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Tiger Moms

“Tiger mom” is a term coined by Amy Chua and means a mother who unwaiveringly pushes her kids to excel.  Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of “Day of Empire”, “World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability”, and “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”.  She knows a thing or two about being a tiger mom:  heck, she IS a tiger mom.

Ms. Chua’s belief is that tiger moms differ from stereotypical North American moms.

•To tiger moms, children owe their parents their very lives and all the benefits therein.  Therefore, children should work to be successful and not waste all that their parents have done for them.  Contrast that with moms who think that parents owe their children a happy childhood.  Because children are dependent on their parents for most of their young lives, parents must ensure that their children have what they need to be happy, healthy children.

•To tiger moms, children do not get to exercise choice in their lives.  Parents make decisions on behalf of their children.  Contrast that with moms who think children should be allowed to have age-appropriate choice in their lives.

•To tiger moms, success is of primary importance for children.  Contrast that with moms who think happiness and healthy self-esteem is of primary importance for children.

•To tiger moms, all children are capable of excelling at everything.  Parents must push children to excel in academics and other essentials for success.  Time must not be wasted on tasks that are not essential for success (i.e., slumber parties, television viewing, etc.).  Contrast that with moms who think all children have strengths and weaknesses.  No child can excel at everything.  Parents must be responsive to their children’s unique abilities.  Additionally, parents must be responsive to their children’s need for happiness and positive self-esteem.

•To tiger moms, no task is fun until it can be done well.  Therefore, to succeed, one must perform a task over and over until it can be done well, even though the repetition of the task may be unpleasant if not outright arduous.  Once the task is mastered, then the performance of the task will be fun.  Contrast that with moms who think some tasks are inherently fun.  If a task is not fun to perform, perhaps children need not perform the task.

•To tiger moms, proper encouragement of children includes calling them “lazy”, “fat”, etc. These terms do not damage children’s self-esteem: instead, the terms push the children to work harder to demonstrate that they are not, in fact, “lazy” or “fat.”  Contrast that with moms who think encouraging children should include only positive comments and carefully-worded constructive criticism.  Words like “lazy” and “fat” are considered verbal abuse and damaging to children’s self-esteem.

•”(Tiger moms) 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.”  “(Stereotypical North American moms) try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment.  (quoted from “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”)

Truth be told, there are some merits in both perspectives, but neither side, taken to an extreme, is healthy for children (or parents). 

The hard-driving, success-oriented tiger moms can lead their children to believe that their acceptance, as people, is contingent upon their success.  Not everyone can succeed.  We would like to think that everyone can … in an ideal world, everyone can . . . but in reality, not everyone can.  If your child cannot manage to lead a Fortune 500 someday, what happens to the intrinsic value of the person that is your child?  Some children will respond well to the tiger mom approach.  Other children may buckle under the pressure. 

The nurturing, individualistic stereotypical North American moms can lead their children to believe that lack of success is irrelevant, unimportant, not to be striven for.  When mere participation in an event garners an award, and “everybody’s a winner”, children may not perceive the value in trying to achieve.  Some children will respond well to the stereotypical North American mom approach.  Other children may see this approach as license to loaf.

In the end, the mid-ground is best.  Know your children.  Know what they respond well to.  Know what their strengths and weaknesses are.  Push them to succeed.  Love them and encourage them even when they don’t. 

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