Family Relationships

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Parents Weigh in on Tiger Moms

Amy Chua's book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother continues to make waves among women and parenting experts. It's gotten everyone talking about how to raise children today, in the midst of all the distraction out there. As mothers, we all want the best for our kids, but what does that really mean? The best at academics, the best at music, the best at sports, the best at relationships, the best at self-esteem, the best at balance?

Here on our blog, the comments we've gotten from you so far are overwhelmingly in favor of Western Moms over Tiger Mothers, but with the recognition that children do need rules and boundaries. And that, as parents, we need to acknowledge a healthy respect for the individuality of each child in helping them develop into successful adults.

Most of the media have come down on the side of western parenting, as well. Janet Maslin has written a scathing review in the New York Times book section, describing Ms. Chau as a narcissist who "never fails to make herself its center of attention" rather than on focusing on what is best for her daughters.

Ms. Chau believes that being a Tiger Mother encourages self-esteem in her children because they truly excel in particular activities. But some parenting experts note that overly controlling the choices teens can make may instead foster a negative self-image.

Parenting is never easy and there's lots of input available from developmental professionals. Clinical Psychologist Wendy Mogel advises parents to set standards and role model their values but then allow their teens the freedom to make their own decisions - and face the consequences of their actions. She calls it "compassionate detachment" and believes it helps build strength and resiliency in teens.

We've looked at different kinds of parenting styles here on our blog before. When Lenore Skenazy shocked overly protective helicopter moms with her book about how she was raising her 9 year old son, Free Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts with Worry, we talked about letting your children make some of their own decisions. In another blog post, we suggested that you resist micromanaging your teens and encourage them to do more independent problem solving. As your kids mature and head for college, the message is to ease up on being too directive and instead let them learn from the consequences of their actions.

Of course, it's true that western children waste many hours on texting, video games and television - more than 4 hours a day, according to Nielsen figures. On one of our blog posts, we gave you some tips about how to get your kids unplugged and find creative outlets for them instead. Even though it can be frustrating to try to wean them away from electronics, setting family rules about what is and is not acceptable is easier when your include your children in the planning process.

Of course you know well that parenting is messy and complicated, with you "ad-libbing" some of the time. You need to dig deep to understand your children's strengths and weaknesses - as well as your own - in creating your personal style. And recognize that it will develop as your kids grow and change. But when you give your children the room to rely on themselves and build independent problem solving skills, you are teaching them about how to succeed in life, as well as in school.

So what are your thoughts about all of this? Let's keep the conversation going. Just click on the "comments" button and share your experiences with all of us.

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Anonymous Heather Mundell said...

My oldest is just in 7th grade, so I'm just beginning to think about the teen years and what my intentions are for parenting.

But considering that the goal is for her to be able to leave home for college in 5 1/2 years, I do believe that resisting the urge to micromanage and letting her experience natural consequences will be the best way for her to gain the skills she needs to confidently (or at least fairly willingly) leave the nest and forge out on her own (even in the protection of a college environment, there is so much self direction required).

So my job now is to recognize opportunities where I can step back and places where I can step in to coach or guide. I expect this job to feel different day by day!

I'm sure by the time my 4th grader is a teen I'll have it all down pat, right?! (um, no).

Thanks for the thoughtful post with all the great links!

10:11 AM  

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