Amy Chua, the Yale law professor who authored the all-the-rage Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, would fit in well on the Main Line: She’s brilliant, accomplished and attractive. Of course, if she actually lived there, you could add one more adjective to that list: shunned. The strategies she recounts in her book — calling her younger daughter “garbage,” forcing her to practice piano for hours, forgoing bathroom breaks and food, forbidding playdates — have been met with horror among the suburban glossy-mom set, where promoting self-esteem and social skills are deemed more important than musical prowess. Ava*, a Gladwyne mother of two, says the book was panned by her girlfriends at a recent dinner at White Dog Cafe in Wayne: “The author’s extreme method backfired with one of her children, and it’s as much about her mistakes as it is about her extreme parenting.”
“The Tiger Mom is ridiculous!” adds Isabelle, a Chestnut Hill mother of three. “No playdates? She’s beyond the extreme.” Then again, Isabelle admits that the book’s über-tough-love stance tweaked her nagging fear that she’s hopelessly spoiled her kids: Her teenage daughter, she admits, is “lazy and a slob.”
Annie, a Devon mother with two kids in private schools, says that on a recent morning, Chua’s strategies provoked mom chatter — most of it negative — while she was volunteering in her daughter’s class. “Our kids are so busy with activities and homework that they’re really tired, and I don’t want to push them harder,” she says. On the other hand, “My kids don’t know which is the washing machine and which is the dryer.”
If nothing else, Chua’s book has prompted a dialogue about how basic parenting skills can be blunted by wealth, says Fort Washington child psychologist Jill Belchic-Schwartz.
“People are now talking about how much they’re spoiling their kids,” says Schwartz. (She counsels one family that bought each of their three children a $600 iPad to end squabbling.)
But don’t expect to hear Main Liners excoriating their offspring as pathetic sluggards anytime soon. “It certainly isn’t the way we work,” says Maurice Tannenbaum, father of a 16-year-old and owner of Gladwyne’s OMG Salon. “We’re not raising Hana that way. I don’t want to be too liberal, but I think repressing your child is just as significant.”