Can a Tiger Mom Raise Happy, Active Children?


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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.

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