To Purr Or Growl At Your Kids?

Swirling in the parenting trenches in 2011 was the controversy over Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom. Chua believes Western parents don’t raise their children to excel. What do you think?

Child doing homework

The Tiger Mom parenting philosophy

Amy Chua makes no apologies because she once called her daughter "garbage." As a child, her father called her garbage after she was disrespectful to her mother. "It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn't damage my self-esteem," Chua writes in her Jan. 8, 2011, article for The Wall Street Journal online.

Chua says Chinese moms and dads demand their kids respect them and excel, forcing children by cultural default to live up to their parents' highest expectations in every area: discipline, school, music and even appearance.

This means getting all A's, ranking number one in every subject except for drama and gym, and playing only piano or violin. By contrast, writes Chua, Western parents focus on building self-esteem.

The three "rules" of Chinese parenting

"I've thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do," she says. There are three key differences, Chua feels, between the Western and Chinese parental mind-set:

Self-esteem. "Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently," she says.

Entitlement in reverse. "Chinese parents believe their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children," says Chua. In return for their investment, Chinese parents feel children owe them excellence. Western parents on the other hand, don't think their kids are permanently indebted.

Mother knows best. "Chinese parents believe they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences," says Chua. This means kids can forget about:

  • Sleepovers
  • Playdates
  • School plays
  • Complaining
  • Television
  • Computer games

Moms weigh in about Tiger Mom

Writes Barbara, mom of two, "I found her parenting strategy to be very intriguing. Although it appalls our western culture as being too harsh, it does release into society extremely intelligent, successful, productive young adults. But one has to ask, 'at what expense?'"

"She takes good elements to the extreme," says Lisa. "I agree with setting high standards for your kids, not overindulging them and believing in them, but making kids practice piano for four plus hours straight without food or bathroom breaks? No way," she says. "Rejecting a hand-made card from your kid because it's not good enough? That's just mean. Kids need free, unstructured time to daydream and pursue their own hobbies. They need to hang out with their friends. They need encouragement, not a drill sergeant. They need balance, not extremism."

Eileen writes, "Whilst I don't think we should be encouraging the 'A for effort' mindset, and I do think that kids need structure and reliable rules with reliable enforcement, I thought her argument was B.S., mostly a canny marketing 'mothering via cultural stereotype.'"

For me? I'm all for encouraging excellence in our kids, but I default to positive reinforcement and parenting according to my daughter's personality and needs, not making her live up to strictly my agendas. Children aren't robots we program to stroke our egos. They're unique individuals we firmly, but lovingly guide while they come into their own.

Tell us

What do you think about the Tiger Mom parenting philosophy? Share your opinion on the comments section below.

Read more about parenting styles

Parenting books that are generating buzz
Five parenting styles for a new generation
What is your parenting style?


Recommended for you


Comments on "The Tiger Mom debate"

Anonymous March 13, 2014 | 10:26 AM

No, YOU are crazy. Have you raised any child prodigies? No, I thought so. You're raised a different way, you find this abusive and crazy and not a way to treat a child. But look at the girls now, they're doing great, they don't suffer from psychological problems and stuff like most Westerners do if you even spank them. The proper way to raise children is how she stated in her afterword. Great book, good way to raise children nowadays.

Laura January 25, 2013 | 12:47 PM

My take on this Tiger Mom philosophy is that it's way too extreme and borderline abuse in some areas, but some concepts within in have merit, not necessarily the actions to endorse it. Pushing kids to be the best by depriving them of a social life or other extracurricular options will likely squash their joy, their identity, their sense of choice and make them eventually rebel. On the other hand, praising kids for every teensy thing, doing projects for them so they get an A, not encouraging them to push through the hard stuff and accomplish on their own, isn't raising kids to be tough, independent minded citizens. Extremes never sit well with me. I think at each polar end of an argument lie grains of truth that when applied rationally, have true merit.

supermama October 13, 2012 | 8:22 AM

I recently read Amy's article in the Wall Street journal and am also intrigued by the tiger mom philosophy. I think Amy makes some really good points. When she writes about telling her husband that he just doesn't believe in their daughter and makes her daughter push through until she finally "gets it" and then her daughter feels proud" that really set in with me. I think we "westerners" allow our kids to give up too easily, dismissing their lack of effort as "it's just not their strength." I have read in many scholarly articles that self-esteem is gained through working through difficult situations until the goal is achieved. I dont' believe we should go through the same extremes as Amy did with her daughter, not allowing her to go to the bathroom or bed is abusive in my mind. But, I think not allowing television or others activities until a child has reached the goal of an endeavor they have begun, I am totally on board with that.

xczcas February 07, 2012 | 11:03 PM

YOU ARE CRAZY this is no way that you should treat your child they wont have a social life then i guess they wont be happy anymore either you are sick minded and this means our children wont get to grow up to what they want to be!!!

+ Add Comment

(required - not published)