I’m sure by now you’ve heard all about the Tiger Mom controversy.  If not, no worries, I’ll get you up to speed. Yale professor Amy Chua just released a book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In it she talks about her harsh, no-nonsense tactics for raising her two daughters.  Chua maintains that her daughters successes (straight A’s and winning musical competitions) are the result of her “Chinese mothering.” Her rules for her daughters included not allowing them to attend sleepovers or have play-dates, they weren’t allowed to be in school plays or watch tv, they had to get straight A’s and had to play the violin or the piano – no exceptions. From my perspective the rules were the easy part – the way she enforced them is what made them uber-harsh. She notes at one point calling her daughter garbage for being disrespectful to her. One of her daughters came in second in a math competition and was forced to do 2,000 math problems a night until she was again number 1. In another instance her daughters gave her birthday cards that didn’t meet her standards so she rejected them and demanded that they make new ones. The list of corrective measures goes on and on. Here’s what she had to say about her methods:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle.

She asserts that Western parents are too soft and that we tend to worry about our children’s self-esteem and therefore accept mediocrity.  She makes the point that a Western parent wouldn’t call their child fat and wouldn’t tell them that they are stupid. These terms apparently aren’t off limits in a “Chinese” household. As I read an excerpt from her book and the commentary that followed, I found myself a little… well, disturbed. I couldn’t see telling my child that he’s fat, garbage or stupid. I couldn’t even imagine thinking it let alone letting it fly from my lips! I think that there is a world full of people who will do their best to try to demean him and break him down and break his spirits. I, his mother, don’t need to be one of those people.  When the world tears him down,  it’s my job to affirm him and build him up. I didn’t bring him into this world to make him feel small. I also don’t plan on coddling him and accepting mediocrity. I know he’s capable of great things, there are other ways to pull them out of him that don’t require him to suffer the lifelong scars of my tiger paw. Then again, I’m just a Westerner. What are your thoughts about Tiger Parenting? I’d love to hear other viewpoints. I know Chua only represents her view on “Chinese” parenting.

image via theatlantic.com

7 comments on “Eye of the Tiger – Mom”

  1. I agree with you, in my opinion a parent should always build up their children because the real world is going to abuse them enough. Does this mom not realize the damage she is doing and what kind of adult her children will be. I see possible suicide or even psychotic behavior from pushing any child over the edge.Greatness is what we want for all our children, but at what cost.

  2. Terry, thanks for your comment. You know what’s crazy? In reading all of the commentary around this book someone else pointed out higher rates of suicide in communities where kids are pushed so hard like this. It goes beyond “Chinese” parenting. Even the author of the book pointed out the same parenting style is present in other cultures and not limited to Asian communities.

  3. Wow! It’s making me want to actually purchase the book. Not that I am in total agreement with her, nor totally adverse to her “style” of parenting, but I do believe that there is some validity to at least part of her madness.

    Hear me out, I believe that as children we all grew up respectful and determined to be the best in all that we did. We had supportive parents who “pushed” us to be the best. We knew the success of winning and the agony of defeat, but we cannot say the same for children nowadays. Children are allowed to provide mediocre work in school and get partial credit and in some instances allowed to turn it back in after correcting it for additional credit. When playing baseball even if they lose everyone gets ice cream and sometimes even a trophy. We have gotten to a point in our society where parents strive to be their childs friend vs. their parent. At what point in time did we find it necessary to shield our children from society’s truth…that you will fail, it takes hard work to be the best and in order to live a comfortable life later…we have to be prepared to sacrifice now and be uncomfortable for the time being.

    I remember being a child and falling and my parents picking me up and telling to wipe myself off and keep on playing. I learned that playing in the game came with ups and downs. Children don’t play anymore, they don’t fail nor do they succeed. Everyone wins…its setting them up for failure. Yes, our world is harsh, it’s cruel and mean and unforgiving, it’s the same world that WE created, as parents we should prepare them for this same world. We should not coddle them into believing that everyone will give them what they want.

    As an adult, I wish that my mother had pushed me to play the piano, but as a child I cried and never learned. I can barely speak Spanish because I gave up. While I have been successful in many aspects of my life I chose as I got older to (in some instances) take the easy way out. Why would we want our children to start this way as well. At least show them that as a parent, that you care enough to push them to be better than they thought they ever could be. Show them the success of hardwork, but don’t punish them for being human.

    While I don’t agree with her “tactics” and generalization of “Chinese parenting”, I do applaud her attentiveness to the success of her children. I’m not going to tell my children that they are stupid or garbage, but I am going to let them know that “C” may be average, but I didn’t raise average children. If you set the expectation high, they may just surprise you and not just meet them but exceed them.

    As they say…Shoot for the Moon and even if you miss you will still be among the stars! So help them shoot for the moon rather than telling them that even if they don’t try “they are still a star”.

    Rather than using a “Tiger Paw”…use your hand to guide them in the right direction.

    Just my two cents…..

  4. Although I think this “tiger mom” is a bit LOCO, I do believe that children crave and want discipline, how you teach that discipline is the key. Never would I break my child’s spirit. As Terry stated, there are way too many people out here that will try to do that. We as mother’s are to help reinforce the positive forces for our children while still being honest and real with them. Children still need to be children no mater what. They have the rest of their lives to be “Grown Ups”. I will pray for “tiger mom” and her children.

  5. I think she has some scars from her childhood that she’s passing on to her kids. 

    Four points – 
    1.) No sleepovers or play dates Simply put, kids need to interact with other kids. Developing friendships & social skills are important life skills. These things  will help our children build a life outside of us (their parents) because  they won’t always be our “little children” but adults who’ll need to function without us.  

    2. Remake my birthday card

    Seriously!  Children need to be creative and know that whatever they do their parents will always love them and appreciate their efforts. They’re kids for crying out loud!  I couldn’t imagine saying something like this to a friend nevertheless my child. I’m looking forward to my homemade cards because it will be an expression of love from my child and how it looks won’t matter. 

    3.) Self-esteem
    I think self-esteem is a part of the confidence Chua is seeking when she wants her kids striving to be #1 (I guess you can compare it to the hunger a tiger has when hunting it’s prey). As parents, we must be concerned with our children’s self esteem; otherwise they’ll get walked all over as the grow up. I think that can produce just as many psychological problems as her lack of concern for her children’s self esteem. I agree that its a parents job to build up their child so they are confident and will go after their goals. With that kind of confidence, mediocrity is not the goal and I think seldom the result. So, I think lack of focus in a different area can produce the same results.

    4.) Exposure

    One other thing that stood out to me was the overriding a child’s preference. I do agree that you shouldn’t just let your child quit or not do something just because they don’t want to. Continuing through whatever activity it is will teach your child to finish what they start and they may just learn that they can enjoy something new. 

  6. I hear you Jen – things are definitely different from when we grew up. Some good, some not so much. She just really struck a cord with me because she seemed to be all about success and not really emotional well-being.

    Cheryl – Yes, she is a bit loco and way too results driven for me.

    Kiara – I gotta say the birthday card thing took it over the top with me. That’s just on a whole other level. Just seems like it’s crushing your kid’s spirit.

    Thanks ladies for your thoughts! 🙂

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