In recent months, in the online and offline worlds, there have been heated discussions on whether the “Tiger Mom” concept made popular by Dr. Amy Chua is the most effective parenting model. These debates were triggered by the claims made by Dr. Chua in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, that her parenting style based on strict rules (including no sleepover, no computer games, no participation in school play, etc) is the most effective in producing successful children.
What are more shocking to the Western world is, she also did not allow her daughters to score anything less than an “A” grade, ‘forced’ them to practice violin and the piano, and drove them to work towards becoming the No. 1 students in all subjects (besides gym and drama). She contends that it’s how strict a ‘Tiger Mom’ is, and how she spared less hesitation in deciding for the children what’s good for them, that make the Asian parents superior.
Really? We have to ask. To a certain extent, we agree that parents should decide for the children – mainly because the kids are immature and experienced to make life decisions yet. We also do not deny that parents should inculcate in the children the habits to work hard – harder than most others, if they want to succeed. In addition, developing the desire to win is important to the children too.
However, should all these be done at the cost of the kids’ childhood? It’s good to get the children start early in working hard for their future, but shouldn’t the kids be allowed to play (and play a lot!) too? Should there only be pursuit of good grades, classes after classes, and endless math questions to solve in their childhood? Aren’t there important lessons the kids could only learn while playing, like social skills?
On the other extreme, there is a group of laid back parents, who raise their children with laissez faire discipline. They are parents who set no limits on their children, and allow them unreasonable levels of freedom. This group is made up of parents who either felt too controlled during their childhood, or have simply no idea of what parenting is about. The cyber community calls them the “Koala Bear Parents”.
Yes, children should be allowed certain freedom under the watchful eyes of their parents: the freedom to do what they like to do, to express their feelings and emotions, to mingle with the little friends and adults they like, and explore the world in their own unique ways. However, the parents should be quick to restrict this freedom if it brings harm to them or people around them, or it potentially affects the kids in a negative way.
Without restrictions from parents, the children might grow up to be lacking of self-discipline and the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.
Where’s the balance between the ‘Tiger Mom’ and the ‘Koala Bear Mom’ models? Parenting expert Sue Etkins proposes a ‘balanced, fair and flexible’ parenting style. It suggests that a balance must be maintained by the parents to allow sufficient freedom, yet restrictions are set to discipline the children. It’s the parents’ responsibility to give clear instructions to the kids to help them understand the expectations — what are acceptable, and what are not.
However, the parents must be flexible in their approach, without being constrained by the hard and fast rules that they set for themselves. They should try out different things to find out what works in the end. Children too, are given rooms to make mistakes and learn from them. They don’t have to follow to the letters what their parents say, and are allowed to provide feedback.
The ‘balanced, fair and flexible’ model is the middle path between the “Tiger Mom” and “Koala Bear Mom” models. It advocates that shaping the characters of the children isn’t the sole responsibility of the parents. The children, too, must feel involved for their behaviors. The parents must work hand-in-hand with the children in exploring what’s best for the children.
About this article:
When Dr. Amy Chua’s induction of the “Tiger Mom” concept took the online community of parents by storm. Hundreds and thousands of messages are seen in the forum, either condemning Dr. Chua as over-controlling parent, or praising her for her success in leading her daughters to initial success in life.
My wife and I did take part in some of the debates too. What surprised us is we found that many parents, especially new parents, are not clear about their parenting strategies. We were like them too, but we’re lucky that we started exploring parenting skills early. Read the story on how we had a mini-enlightenment in parenting (and you can too!), at Raising Happy, Healthy, and Emotionally-Balanced Children [http://www.howtoraisehappychildren.com].
By: Mark Arrollado