Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Parenting - Remember the Tiger Mom?

--by Mike Adams

Last January, Amy Chua published an article in the Wall Street Journal, which the editors titled, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”. Chua’s article examines her views on what she sees as the big difference in how “Western” and “Chinese” parents view their children. She explains that Chinese parents think of their children as strong and resilient. Capable of excellence and capable of hearing blunt feedback in service of fulfilling on their potential.

By contrast, Chua suggests that “Western” parents are overly concerned with their children’s self esteem, thinking their children fragile and unable to endure criticism. Chua, says that “Western” parents could go a lot further in trusting their kid’s resilience in pushing their kids to succeed and flourish. Essentially, she says that in the West, we fail to point out when our kids are being lazy or selfish.

Chua first received national attention on this topic with the publication of her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. I haven’t yet read Chua’s book, but a quick perusal of her site reveals complicated and nuanced person, Chua explains that she wrote this book as a way to try and save her relationship with her youngest daughter who was in full rebellion. She wrote the book as a form of family therapy, a way to work things out and figure out how she lost her way. Chua says, “Jokes aside about A+s and gold medals (much of my book is self-parody), in the end for me it’s not about grades or Ivy League schools.  It’s about believing in your child more than anyone else – more than they believe in themselves – and helping them realize their potential, whatever it may be.

Well, that quote about sums up who I want to be as a parent. I don’t do the Chua regimen, I do the dragon Daddy regimen and whether that puts my kids on the wrong end of a seething mythical dragon from the Hobbit or in the good graces of a gentle Eastern dragon is kind of up to them...and how things went at work today, and sun spots, and how much sleep I got...did we run out of coffee, etc...etc...

Point is, I love my kids and I’m imperfect...really, majorly imperfect! Just check out my post on “Parable of the Demonic Feline” to see exactly how imperfect I might make you laugh and hopefully make you think.

Anyway, Amy Chua has sort of slipped off the radar, but I’ve been thinking about some of what she said and letting it germinate in my psyche for more than a year now.  I have to confess, I love Amy don’t misunderstand, this is no romantic, sending notes and flowers sort of love, rather, I love the controversy she started, I love the vitriol her book and her article in the Wall Street Journal have inspired. I love that people are thinking and discussing. It is true, the bloodsport of controversy can be entertaining, but what I love here is the fact that for the first time in my working memory our society’s conversation about parenting is in flux. Questions have been raised and they aren’t going away.

I love that things are being said, which were strictly taboo only a few years ago, I love that people are being pushed out of their comfort zone and that opinions, which have have gone unquestioned for years are finally receiving scrutiny. In short, I love the creative synthesis that can occur inside of this sort of controversy. I love that we collectively have the opportunity to emerge fortified, armed with new ideas and ready to continue blazing that path of parenthood, which is more art than science.

If there is one thing that drives me crazy, it is someone acting like they’ve got this whole parenting thing figured out. They know all about ADHD and school and homework, etc.... Because, guess what people, no one has it all figured out. Remember in the 80s when they kept telling us that we’re each a unique snowflake...well this is where that cheesy conversation is really useful. My kids don’t react the same to various kinds of encouragement or discipline as someone else’s. In fact, they each react differently than each other. Basically, what worked with my fourteen year old when he was six...That does not work my current six year old.

I remember one day, my wife and I overheard someone say that they didn’t really approve of our parenting. Tara was a bit concerned about this and later she asked me what I thought they might be complaining about. I shrugged my shoulders and said, “either they think we are too strict or they think that we are too lenient...who knows?”

Basically someone is always going to think there is something wrong with my parenting, but why do I care what they think...I have to live with my kids, not them, so I’ll determine how best to navigate my relationship. I’ll make mistakes, I’ll lose my temper sometimes, but in the end, my kids all know that I love them, that I would do anything for them, that I am proud of them and think they are the best things since Amy Chua. This whole being human thing is messy and awkward, and if that aint bad enough, being a human parent is even worse, but I love it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Because I’m a parent, I have a unique opportunity to try and learn how to be a better person. More importantly, I get to watch these beautiful, fascinating and brilliant people grow into adulthood and unleash themselves on this world...what a miracle!

One final note, the Tiger Mom's daughter, who was admitted to Harvard wrote this rebuttal to the vociferous criticism her Mom received, who apparently received some death threats (my how we love to go way over the top in society). Please read:


  1. You are right, no one knows anything. The dumbest I ever felt was when my children were babies - no, toddlers - no, teens...we all learn as we go about this parenting thing.

    Having raised up two pretty decent people (20 and 22), I can tell you this for sure - the most important thing you can do is listen - really listen - to your kids. They will thank you for it.

    1. Thanks Sharon. I agree...unfortunately, I'm not the best listener. I'm working on it though :-)

  2. You are right. It is up to each and everyone how to parent our kids. No one is right or wrong. Everyone is unique and different in their methods. Bottom line, as long as the kids learn right from wrong and learn how to be polite, and treat others with kindness and respect how could you go wrong? It doesn't matter how people achieve it, only that in the end the kids get it.


    1. What really interested me about Chua's story is that she was a very strict and demanding parent with her oldest daughter, who took it all in stride. But when she got to her second daughter, that turned into full on rebellion. It reminds me of my kids. My eldest is hyper logical and he responds best to a clear expectation of behavior, coupled with a well defined consequence for his failure to behave. Positive reinforcement isn't very compelling to him. My middle and youngest, by contrast, respond best to positive reinforcement very well and when they get in trouble, it is likely that they will dig their heels in and aggravate the situation into a full blown battle. It's tricky finding out how to deal with each person and their individual personality. It turns out this makes me better at my job as I spend more time trying to figure out what my co-workers need in order to have a smooth running work environment.

  3. I'm not of the same mind as the girls above on this one, I think there are a lot of right ways to parent and an equally number of WRONG ways. Being the alpha pair in the house I think is essential. I see people trying to live in democracy environments and I have never seen that work. Home is not a democracy. Children are not equals. Parents make mistakes and they admit it and move on. The structure is necessary and the methods within those structures, not important.
    So glad my kiddos are in their 40's and neither went to prison, yet. :)

    1. It seems that they'll probably not go to prison now Jo :-)

  4. Hey, check out this post on my wife's blog. It is very thought provoking and the very interesting conversation is just getting started: Ask Team Ambiguity: Are Women Enslaved by Modern Motherhood?


Thanks for your comments! :-)
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