Posts Tagged ‘ Tiger Mom ’

Recalibrating What We Mean By “Success” For Our Kids

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

In recent years, the word “success” has been batted around in parenting culture. This series of blog posts considers a number of views of what “success” might mean – and how that influences how we parent.

We often measure success for our kids via static indicators – grades, getting into a “name” college, attaining a high status occupation, and large income. While all of these things are notable outcomes for individuals, they aren’t necessarily what everyone is shooting for. And as such they aren’t necessary to be assumed as the key indicators of success in life and hence the fundamental goals for our children as discussed in Amy Chua’s new book.

It’s worth revisiting Madeline Levine’s book “Teach Your Children Well.” The premise is straightforward. Levine, a clinical psychologist, has seen many a family in which parents and children get caught up in the competitive treadmill that can define the adolescent years in particular. It offers a more balanced viewpoint that encourages children pursuing achievement without getting too caught up in the trap of stacking up a list of accomplishments. It’s a long-term strategy that suggests how parents and children alike should strive for a more developmentally grounded view that supports and encourages healthy practices for the mind and body – which in fact lay a stronger platform for kids to eventually find successes in the personal and professional lives.

Even though we are long past the “Tiger Mom” debates, the reality is that the pressure on many kids – throughout childhood and adolescence – are many and can be intense. “Teach Your Children Well” remains highly relevant even if these topics aren’t as topical as they were a few years ago.

Also in this series:

“The Triple Package”

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How Would You Define “Success” For Your Child?

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

In recent years, the word “success” has been batted around in parenting culture. This series of blog posts considers a number of views of what “success” might mean – and how that influences how we parent.

The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Affect the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America” – “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua’s new book co-authored with her husband Jeb Rubenfeld – has promoted discussion because their thesis is that certain racial groups achieve more success than others because of three fundamental factors: high self-esteem, insecurity, and self-discipline. One could debate the assumptions drawn about race and success, or the choice of factors which purportedly promote success. But less attention has been given to the indicators of success.

While “The Triple Package” isn’t about parenting per se, it certainly embeds ideas about development and the factors that influence “successful” trajectories. Thus, through the lens of parenting, the question raised here is  if these are really the most important things we would want for our children.

Consider these benchmarks highlighted in the book:

  • Income
  • Occupational Status
  • Test Scores

These are certainly outcomes that matter to a degree for our kids. We certainly make parenting choices to positively influence how our kids perform on tests, what occupational status they eventually achieve, and the income level that they reach. But the fact that they are highlighted as the starting point of the thesis under study provides an assumption that these indicators are benchmarks of success.

They may be what defines success for some people, or in fact many people. But I think it’s important, when we think about parenting, to recalibrate our thinking. While these outcomes may be goals – and important ones – for some, they aren’t necessarily the measure of success for many others. And I suspect that carries through in terms of parenting style.

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When Will “SHOCK” Parenting Go Out Of Style?

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Here we go again – another parent makes a big splash with outrageous claims about her parenting methods. This time it’s that Vogue article about one mother’s reaction to hearing that her daughter was obese – which turned out to be a pathologically inconsistent set of messages and dietary practices. I have three reactions to all this.

First, IF the claims are true, then I agree with the take offered by my fellow blogger Heather Morgan Shott. Heather tackles this issue much better than I could.

Second, IF this story was embellished, then I suggest in the future articles of this nature come with a warning label that says: “The truth has been stretched – and then some – in order to gain viewer’s eyes, make their blood boil, and give them something juicy to talk about.” This is especially relevant since the author of the Vogue article has a deal in place to expand her thoughts in a book. I don’t know if you recall what transpired when the Tiger Mom book came out early last year, but the sequence was roughly this: 1) the most outrageous quotes from the book were used to publicize it, 2) the author then suggested that those lines were clearly not to be taken literally, and 3) then it was suggested that the book was really just a memoir and not an endorsement of any type of unhealthy or damaging parenting practices. When all was said and done, we could look to recent research for some sanity, as it demonstrates what we would expect: 1) parents who push their kids really hard to achieve success without providing warmth, love and support place their kids at risk for depression and other not so great outcomes, and 2) it is possible to set high standards for your kids and help them be achievement oriented and actually act in a loving and supportive way at the same time. So to me the simple warning label suggested above would certainly help me figure out what the real message is the next time a SHOCKING book or article comes out.

