'Tiger Mom' Parenting Style Isn't Wrong -- You're Just Lazy


TigerBy now you've probably heard the clanging of all the cages that Tiger Mom Amy Chu rattled when an excerpt from her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was recently published as an essay in the WSJ, titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." Not so surprisingly, parents everywhere are quick to criticize, accuse, and berate this mother for her perspective on parenting that's different than theirs.

While some of the Yale professor's methods in her push for her daughters' perfection are less than admirable, I can't help but think that perhaps a little of the backlash has come because many parents are lazy in their parenting and are perhaps defensive when they see someone who isn't.

We all want what's best for our children, but we're not always ready to fight the battles that get them there. It can be seen in little things like bribing a child out of a public tantrum with a toy rather than dealing with the matter at hand to agreeing to let them skip a soccer game on a Saturday morning because they're too tired ... and we're too tired to stick to parenting principles.

Turning on SpongeBob SquarePants is a lot easier than fighting the battle to make them read a book; letting them walk away from a challenge is less stressful than making them work through it. We often skip sending the right messages because it's easier, and we want to do what we can to minimize tears and frustration, and we want to protect their feelings. But sometimes those tears and frustration are necessary to grow and learn, and yes, succeed.

One of the examples of her outrageous parenting that's being cited involves birthday cards her children gave her. She said they didn't put enough effort into them and handed them back. Harsh? Yes, but you know what, my son has made some really crappy, hasty cards for friends and family because he wants to rush through and get on to something else. I've told him they're not good enough, that he didn't try hard enough, and made him do them over. Just because children are small doesn't mean they shouldn't do their best. I'm not looking for Hallmark-ready work, just his best work, and I'm not willing to ooh and ahh over any little scribbles he does. Sorry.

Another outrageous example cited is that she deemed anything less than an A from her children as unacceptable. Why is that so bad? If they have the ability, then why not insist they live up to it? My parents insisted on A's from my siblings and me when they knew we could do it (my brothers were excused in art and handwriting), and they didn't say, "Oh that's okay" when we brought home less. They didn't beat us because of it, but it wasn't okay, and it's not okay for my children either to not live up to their ability.

But children need help figuring out how to live up to their potential, so it's up to us as parents to figure out how to cultivate and motivate them to do so. Chua's methods are a lot stricter than mine. She banned things like playdates and sleepovers and dictated the activities in which her children could participate. But if my son's grades started to suffer, you better believe I'd start to pull some of those things.

I wish I had the dedication she describes when she sat with her daughter for hours upon hours teaching her a piano piece, but I all too often take the easy way out. I don't see it as torture; I see it as tenacity that most of us are too timid to embrace. And yes, I see the love in it, too. She's repeatedly been called a narcissist and self-absorbed, but I see many of her acts as self-sacrificing for the sake of her children.

In her book, she states, "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it." And as much as we want to believe otherwise, it's the truth. We tell our children, just go out and have fun, but they're not going to have fun if they suck. No pain, no gain, right? And it's time we really stop being so fragile with our children's feelings. We all want them to be self confident, but sometimes all the coddling we do is taking it away.

I love this quote from Chua:  "... as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't."

She admits she made mistakes and learned a lot along the way. Don't we all? But I think there's a lot we can learn from Amy Chua.

Frankly, I think most of the backlash against Chua has come because it makes us take a look at our own parenting, and we feel guilty about the lazy approach we often take. We question if we're doing enough to ensure our children's success in life, and wonder if she's doing what we should be doing more of?

What do you think of Tiger Mom's parenting techniques?

