Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Are You a Tiger Mother or Western Mom?

With the publication of her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chau has unleashed a flurry of heated discussions about parenting styles. When an excerpt of Yale Law Professor Chua's book was printed in the Wall Street Journal, there were well over 5000 comments - more than any other article in the history of their website.

Chau insists that her book is a memoir, not a guide about child rearing. But by describing her strict Chinese mother rules for her two daughters, now teens - no playdates, no sleepovers, no TV, no school plays, no choice in extracurricular activities - she emphasizes the control she exacted as they were growing up. And Chau explains the rigid academic demands she set for her daughters - getting no grade less than an A, being the #1 student in every school subject, playing the piano or violin at an expert level, winning gold medals. She justifies this by stating that it will serve her children in good stead as "achieving academic excellence gives you self-esteem."

By comparison, Western parents may be seen as coddling, soft and weak. Chau notes that studies have shown Chinese parents spend about 10 times as long each day drilling their children in academic subjects. But many have noted that these behaviors may have adverse effects. Arguments about parenting styles do not happen in a vacuum: the suicide rates are above average for Asian-American girls aged 15 - 24.

The Wall Street Journal followed up with an article by author Ayelet Waldman offering the flip side of parenting, In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom. Waldman highlights the value of letting children find their own way as they learn from their failures as well as their successes.

As moms, we all try to do the best we can, knowing that each child requires something different from us and there is not one right way to parent all children. Given those caveats, where do you weigh in on this battle between "tiger mothers"and "western moms"? Let's hear what you think about these very different parenting styles.

Here are some questions to consider: How do you describe your own mothering style? What's worked for you and your children? How were you raised? What do you think about how your grown kids are parenting their children? Is it really a cultural difference between East and West or a difference in expectations? We'll consider these questions again next Wednesday as we take a second look at tiger mothers and western moms.

Be sure to join us this Wednesday as we host a virtual book tour with Dr. Gary Small, author, with his wife Gigi Vorgan, of The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head: A Psychiatrist's Stories of His Most Bizarre Cases. Dr. Small, director of the UCLA Memory and Aging Center and professor of psychiatry at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine will answer our questions and be open to yours as well.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't need to be a tiger mother to have successful kids - I got straight A's in school and my mom still let me have sleepovers, be in school plays, and make my own decisions about extracurricular activities. Chau is over controlling her kids. What will they do when they are out on their own? Beth

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are violin and piano the only allowed musical instruments? I took lessons in both but was never really any good at either. I admire those who are good oboe, sax, etc. players. What does the Tiger Mother have against them?

2:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She does have a point about not letting the kids make all the decisions about homework. My son didn't enjoy reading when he was young and I didn't force him - now he never reads for pleasure and I think he's missing a lot.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mrs. Tiger Mom is right about one thing - our western-parented kids aren't doing so well in their studies. They rank behind most modern countries in science, math and reading scores. The only place they're number one is on self-esteem. Maybe we need to be more involved in their homework. But she carries it way too far.

8:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Ayelet Waldman's article made a lot of sense - I like the idea of moderation.

Yes, it's important to let our kids know that we expect them to work hard and do their very best. By being challenged and grappling with difficult tasks they will develop mastery, which they'll need to compete in the global marketplace. But talking down to them won't help - it will only make them feel bad about themselves.

10:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the Tiger Mom - there are lots of different good parenting models. we disciplined the kids whenever we thought they needed it. Fran

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Heather Mundell said...

I'm definitely a moderation-in-all-things person, which means I'm that kind of mom, too.

I just can't get too excited by taking a stand that's so black and white. Each of my daughters needs something different from me, so I strive to be the best possible mom to them both.

Having said that, I do have some guiding principles that underly most of what I do as a parent (on my good days!)

Have compassion.
Be yourself.
Try it.
Always be learning.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This has engendered so much interesting conversation! Libby

9:58 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What do I wish for my children?
To be the best at everything they do? To be the best that they can be? At the risk of sounding mundane, I think I just wish them to be happy, very happy, most of the time. I wish them to look at the world with a smile. They might become world-renowned scientists (probably none of my three) or store managers. Neither career guarantees happiness or misery.
I couldn't agree more with Amy Chua's statement that children should be recognized as strong, not as fragile ornaments. I think the best way for me to achieve this is by looking at them, seeing them and hearing them as they truly are.
Most of a person's misery stems from not being seen as he truly is—not seen by others, and not even recognized by himself. I'm a different mother to each of my daughters, because each is unique and, therefore, so is our interaction. Once I see them, I can help them use their inner resources to achieve their goals—not mine. As simple as this may sound, it's not. It's much harder than laying down one law for all.

Rules? Yes!
Boundaries? Yes, indeed!
But those that fit the needs of both the parent and the child.

Sarah Itzhaki
Toys’N’Tayls Ltd.

1:24 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home