Third, rather than focus more on this Vogue article, I’d love to hear real stories about real parents who are digging deep and trying hard to do the best for their kids. It’s not easy getting the balance right with respect to body image and health these days: we’re stuck between a multitude of social forces which, on the one hand, promote obesity, and, on the other hand, push kids toward eating disorders. Many parents struggle with their own histories of eating issues and body image concerns, and they are hopefully finding ways to promote realistic healthy eating habits and corresponding physical and cognitive pathways to positive self-esteem. I’d love to hear stories about how real parents handle these challenges. So consider this an invitation to share your story about how you balance all these concerns and what obstacles you face – we need to focus on REAL parenting rather than SHOCK parenting.

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Evaluating “Tiger Mom” Parenting: What’s The Take-Home Message From Research?

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

Last year, it was Tiger Mom parenting. This year, the French way. These books offer observations about different parenting styles and how we think they work. But what happens when we examine them scientifically and gauge how they actually affect children? To answer that question, I conducted an interview (via e-mail) with Dr. Desiree Qin, who is a professor at Michigan State University. Her program of research has been, in part, evaluating what we think of as “Tiger Mom” parenting behaviors, and as such, she brings an interesting – and empirically informed – perspective to the issue of being a “pushing” mom (or dad). Below you will find my questions (in bold) and her responses. 

1) Much has been made of the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon over the past year. Do you think there are parents who really parent that way? 

I think in some ways what was accounted in the book was a more extreme form of parenting characterized by high levels of expectations and  demands combined with high levels of parental investment and involvement. I have heard of or seen in my personal or research experiences parents who resemble aspects of what Professor Chua described in the book. For example, parents who never praise children in public, have very high and strict expectations, use certain forms of emotional threats or punishment as a reaction to child’s occasional failure, and discourage participating in extracurricular activities that are not conducive to admission into an Ivy League university. In Chinese websites, there are phrases like “pushing mom” or “pushing dad” to refer to parents who have very high expectations of children’s educational success and will do everything they can to drive their children toward success.

2) It sounds like your research focuses on some of the negatives of parenting like a “Tiger Mom.” Could you define for us what aspects of parenting you look at? How do they affect kids negatively? 

I started this line of research about 8 or 9 years ago, motivated by the lack of research and attention on Asian American children’s mental health behind the façade of the “model minority” stereotype and the lack of knowledge on the parts of their parents, teachers, counselors of any challenges they may experience in their psychosocial adjustment. So my work focuses on some of the traits one would associate with being a “Tiger Mom.”

Our findings suggest that when children receive more pressure and get pestered to achieve more than their peers, they report higher levels of conflicts, and less emotional warmth and closeness with their parents. Not surprisingly, they are less happy – indeed, they are more likely to be depressed, anxious and report lower self esteem. For the high-achieving Chinese American kids in our studies, family environment, parent-child relations and conflicts are the most important predictors of their mental health.

3) Are there implications from your research on how to promote achievement in kids without promoting stress, anxiety, and depression?

In one of my papers, I have examined two groups of high achieving children. One group was high achieving and distressed and the other group was high achieving but mentally healthy.  And the key factor that distinguishes these two groups was parenting. More specifically, my findings in that paper shows that when parents from immigrant families become more flexible after migration, integrating aspects of Western parenting – such as spending more quality time with their children, and giving children more freedom – their children have better mental health outcomes than their peers.  So I think again it’s not a problem for parents to have high expectations of children. When these expectations are communicated in a positive, support way, which does not damage or alienate parent-child relations, then children do not experience mental health problems.

4) Have you found any positives about “Tiger Mom” parenting?

If we define tiger parenting as authoritarian, super strict, and singularly focused on academics and achievements, our studies do not show much in the way of positive outcomes. That said, as a mother, I agree with Professor Chua that in many Western families, there is so much concern about children’s self esteem in that we constantly say “Great job!” and “Terrific!” to anything our children do.  My children are currently attending a Montessori school and one thing I really like about the school and the teachers is that they never say “Great job.” Instead they comment on actual content of the kid’s work or the effort they have put into it.

5) Is there a parenting style that you would describe as being optimal? If so, what are the specific characteristics? 

I think there may be an optimal middle point – we need to have high expectations and involvement, but it has to be well communicated in a loving and supportive family environment. And of course, each child is different and each family is different. We see very clearly in Professor Chua’s book that her two daughters are completely different, and while her approach worked well with one, it completely backfired with the other.

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