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Can a Tiger Mom Raise Happy, Active Children?

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  • Posted: April 15th, 2011

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    By: Dawn Juntilla

    The recent publishing of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has created quite a stir and initiated a worthwhile discussion about the “right” way to parent your children.  So which parenting style is best if you are interested in raising successful and active children?

    The Tiger Mom insists strict parenting is the only way to ensure your children reach their potential. She believes all children are capable of reaching certain goals, namely straight “A”s in school and proficiency in piano or violin.  It is all a matter of how much time the child and parent need to dedicate to the task to achieve the goal.  No amount of effort or time spent studying or practicing is considered too much.  Case in point, Mrs. Chua recounted the time when she forced her 7 year old to practice a piano piece through dinner and into the night, without bathroom breaks, until she got it right.

    This kind of intense focus on academics and music does not leave room for other activities. In fact the Tiger Mom is clear that she frowns upon participation in other types of extracurricular activities.  There is no question that this approach has been very successful for the Tiger Mom herself and her children.  Amy Chua is a Yale Law professor and her eldest daughter was recently accepted to Harvard.

    Learning about this style of parenting really made me analyze my method of parenting.
    Reflecting on my own upbringing, I quickly identified the single most important factor contributing to my happiness and success.  It is the belief that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to if I am willing to work for it.  In fact, I grew up with an expectation that I would reach my goals. 

    I was surprised how consistent this was with the Tiger Mom’s approach. Then I identified one very important distinction.  My parents went to great lengths to involve me in decisions regarding my education and activities.  They let me decide what I was passionate about and made me responsible for my success.  I wanted to be successful because it gave me a great sense of personal accomplishment, not because I was afraid to shame my parents or have them berate me. 

    So what does this mean for my children?  I expect my children to do well in school, but I also want them to be physically active and engaged in identifying activities they are passionate about.  Sure our society needs law professors and musicians, but we also need entrepreneurs and artists.  As a parent, I will help my children find the path that is right for them and teach them to work hard to get where they want to go.

    Comments & Discussions(6)
    • Jo Park

      April 26th, 2011

      First time, I ever heard "Tiger Mom" from your article. I totally agree to your conclusion, but I always concern where I draw the line to do right thing for my kid.

    • Mollie Claire

      May 2nd, 2011

      As a "rising Tiger mother" (as my mom would say), I have to say that I found many parts of Ms. Chua's book hilarious. While I'm hesitant to write, "You'd have to be Asian to fully understand". My husband and I come from very different backgrounds, but we both had the benefit of hard-working, immigrant parents who would not accept academic failure. Whenever I question my strict approach, I get a smarting reminder from my teenage daughter's friends. They have all the latest gadgets, but none of the grades to have EARNED them. They have the privilege of hanging out at the mall after school and going out on dates (in JUNIOR HIGH ?!?) while my daughter stays home, playing board games with her siblings and experimenting with me in the kitchen. I think I'll stick with being a tiger mom.

    • Mollie Claire

      May 2nd, 2011

      Whoops! That should read, "While I'm hesitant to write, "You'd have to be Asian to fully understand", not all of what she wrote is to be taken at face value.

    • R.C.

      May 11th, 2011

      I agree with Mollie Claire "You'd have to be ASIAN to fully understand", Tiger Mom just doing the best for her children. I am also an asian and I totally understand why she have to be strict because if not your kids will do whatever they want. We raised our children in Asian way and I am thankful because they are all successful so it's worth it........

    • Winn

      May 24th, 2011

      First I think structure for kids is very important. I think they should be expected to do well academically, physically, and in the arts. I also think they should be made a part of the decision making process and be given options (maybe be limited but still options). In my personal opinion being a very strict and stern parent, doesn't get you anywhere, because even if you children become successful, in the long run they may end up resenting (possibly hating) you for their up bringing. With all of that said I am not Asian, but one of my best childhood friends (Thanh) was. We started school together when we were 3 years old, and stay i the same classes until high school. We we both in gifted classes. Her parents were very strict, and anything less than an A+ was unacceptable. I remember on report card night, when Thanh got her first B, I don't know what here mother said to her, but whatever it was brought her to tears, and the next day at school she was no better. From that time on whenever she though she wasn't doing very well, in class on a test ect, she would silently turned red and break down into tears. If you ask me that is just ridiculous. I pretty much got straight A's in school, until 7th grade when I came home with a B in Algebra I. My dad tried to pull the "What is this, you are to bring home nothing less than A's!" speech/torment with me, and in backfired, big time. I started skipping class, not coming home, ect. Things only got better when I was given an apology, given choices, and most of all given respect. I know am a wife, mother of 4, Registered Nurse, Real Estate Investor, and owner of two very successful businesses. I also have siblings that are all very successful. Thanh and I however have lost touch, but I can say that when we were last together in high school she started to push back against her parents, hard. She wound up dropping out, spending her time with the want to be "thugs", and prostituting. I hope things have changed for her since then. But with her and my own experiences in mind I would dare be that type of parent, because the success that you could create is not worth risking the disaster that could also come.

    • R.R.

      May 28th, 2011

      I'm Asian american and was raised by strict asian parents (mostly my dad). He didn't expect us to get straight A's all the time but he expected us to do well in school academically. He never attended any of our school programs or sports avtivities. By jr. high we couldn't have any extra-curricular activities. He wanted us to concentrate on our academics so we could get into a good university. my sister and i weren't allowed to date in high school. i never went to any high school dances until my senior year for prom. Needless to say, my sister rebelled: always snuck out of the house, got bad grades in high school and never finished college. My brother got a national merit scholarship to a really good university and partied a lot his first 2 yrs., until my dad pulled him out and he realized he had to do better. My brother graduated and is successful in the financial industry. As for myself, i also partied hard my first 2 yrs of college and have yet to graduate. From my own experience, i believe being too strict on kids can back fire on you or can lead to unhappy kids. I love my parents but i wish they hadn't been so strict. My siblings and i don't really have a good relationship with my father. Providing food shelter and clothing isn't enough to show your kids you love them (that's old school). Physical discipline also doesn't help. Kids need to hear that you love them every day of their lives. I'm now in my 40's, married to a wonderful man and have 2 beautiful boys. I tell my boys i love them every hour of everyday. Somehow God has blassed me. Thank you God.

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