Are You a Tiger Mother or Western Mom?

With the publication of her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chau has unleashed a flurry of heated discussions about parenting styles. When an excerpt of Yale Law Professor Chua’s book was printed in the Wall Street Journal, there were well over 5000 comments – more than any other article in the history of their website.

Chau insists that her book is a memoir, not a guide about child rearing. But by describing her strict Chinese mother rules for her two daughters, now teens – no playdates, no sleepovers, no TV, no school plays, no choice in extracurricular activities – she emphasizes the control she exacted as they were growing up. And Chau explains the rigid academic demands she set for her daughters – getting no grade less than an A, being the #1 student in every school subject, playing the piano or violin at an expert level, winning gold medals. She justifies this by stating that it will serve her children in good stead as “achieving academic excellence gives you self-esteem.”

By comparison, Western parents may be seen as coddling, soft and weak. Chau notes that studies have shown Chinese parents spend about 10 times as long each day drilling their children in academic subjects. But many have noted that these behaviors may have adverse effects. Arguments about parenting styles do not happen in a vacuum: the suicide rates are above average for Asian-American girls aged 15 – 24.

The Wall Street Journal followed up with an article by author Ayelet Waldman offering the flip side of parenting, In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom. Waldman highlights the value of letting children find their own way as they learn from their failures as well as their successes.

As moms, we all try to do the best we can, knowing that each child requires something different from us and there is not one right way to parent all children. Given those caveats, where do you weigh in on this battle between “tiger mothers“and “western moms“? Let’s hear what you think about these very different parenting styles.

Here are some questions to consider: How do you describe your own mothering style? What’s worked for you and your children? How were you raised? What do you think about how your grown kids are parenting their children? Is it really a cultural difference between East and West or a difference in expectations? We’ll consider these questions again next Wednesday as we take a second look at tiger mothers and western moms.

Be sure to join us this Wednesday as we host a virtual book tour with Dr. Gary Small, author, with his wife Gigi Vorgan, of The Naked Lady Who Stood on Her Head: A Psychiatrist’s Stories of His Most Bizarre Cases. Dr. Small, director of the UCLA Memory and Aging Center and professor of psychiatry at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine will answer our questions and be open to yours as well.

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