Tiger Mom or Dragon Lady?
Some readers of this blog are already in the thick of parenting, while others are still eagerly anticipating this stage of life. Either way, how much thought have you given to your parenting style and philosophy? Are you just going to figure it out as you go along? Raise your kids the way your parents raised you? Will you be strict and demanding? Flexible and nurturing?
Amy Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, hit number five on the New York Times hardcover nonfiction bestseller list this week, and it's stirring up quite a storm. Chua's memoir describes the parenting techniques of a "Chinese mother," some of which might seem questionable or even downright appalling to many Western parents.
Chua summarized her parenting philosophy last week in a Wall Street Journal article titled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." Her essay generated more that 5,700 comments - more than any other article in the history of WSJ.com - so clearly it's touched a nerve.
Among other things, Chua talks about how her daughters were never allowed to have sleepovers or play dates, watch TV, play video games, choose their own extracurricular activities or achieve any grade less than an A. She punished any failures with name-calling (telling her daughters they were garbage, lazy or pathetic) and motivated them to perform with threats (of burning all their stuffed animals or withholding meals).
The book is presented not as a parenting guide, but rather as an inside look into a "Chinese" family and an explanation for why Asian students stereotypically excel at music and academics. They're not smarter; their parents just expect more and push them harder.
If you get past the extreme anecdotes, many of her points may actually be valid. She criticizes the tendency of "Western parents" to praise every effort, thinking that they are protecting their children's self esteem. The take-home lesson for me was that by pushing your children to excel, you prove to them that they can do more than they thought. True self-esteem and self-worth is built on a foundation of achievements they worked hard for.
I'm way too Western to ever be a true Tiger Mother, but I think I will work toward channeling her a bit, setting the bar a little higher and truly believing my kids can reach that bar. How about you?