Do You Trust the Tiger Mom?


Parenting is the toughest job there is. It’s not just the first few months of sleep deprivation—it’s more about the fact that as soon as you think you have it almost figured out, you move into the next phase. The job of a parent doesn’t get any easier with experience—as evidenced by the fact that after about 15 years of parenting you realize your skills really haven’t improved at all.
All parents are clear about the degree of difficulty involved in their job, but not all of them admit it. Those non-admitters are the ones who are not to be trusted in my books. I don’t trust a parent who acts like they have it all figured out and I certainly don’t believe that their life is any better or easier or happier than anyone else’s.

Take Amy Chua, for example. She’s a Yale law professor and author of a new book entitled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother which examines the cultural differences between Chinese and American mothers’ approaches to parenting. An article from The Wall Street Journal titled ‘Why Chinese Mothers are Superior’ pretty much sums it all up in the headline. Amy Chua thinks she has it all figured out. Her autocratic ‘Chinese mother’ approach to parenting is what produces straight A students, and successful adults. No A-minuses allowed. No sleepovers, no boyfriends, no sports.

Not surprisingly, this article has sparked huge debates online—dubbed the ‘global mommy wars’—as a debate over Eastern and Western values and how they project into parenting. It’s all very interesting, but I don’t wish to get into the back and forth on which parenting style is better. My issue is not about her strict rules (I support strict rules and fully endorse her belief in hard work—for the record). I just don’t buy her self-righteous attitude that her way—or that of what she refers to as the ‘Chinese mother’—is what produces high-achieving, superior children. It’s just not as easy and straightforward as she describes, and most parents would agree with me that there is no blueprint for success when it comes to parenting. I also question her values with respect to measuring ‘success’.

Here are a few questions I would like to raise on this issue. If you have any answers or comments, please share them below.

  1. Where is the credit given to her children for achieving their own success?
  2. Since when does academic ‘superiority’ translate into happiness and success professionally and (here’s a crazy thought) happiness and success in one’s personal life?
  3. Why do Amy and other parents use their children’s academic success as a measure of their own success?

I’ll leave you with what my friend Kathy Buckworth had to say on the topic:

“While Tiger Mom might try to convince you that she rules the roost and what she says goes, the fact of the matter is, if you’re spending 99% of your leisure time forcing your children to practice the violin and to do their homework for three hours a night, I’m pretty sure at this point the kids have taken over your ENTIRE life.”

And where is the balance in that?


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