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Tiger Parenting – What do you think?

January 26, 2011

By now I’m sure you’ve heard some of the brouhaha over the Amy Chua book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I have not read the book myself, and I don’t intend to. Her essay in the Wall Street Journal was enough for me. I’ve read some excellent responses to her book which are well worth reading. First, Dr. Christine Carter, author of Raising Happiness, writes about happiness, achievement, and self-esteem in a post on the New York Times Motherlode blog. And just today I received Dr. Laura Markham’s email newsletter which beautifully describes authoritative parenting and finding the “sweet spot between strict and permissive.”

I don’t want to repeat what others have said so eloquently. I’d just like to add a bit from my own personal experience. I suppose that my husband and I can be tiger-like sometimes with our high expectations and demands for practice from our children. We also, however, respect our individual children’s talents, interests, and abilities, and have different expectations for each of them in different areas of achievement. Maybe that labels me as too “Western” by Chua’s standards, but I truly believe that we all have individual strengths and weaknesses. Actually it’s more than a belief. The research and the principle of normal distribution back me up on this.

I was surprised at my visceral reaction to reading Chua’s Wall Street Journal essay, especially the part where she describes her success in battling her 7 year old daughter over learning a piano piece. I just felt awful reading that, and found myself imagining how awful it must feel to be the child and to be the parent in that dynamic. I know that sometimes we do have to battle our children or stand our ground as parents for a greater good and outcome for our kids and families in the end. I also believe that we can choose those battles and our methods (or “weapons” as Chua says) for battle in thoughtful and productive ways.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Nancy Kapsalis permalink
    January 27, 2011 10:13 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with you! There are not many things I am passionate about, but my children and the role I play in their development is one area I am. I could go on in great length about many things touched on in her article, however, I will keep it to this: sometimes people forget children are actually people too, with their own set of feelings and opinions. We put them in an impossible situation, on one hand, forcing them to grow up much too quickly and yet at the same time “scolding” them for growing up much too quickly! Yes, I have high standards for my kids and have certain expectations. But for me, grades are secondary to the process by which they got them. If they studied, did their homework, truly tried, and got a “C”, then I am not as disappointed if they received that same “C” and did nothing. The grade won’t matter, but the discipline and dedication it took to get there, will carry on to the next thing they do in their life. We are not raising our children to be good students their whole life or be a star athlete or performer for the rest of their life. All those things are fleeting. We are raising them to be decent human beings. I have told my kids many times, your teacher will not remember you because you got straight A’s in her class or failed every test. Your teacher will remember you for the person you are and how you treated others and showed respect for those around you. More than any accomplishment I hope for them to achieve in life, I want them to grow up to be good people, because in the end, the only thing that truly matters are the relationships we have built.

    • drcuneo permalink*
      January 27, 2011 2:40 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing this Nancy. Your children and we as a society are lucky to have mothers like you!

  2. Amy permalink
    February 12, 2011 9:04 am

    I think that as long as the child is not in danger then it is not for every one else to question (Granted Mrs. Chua did open her self up to the voices of dissent & questioning.) – no matter where on the strict-sweet spot-permissive spectrum those families are located.

    There was a lot of uproar about a very strict parent with very successful children, meanwhile very little is said or felt about poor achievers or those in poverty at all. Without dipping our feet into the verbal-mental-physical abuse spectrum at all. Those are the parents that all of the eloquent writers should be writing about. That is the story that should be in the WSJ & garnering this attention. I’d love to know what Mrs. Chua thinks about those kids, how can she transfer her children’s success onto those in Poverty. Those whose parents are lucky to see their kids, let alone have the luxury of forced practice sessions.

    Also, Mrs. Chua no matter what you think about her child rearing theories, sure as heck is a great publicity hack!

  3. drcuneo permalink*
    February 12, 2011 9:26 am

    You make some great points Amy. Having spent a good part of my career working with children and families in poverty in the Bronx, I would love to see more attention paid to what individual parents and society at large can do to help raise successful children. I would even venture to guess that while there may be many similarities, the parenting strategies that lead to success may vary depending upon the socioeconomic and cultural environment. The thing I think we need to be careful about is how we define “success.”

  4. Amy permalink
    February 12, 2011 9:38 am

    Good point about the definition of success, but a recital in Carnegie Hall is a generally accepted measure of success. (At least in the musical realm.) Time will definitely tell whether or not her daughters are successful in interpersonal situations, to cite just one other area in which we measure success.

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