Eastern Michigan University
Recently, a Yale law professor, Amy Chua, self-described as a “tiger mom” stirred up a controversy over her strict parenting style. Her latest book, an account of raising her children, “the Chinese way” has been the talk of the town. She appeared on a number of talk shows to talk about her specific parenting styles. There was also an article in last month’s TIME magazine about her strict rules as a parent. She is a mother of two girls who are now fifteen and eighteen. She is an Asian mom who believes in the Asian parenting style which was taught to her by her parents. Even though she is born and raised in the US, she brought up her daughters on the foundation of hard work and no play rules which she had inherited from her parents. She didn’t want her daughters to be slackers like the rest of her American classmates and waste time. She claims that she demands nothing but an 'A' from her daughters. She insisted on hours of math and spelling drills along with piano and violin practices each day including weekends. There were no play dates allowed, sleepovers, TV or computers. Some of these practices have left many parents outraged at her parenting style. Most parents think of her parenting style as very strict, extreme, and outrageous.
When Amy Chua appeared on the Today show, she explained how Western parents allow their children to waste so much time on Face book, computer games etc.
Chua spoke about the western parenting styles and remarked about “how poorly they prepare them for the future.” “It’s a tough world out there.” she says.
Another practice with which Chua has an issue is “slathering praise on their children for the lowest of tasks.” For example, “drawing a squiggle or waving a stick.” She claims that Westerners label their children as “gifted” or “talented” while Asian parents try to focus on the importance of hard work. Amy Chua mentions an incident when her daughter came second on a multiplication speed test, Chua made her do 20 practice tests every night for a week as punishment. According to Daniel Willingham, a professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, “it’s virtually impossible to become proficient at a mental task without extensive practice.”
Looking at such a parenting style from Amy Chua raises a few pondering questions for many parents including myself. Why is it that Western parents take pride in a little task that is done by their child and come to peace with the fact that this was the best that they could do? Why aren’t they pushed to do better? Is this the best way to motivate them? We are more concerned with their “happiness” or their comfort zone. Are we raising slackers?
As noted in TIME magazine, the latest results from the Program for international Student Assessment (PISA), were released and the American students landed just in the middle: 17th in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math-17th overall. Chinese students, on the other hand received first place in all three categories. And when asked about these results, the answer was plain and simple: Chinese students work harder, study more hours and with more focus. We are then forced to ask ourselves, what do these children have that ours don’t? The genes or simply the nudge that they get from their environment that is needed to succeed and be the best in this trivial world. As Amy Chua puts it, “a tiger –mother” approach is not an ethnic characteristic. Rather it is a philosophy: expect the best from your children, and don’t settle for anything less.” We all may not agree with all of her parenting practices but we definitely have to agree with the fact that yes, children are very fast learners. They will learn what we will teach them. Their future is in our hands as parents so why not make it the best.
Why can’t they excel at everything that life throws at them? They should at least try to do their best and in the end if they don’t end up on the top then that is also fine because we know that they tried and they know they tried. There is nothing wrong with making our children tough because the world out there is a tough one; it’s not all fun and games.
The fact is that one day we will not be there to protect them but we will be satisfied that we have given them the necessary tools to survive in this bitter world. We need to push and motivate our children to do the best, be the best and accomplish the best, because that’s what they are, the best!