We all know that Amy Chua’s book and WSJ piece has been receiving a great deal of attention lately. The publicity has been going nuts since last week– I was interviewed for Yahoo.com last week (twitter chat for yahoo today at noon; hatchtag #yshinechat) and this morning, I was on Fox News discussing it again. Some parents agree with her parenting style, some are outraged, even more are just frustrated that the publicity is getting her to sell so many books that she’s #6 on Amazon.
Here are the answers to some of the questions I’ve received about this topic over the last week:
(1) How does Amy Chua’s parenting style vs. traditional parenting: If you look at typical “involved” parenting styles, they usually fall into 3 main categories seen on a continuum. There are authoritarian parents that exerts strict control over children, don’t provide much choice, and are very critical of their children if they don’t meet their standards. On the other side of the continuum are permissive parents who make very few rules, give tons of choice, and accept their children’s behavior- whatever it is. And in the middle are authoritative parents who set clear, reasonable expectations for their children, age-appropriate choices, and teaching, rather than punishment. The Chinese mother as described by Amy Chua, would then fall in the Authoritarian parenting style while the Western parents described would fall in the Permissive category. Like most things, at extremes, both parenting styles have a great deal of limitations. Authoritarian parenting stifles creativity, individuality, and choice while Permissive parenting can lead to children who are not able to self regulate or perform at high levels. Neither traditionally lead to happy children. The answer typically lies somewhere in between—where children are pushed, supported, and given reasonably high expectations for that particular child without shaming or coddling.
(2) Is this the reason China is more successful than us in every subject? It all depends on how you qualify success in this case. The Chinese parent, as explained by Amy Chua, tells us that the children are pushed academically and musically and they are excelling there. Western parents define success differently—it’s about realizing your passion and excelling in it whether it’s art or academics or sports or even comedy, teaching, or public speaking. The push isn’t as concentrated or acute but rather, more well rounded. What’s better? I guess it depends on the end you are seeking.
(3) What is healthier for kids? I do believe what Waldman wrote in her rebuttle piece– Waldman said different parenting styles were needed for different children. “Roaring like a tiger turns some children into pianists who debut at Carnegie Hall, but only crushes others.” That’s true. At no time do I believe that parents should be abusive. That is never OK. But some children need to be pushed more than others in order to get them to reach their potential while others are more self-propelled or sensitive and require a lighter touch. There’s a learning that needs to happen when you have children. You need to have convictions and plans and rules but you also need to have flexibility, understanding, and spontaneity. Parents need to know their children and learn what’s required to uncover their best—and who better to learn that from than their children?
(4) Should parents be focusing their children on higher education and being number one? Again, I think this comes to how we define success. Number one is what? Education is a gift and a right for us—but it’s also a privilege. We must encourage our children to work hard, have rules around studying, and have high expectations for our children around schooling. I think our children must have a powerful persevering approach to their studies—I call this a “no-quit-go-for-it attitude”. But number one academically? Not if it means a child is clinically depressed or suicidal—as Asian teens have the highest depression and suicide rates of any other teens. Not if it means that the child is unable to explore his or her passions and the things that make them who they really are. Can you imagine if success only meant academically and we neglected to help cultivate and accept the gifts of our most well respected artists, exceptional athletes, and spiritual leaders? At the end I think we all must learn from one another—East and West—and the lesson is probably this: We must be the kinds of parents who insist on the best from our children—who insist on them finishing what they start and committing fully to what they choose to do and what must be done– but recognize that “their best” may come in many unpredictable forms and what they choose to do may not be what you would necessarily have chosen for them. One thing we know, there is no specific mold that all children fit. If we insist that they do fit a specific mold—if we decide on only one meaning of the word success, we will all lose out.
(5) Do we coddle our kids too much? I have seen a pattern of “quitting” and helicopter parenting that scares me at times. It’s hard to see our children struggle—there’s no doubt about that. BUT If we continue to allow our children to quit the activities they start or swoop in to fix the problem at any sign of challenge, our children will learn that quitting is OK and that when things get hard—to retreat rather than charge forward—because someone else will come and rescue them. There is a time to step in but there are many more times to allow your child to take the lead so that they can learn to lean on themselves, believe in themselves, and know with certainty—that with hard work, commitment and vision, that they can do it.
Would love to hear your take on it all– please enter your opinion here or on my FB fan site.
Fox News & Questions I’ve Been Receiving about “The Tiger Mother” is a post from: Dr. Robyn Silverman – Child Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach & the Creator of the Powerful Words Character Development System