Why Tiger Mum Amy Chua's house rules will make your kids hate you
Tiger Mum Amy Chua lays down some harsh house rules for her kids. Find out what they are and why you might want to consider avoiding them.
Most adult children in Singapore now stay with their parents well into their 20s, thanks to sky-high housing prices and lengthy wait times for new flats. In fact, many are even getting married and having kids while living with their parents!
As parents of young ones, you may wonder if your kids will do the same one day. If they do end up living with you, where do you draw the line when it comes to matters such as contributing to rent, food and bills in general? And what about other matters?
We heard of one mum who doesn’t think twice about laying down the rules, and she’s no other than Tiger Mum Amy Chua.
In typical Tiger Mum style, she’s set down a bunch of Tiger Mum house rules for her now adult children, and they have no option but to comply because she’s gone down the legal route!
We’ll leave it to you to decide if her rules are too harsh… or not. But we do point out what you should probably avoid doing, if some day, your children end up living with you as adults.
The Tiger Mum’s house rules
So what rules should you make? Tiger Mum Amy Chua famously showed us how she tackles having adult kids at her place, when she published a contract she drew up in the Wall Street Journal.
Amy’s daughters Sophia and Lulu, aged 23 and 20, had found summer jobs in New York City. Naturally, they planned to crash at their parents’ NYC apartment for free — but the Tiger Mum wasn’t letting them in without some legally-enforceable rules.
Here’s the contract in full:
The stringent contract is precisely what you’d expect of a self-proclaimed Tiger Mother. In her now-infamous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy boasts of calling Sophia “garbage” and of insisting that her daughters never rank lower than No.1 in any subject.
A lesson in what not to do
At this point, you’re probably wondering if you should model your housing rules on the Tiger Mum’s. Amy apparently feels her ultra-harsh approach epitomizes Asian parenting — she described her tiger mumhood in a Wall Street Journal piece titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior.”
As a child on the would-be receiving end, I find her contract a great lesson for parents — a lesson, that is, how not to treat your kids. Chances are, Tiger-Mum style rules will make them secretly resent you (even if your contract stipulates against it).
Here’s a breakdown of everything you should avoid in her contract.
Some of the Tiger Mum’s rules take micromanagement to a whole new level. #7, for example reads “To fill the refrigerator with fresh OJ from Fairway for Jed on days when he is in town” and #8 specifies “To keep the pillows in the living room in the right place and PLUMPED and to clean the glass table with Windex whenever it is used.”
Micromanaging your children’s tasks and responsibilities implies you don’t trust them (plus they should know how to do basic household chores!) It’s great to divide up the work clearly, but insisting that they follow the way you do things to the letter will backfire.
2) Having expectations of their feelings
You might have noticed the irony in rule #3 of the contract: “To greet Jed Rubenfeld & Amy Chua with spontaneous joy and gratitude whenever they visit.”
Parents, it’s natural to expect your kids to show gratitude, not only for “letting” them live with you but for all the painstaking years you’ve raised them. However, turning this into a barter trade — expressions of love for a roof over their heads — achieves the exact opposite.
It’s more realistic to understand that there will still be days when they talk back to you or greet you curtly — but this doesn’t mean they aren’t grateful deep down.
3) Seeing them as beholden
“Children owe their parents everything, even in the West,” states Amy’s contract. As a child, I definitely feel indebted to my parents — endlessly so — for raising me with blood, sweat, and tears.
But just as it’s my duty to repay my parents, so it was their duty to raise me when I was younger. Indebtedness goes both ways, and that’s why the parent-child bond is so deep and unbreakable.
4) Making them feel unsafe
The very end of Amy’s contract adds: “Sophia and Louisa agree that the above duties and conditions will not be excused even in the event of illness, hangovers, migraines, work crises or mental breakdowns (whether their own or their friends’).”
And the penalty for a single mistake? “Amy and Jed will have the right to get the Superintendent or a doorman to restrain them from entering the apartment; and to change the locks.”
It’s terrifying to have the threat of being kicked out hanging over our heads, and by our beloved mum and dad no less. As parents, I’m sure you want your home to be your children’s safe space — a place where they know they’ll be accepted unconditionally.
The Tiger Mum drew up the contract without her daughters’ input and, in her own words, “made” them sign it. That’s not even to mention how she brought the full force of the law into her cosy home!
Being dictatorial to your adult children goes against the purpose of creating new rules. It would be odd to ignore their say while supposedly recognising their adulthood! Treating them like adults is all about understanding that they have views and feelings of their own.
Let your children voice out how they want to contribute or, better still, let them take the lead when they are all grown up.