi Deve
    Sounds like you’ve found a great balance of encouraging your children towards excellence, whilst realising that academic success isn’t everything.
    I appreciate where you wrote, ” In a society that is geared toward mediocrity, our biggest parenting task has been encouraging (this is open for interpretation) excellence… However our focus has been directed towards excellence in character, in habits, in conduct, as it is reflected in the Lord Jesus Christ.” That sounds like a much more whole way of parenting!

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Liz, thanks for your feedback on this. As I said in my article, the jury is still out on whether we have found the right balance when it comes to our kids – but we feel good about who they are at this point in their lives. The one thing about teaching excellence is that it is the standard of Jesus Christ and unchanging, which helps to reinforce the need to continually pursue it.

  4. mm Julie Dodge says:

    I liked this reflective post, Deve. I honed in on your phrase, “good enough isn’t good enough.” I think you are right in many ways – especially as a cultural minority in a white, dominant culture environment. Sadly, good enough is not enough. I like your focus with your own children on excellence of character. But I also thought about the other side, those children, youth, and adults, who are so driven by perfectionism (which isn’t necessarily excellence) that they are emotionally unwell. I have indeed worked with some students to develop what I call slacker skills (probably not the best term) because they are literally killing themselves to be perfect, and I tell them that it is ok to be good enough. I remember when one of these students waited outside of my classroom one day just so she could tell me that she only skimmed the chapters in her other class (as I had taught her using our reading guidelines that Jason gave us) and that she still got an A on the test. I think perhaps that the difference is the excellence standard – excellence is more robust, in my opinion, than perfection. It includes the character, the balance, and the spiritual wellness that you are reinforcing in your children, as well as the high expectations and hard work. It’s more than an A.

    • mm Deve Persad says:

      Thanks Julie…this is important insight: the difference between perfectionism and excellence. Both of these lie on the opposite end of the spectrum from mediocrity and all present challenges for us. Your example is an important reality check; thanks for being aware of these differences and having a positive impact on your students.

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