Do we coddle our kids too much?
Is it safe to say that us Western moms don’t want our children to hurt or bleed in any way? We are terrified that our children will be the target of bullying, we praise every effort they make in sports even if they have the coordination of a sloth, and we get downright giddy with the plethora of art projects they bring home.
But are we setting our kids up for an unrealistic ideal of the world? Are we too touchy-feely with our kids, creating a generation of underachievers? Did “Tiger Mom” have a good point after all?
In 2011, Yale Law professor Amy Chua – dubbed as “Tiger Mom” – caused a stir with a Wall Street Journal article titled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, describing her strict methods of parenting. Chua said her daughter are “never allowed” to partake in activities such as sleepovers, playdates, watching television, achieving grades less than an A, and so on.
Chua’s take-no-prisoners approach to parenting involves long hours of supervised practice at the piano with no compliments for effort, but for mastery. She described her style as “tiger parenting,” a method common in East Asian cultures.
Western-style parenting, on the other hand, focuses more on self-esteem and independence for the child. Chua criticizes Western methods of parenting as being too lenient and setting kids up for failure.
“My Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most,” Chua said. “For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.”
When I first read Chua’s article, I was horrified of her seemingly cruel parenting style. And needless to say, there has been heavy backlast to the article, accusing Chua of emotionally damaging her daughters in the quest to make them succeed.
But does she have a point? Are we setting our kids up for failure?
I make every effort to make my kids feel nurtured and loved. I focus heavily on fostering self-esteem in my kids, I take iPhone photos at nauseating levels with every move they make, and I definitely strive to make them as self-reliant as possible.
For instance, I sleep-trained all three of my children as soon as humanly possible. I was one of those moms that did NOT want a baby in my bed. I created self-soothing sleepers, and thus, set the tone for independence from mommy at a very early age.
My kitchen is decorated with stick figured people, paint-splattered ‘masterpieces,’ and unidentifiable homemade knick knacks.
And yes, I am terrified of my kids being bullied. I read articles on how to foster self-esteem in my kids and, admittedly, I care more about my kids’ emotional intelligence than their academic achievements.
So does this make me a typical Western mom? I think so. And as I gain a bit more experience as a mommy, I think there is some wisdom in the Tiger Mom approach.
If you don’t hurt, you don’t grow. The truth is, kids need to experience disappointment and not always get praise for every effort they make.
In her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, Chua talks about receiving a homemade Mother’s Day card from her daughter that wasn’t good enough, given her daughter’s artistic abilities. She actually gave it back to her daughter and said she deserved better!
While this might seem unbelievable cruel, maybe Tiger Mom makes a good point. Do we praise too much, and expect too little from our kids?
While I don’t agree with all of Tiger Mom’s thoughts, I think there’s some wisdom in her approach. What do you think?