It’s hard to miss people talking about Amy Chua’s WSJ article on “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”1. Especially the massive backlash. A lot of people are annoyed by the stereotypical description of an Asian family and her examples (albeit extreme) of how Chinese parents raise their children. I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon and start finger pointing. As an Asian dad raising a young daughter, I certainly understand her point of view.
I’ve seen it happen to my friends with controlling parents. One of my best friend used to read encyclopedias and dictionaries on his spare time, because his parents demanded it.
When I visited another friend, I heard his mom kept saying, “See, why can’t you be like your friend here?” to her own son. I later found out this was typical thing to do in a traditional Chinese family – to put down your own children to make your guests look good.
Looking back, I believe most parents, Asians and Westerns alike, have the best of intentions for their children. As a parent myself, I understood why they did what they did. Living in North America, my wife and I have struggled (and argued) on which tradition to hang on to. Parents in Western society are generally more relaxed and open minded. They’re calm, talk softly, and use negotiation techniques with their kids.
However, Western parents do have extremes. I’ve seen parents who are push-overs. Their children threw temper tantrums and the parents just sat there, looking defeated. When the children misbehave repeatedly, there was not enough being done to discipline them, and dismissed as “that’s just who they are”, or worse, “they have ADHD“. People say it’s not good for their psychological development if we yell or physically punish our kids. They say they’ll grow up angry and violent.
Actually, looking back, I think my parents were not that strict. There were discipline in the house, but it was relaxed. I got to watch TV every day. They did expect me to get good grades, but it was OK if I didn’t. I learned to play an electronic organ (not piano), but I didn’t have to be good at it. My dad would take me to the golf driving range, but didn’t push me to practice much. I was left to do whatever I want in high school and college.
I lacked focus. Without focus, I couldn’t value discipline. My priorities were all wrong. I wanted stuff for me first and didn’t care much about others. I had a terrible temper, whined a lot, and had no life goals.
Now, I appreciate the value of discipline. I wish I could go back and begged my parents to be a “Tiger Mom” and “Tiger Dad”, and whipped me into shape with a strict regiment of routines. I would love to be good in piano, playing golf, and finish school with distinction. Another words, I would love to be pushed beyond the limit of my abilities. With such accomplishments, I would have a higher self-esteem and wouldn’t have the need for entitlements2.
So, should I be a Tiger Dad to my child? The answer lies in between. Yes, I have to be strict and enforce the house rules as set by my wife and I. I have to set life routines and higher expectations. I will be pushing her to step out of her comfort zone – many times over. I also have to be calm, talk kindly, and give lots of hugs & kisses to my daughter.
Because at the end of the day, it’s all about love.
Photo credit: juanluisgx
- It’s based on her book “The Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother” [↩]
- either from family or the government [↩]