Image via Dave Stokes/Flickr

a mom's life, child care, learning, discipline


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Nika87 Nika87


sodapple sodapple

tough love =-D

potte... potterpeaches

I agree with this too. I think that many American parents prioritise self esteem at the expense of other import aspects of a childs upbringing. It's also possible that lazyness is a factor for some. When children are getting their way they are less confrontational and that makes life easier for the parents. That said, I think some of Tiger Mom's methods are extreme and it looks like she is trying to live her life through her children. Middle ground is the key here.

nonmember avatar Anon

I agree that many of the modern American parenting ideals are misguided. We are taught to assume our kids are stupid and fragile. This is about protecting the weakest of the species by bringing everyone else down. It helps nobody. A good mom gets to know her individual kids' strenghts and weaknesses and challenges them every day. Like dogs want to serve and horses want to work, kids have a strong innate desire to learn and grow. It's not an insult to say "you can do better." The examples that woman described are extreme and I think dubious, but some of the concepts are worth including in our overall parenting paradigm.

Laneydo Laneydo

Thanks, I was beginning to think I was crazy for seeing at least some positives to the high-expectations mindset! I will make time for fun, too, and always be clear that I love my kids... But there's a big difference I've seen between kids whose parents were...well, innocently lazy. Come on, what do people think will happen if they don't push their kids to make As?

my2.5... my2.5boys

My husband was raised by his Chinese mother, and let me tell you, they can and do take things way too far. My husband loved playing the violin, until his mother insisted that he practice, daily, until his fingers bled. If his fingers were not bleeding, he had not practiced long enough. Is he an excellent violin player; YES, does he enjoy playing it; NO. I've only heard him play a handful of times in the 12 years we've been together because she killed his love for it. And this is just one example from his childhood.

He and I take a very different approach with our children, and it's not out of laziness. We love and respect our children, and understand that it is not our place to control them, but to guide them. We are unschoolers, slowly but surely moving into the realm of radical unschoolers, and our boys are strong and confident individuals.

hotic... hoticedcoffee

I don't think there's anything wrong with encouraging or expecting personal best from your child - but that's not what Chu wrote about.  She demanded perfection (which is VERY different from personal best), and resorted to heartless, painful, controlling means to get what she wanted.  It just sickens me to think there are mothers like her out there.

Also - if you really think that nothing is fun unless you're good at it, well, my sympathies to you.  That's very sad

nmmama09 nmmama09

This book sounds interesting. I would like to read it before I give my opinion on the author's style of parenting.

Tiffany Altieri

Actually, I think most of the backlash comes from her methods of getting her way: bullying, belittling and threatening.  Certainly, that's not the kind of mother I want to be.  I grew up with parents who expected me and my three siblings to do our best.  That didn't have to be an "A", but they knew me well enough to know when I could earn one.  They were involved, pushed us to want to push ourselves and not just quit when things got hard, but they never did belittled or bullied us - they would ask us why and to talk through why we wanted to do the things we did.  And guess what?  I did get mostly A's, won lots of awards (sorry no music, it was academics and journalism) and now have a great-paying job in a field I love.  I'm pretty happy.

My son is now 1.  My husband and I want him to do his best, we have our expectations of course and we'll work through them as he grows.  But I don't plan to prepare him for therapy throughout his childhood by being domineering parents.  I'd rather guide him to success - not shove him into it.

nonmember avatar Christine

I want my daughter's 100% best in all that she does, but never perfection. Being a self described perfectionist myself I DO NOT WANT my daughter to have that hanging over her head. For example, while writing thank you notes for Christmas cards this year my daughter LOVED practicing her writing. She is just shy of 5 so "practicing" is the right word. She would get frustrated because her letters did not look "perfect". I would ask her "did you do YOUR best?" and if her answer was "yes" then I told her nothing else could be expected of her. All through life, but especially at a young age, we learn and we practice and learn and practice until we succeed in our attempts. I always tell my daughter that doing her best while she practices is the most important thing. From writing her letters, to learning to ride her bike without training wheels I want her to try her best. If she is trying her best I am 100% happy with her no matter the final outcome. Also with my daughter it is VERY easy to tell when she is/has tried her best verses when she has rushed or was distracted. I may still push perfectionism on myself ( I am constantly working on not having to feel perfect) BUT I hope I am nurturing the seed of BEST not perfection with my daughter. In this case I do NOT want her to be like me!

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