Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has been the topic of much conversation lately. The author, a Yale law professor, has been excoriated for being unreasonably demanding. However, as I read the jacket cover with some of the bullet points characterizing the “tiger” mentality, I mentally checked off the items with which I agreed and which I actually applied to my own children:
• no sleepovers
• no watching TV
• no playing computer games
In fact, I could actually insert a few of my own:
• no telephone calls during homework time
• daily extra assignments in math and reading
Professor Chua’s treatise on parenting methods may provide some insight into the differences between the academic performances of “tiger cubs” and their Western counterparts. And while some of her parenting methods are extreme (forcing hours of instrument practice on a young child), they originate from a different culture.
She brings up some valid criticisms of American parents:
“Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self –esteem.”
But what good is self esteem if a child has few skills, and little motivation or drive?
“Chinese parents assume strength, not fragility.” Allow children to show competence. American parents emphasize the importance of strength on a playing field. Why not do the same for academics? Why are some Western parents willing to drive spend hours at an athletic event at the expense of homework time?
“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe their child can get them.” The real message here is the amount of effort that the child puts forth. How demanding is the school curriculum?
“ . . . the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of , and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”
Having high expectations for children allows them to build confidence.
Ultimately, academic performance is only one (albeit large) portion of a child’s development. Western parents can modify some of the practices put forth by the “tiger mother” to enhance their children’s learning abilities. Yet the end point is not the really the “A.” Rather, it should be encouraging genuine effort that allows children to become competent, well-adjusted, self-assured, individuals.