If you didn’t hear, a National cat fight broke out a few weeks ago when a Yale University Law professor by the name of Amy Chua released her memoir about her success as raising her child the “Tiger Mom” way. Well, anyone knows that criticizing mom is not a nice thing to do anyway and the media has had a field day with mom-types recently, like the Cougars, so, the sparks are flying between various groups from the Tigers to the Cougars to the Free-Rangers to the steadfast likely “Jewish, Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom” type which Ayelet Waldman wrote a great piece about in the Sunday Wall Street Journal back on January 15-16 this year. One of my friends also reminded me of the “Momma Bear Moms”. She is from the Mid-West so I think that is more like the one Waldman writes about without the injection of Jewish guilt. Bottom line, insulting mothers is not politically correct in any culture. Stating that your way is better than someone elses is unfriendly and competitive. Everyone knows that every mom does the best they can for their kids and in every part of life some moms may be better than other moms in some areas but not others. That’s life. Chua obviously must know that, but she likes a good fight. After all, she is an Attorney.
But, in actuality, Chua did nothing special or unique in her description of a parenting style. She parents the Authoritative way, also known as Authoritative Parenting. The watered-down version of this style is “Tough Love”. Such parents are command driven and dictate how things are going to be, no if and or butts, which may include no bathroom breaks if an event is deemed as “important”. It really does not matter what you think or feel, you are going to comply and “it’s for your own good” If you don’t comply, you get shamed, which is worse than guilt-tripped. If you do comply you get love, admiration, hugs, and according to the plan, you feel good about yourself because you pushed yourself to achieve something worthwhile to positive development and fortune. Oh, and proved you taught yourself you could do it for yourself, albeit mom was behind you with a whip so to speak. So, the sought outcome is “success” and “good self-esteem”; getting perfect SAT scores, getting into a great college, and maybe even getting a high paying job in a recessed job market. Hard to argue with these outcomes, isn’t it? Chua does have a point. If parents don’t lead their kids, at least enough that is, many kids splinter based on a multitude of influences some of which range from peer influences during the Middle School and High School years to the influences of the Media and the Internet. It is a scary world out there as anyone who has watched the new MTV hit “Skins” knows. But, one has to make a determination as to whether the pain in gain is too much to pay for what is perceived as “success” these days. For example, research shows us that the kids who feel the most shamed, kill themselves more than any other teen raised by any other parenting style. That’s really not good. Yes, the kids of Cougar Moms may have some issues, but at least their kids don’t kill themselves when they feel they have failed them. Kids who are often brought up the Authoritative – Tiger way, often do not play sports or have a lot of friends. After all, they don’t have time to have a life outside of academics and a few finite activities. They also only have a few extra-curricular activities that are not self-chosen. They may become gifted pianists but are they really happy? Does being the top student and musician really equate with true happiness? Most kids, until they reach late adolescence, base only one part of their self-esteem on academic achievement. What about social achievement? What about creative achievement? What about just being a kid -achievement? Development is multi-faced – it’s not just about your grades and following the rules, it’s also about being nice, caring, and a good friend. Go see Race To Nowhere and the movie brings this to “real” life.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the more passive parents, or parents who either do not like to parent, have trouble being assertive with their kids because they either do not want to hurt them or fear making their kids mad at them. Then, there are the parents who are still kids themselves and the ones who believe kids should figure it out for themselves. This is what I see as the Non-Parenting Parent Styles collectively which like the Tigers, are extreme positions in the exact opposite direction. These parents don’t do enough parenting. This is the group that Chua would collectively want to eat for dinner and pretty much did when she wrote her book.
But in reality, most parents are neither Tigers nor “out to lunch types” of parents. They are in the middle doing the best that they can weathering the storms of raising kids these days in a challenging world where we are still taught, at least in the Western part of the world, that “balance” is key and being able to survive without your parents and joyfully be capable of independent functioning,is the healthy way to live, whether you are a boy or a girl. Too much or two little of things are not healthy, balance is key whether it comes to dieting or raising kids. And being flexible is adaptive. What is most common these days from a parental style point of view are the “Free Range” parents or the ones who practice a benevolent – firm approach when it comes to meeting the developmental, emotional, academic, social, physical, and creative world of a child or teenager. In this approach, kids are encouraged to make good choices and when they go too far in trying to be “perfect” or struggle to achieve what they are truly functionally able to do, the “healthy” mom jumps in and helps their cub get on track and this leads to a child who feels both loved and successful, not ashamed, guilty, or dependent. This type of “good” parenting is like running a successful business. Here, the kids are the CEO, and the parents are the Board of Directors. If the CEO is succeeding, the Board gives them a raise and a pat on the back. If he or she is struggling, they jump in to help them succeed. The only difference in this metaphor is that you never fire your kids. You just get them more help if they need it and you may have to outsource.
Extremes are never a good idea for anything we do from allowing our kids to eat too much candy or not letting them go to the bathroom when they really need to go even if they are practicing playing the piano or violin. Balance is always key and the good news is most moms parent this way anyway as most kids do develop well-enough to lead happy and successful lives once they leave their den mom. This is because most moms love their kids and are invested and have done their homework in learning how to raise healthy children.
1. any extreme position is never good for kids including parenting
2. parents need to be firm but also fair
3. healthy development multi-faced – academic, social, creative, and physical
4. healthy self-esteem is based on one’s true comfort within, not meeting or not meeting external expectations