I grew up in a typical Chinese family who never really expresses feelings of love. I don't remember my parents ever hugged or kissed me and my siblings when we were young.
My parents seldom praised us for our achievements. When I managed to do well at primary school (ranking 3rd for the whole batch), I didn't get any compliment. They just thought that it was a normal thing to do. In fact, they asked how come I didn't get the 1st place?
While they didn't give compliments, they were very generous in criticisms. They often compared us with their friends' children who did better from us; having better grades, better jobs, better spouses, better houses, etc.
Studying in US had changed how I behaved. I was more expressive in my feelings. I hugged and kissed (cheeks only, of course) when meeting friends. I became a "warmer person". Hugging and kissing were part of my daily things to do.
When I went back to Bandung for holiday, I automatically hugged and kissed my parents . They were so surprised and taken back. It was such an awkward moment. They didn't know what to do, just frozen until I let them go. At that time I forgot that my family were not used to physical closeness.
During that holiday, I told my mom about my study hoping that she would be pleased to know that I managed to get good grades. Although I knew that I wouldn't get any compliment, I just wanted to show her that the money she spent on me was not wasted. Right after I finished my chatterings, she told me that her friend's daughter graduated summa cum laude in Accountancy in just 3.5 years from a better university that I was enrolled in.
I was heartbroken and cried. My mother was surprised. She didn't know what she did wrong. She didn't know why I suddenly cried.
At that time, I told her everything I didn't like about her. I said a lot of things that hurt her. I asked her what should I do to make her proud of me, to make her love me.
She was shocked and confused. She never thought that I would think she was not proud of me. She told me I was insane for thinking that she didn't love me. If she hadn't love me, she wouldn't work that hard to send me to US for college, she wouldn't let me explore the world but kept me beside her so that she wouldn't have to bear the pain of missing and worrying about me. If she hadn't been proud of me, she wouldn't tell her friends about how well I did in college, she wouldn't ask her friends' children to ask me for advice to study in US, she wouldn't even ask me to cook for her friends.
I told her how could I know that she loved and be proud of me if she never gave me compliments and always criticized me. She said, she didn't praise me because she wanted me to be humble, not a snob. She always criticized me so that I would be motivated to do better and not to be content with what I achieved at that time.
It was my turn to be surprised.... a pleasant surprise to know that she was actually proud of me and all of my siblings. We had a long talk. After hours of talking, I understood her better. She did what she had done totally because she loved her children. She loved her children too much that she didn't care what we thought about her, as long as we could grow up to be decent human beings.
When I heard about the outrage in US when Amy Chua released her book "Tiger Mom", the picture of my mom popped into my mind. Although my mom was not as strict as Amy Chua but they do have some similarities in raising their children. Although their hearts are full of love, both of them appear to be cold and heartless. For American who believes in motivating children by praising them, the book was very difficult to digest.
Overly praising the children will lead to dilussional adults. Just look at the American Idol auditions. Millions of them really believe they are good singers because their parents always praise them although their voices can break the thickest glass windows.
I know a friend who thought that he was the most handsome and attractive guy around despite his big round belly, short legs, miniscule IQ and bad manners. He said his mother always told him that she was very proud to have a very handsome and smart son. I should have been honest and bought him a mirror and a GQ magazine..... but unfortunately I was not a "Tiger Woman".
But if I look at my family case, overly criticizing someone will also make the person lose his/her self-confidence and feel unloved. If I hadn't had that conversation with my mom, I wouldn't find out how she felt about her children. I told my siblings about that conversation and they were surprised too. Slowly we began to understand why she did what she did... We do know that she loves her children very much but sometimes she doesn't know how to express her love. She is now learning to express more of her feelings. She hugs back when we hug her... She is also used to have us kissing her.
My mom had never really been a Tiger Mom like Amy Chua but overtime she has definitely turned into a Teddy Bear Mom.
As for me..... Both of my daughters think that I am a bossy mom... Well, I am happy to know that they still think that I am the BOSS not a Tiger.