Not being a Tiger Mother doesn't mean not guiding your kids

By Lisa Carducci
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, March 2, 2011
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In her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua, a law professor at Yale University, shares her parenting techniques and explains why she doesn't approve the self-esteem-style form of education which holds that "learning should be fun, that rote repetition destroys the soul, and that children should be encouraged to discover their own individuality and interests", calling all this "rubbish". I think Chua is an extremist in her judgements, especially when she says: "Western parents romanticize the idea of pursuing passions and giving your kid choices. If you give a 10-year-old the choice to pursue his or her passion, for them it's going to be [getting on] Facebook for six hours," adding that she consciously chose to take the Eastern parenting path. But it is not a matter of East and West, and nuances should be made.

I was the first child of my parents, and was raised in an extremely strict way. There was a difference of nine years between me and the last child, and there was also a huge difference in our education style. Not only at home but at school, girls of my generation were forbidden to wear pants, shoes with medium-high heels, to use lipstick and nail polish, or to talk with a male classmate if not in presence of others. I was not allowed to attend summer camps organized by the school except after my teachers convinced my parents, in secret, that the camp would be only girls and that two teachers would supervise the camp. Later, when I became a teacher, I also talked secretly with immigrant parents of my students for the same reason. In my family, no TV was permitted on school days, and we could only see two programs during the weekend. No sleepovers, no parties. Just like "Tiger Mom" Amy Chua's daughters.

My mother was extremely harsh because she was afraid we had turned bad. She lost her mother when she was only 12, married at 18, and had examples in the family of youths whose behavior was far from ideal. When, later, I told her how much I suffered, she maintained that she was right, as her method had brought good results.

Was I happy? No. The worst thing for me was to be living in an environment where other girls had less strict parents. Still, there is a difference between a free-for-all and an education allowing a child to make decisions based on morality, self-respect, and reasonable freedom. When Lulu and Sophia Chua are asked whether they are "happy", they answer in a philosophical way – avoiding blaming their mother.

An important skill in parenting is to explain to children why you want them to do something and why you forbid them to do other things. If you tell a child "Don't touch!" you only encourage him to touch.

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