Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua
Controversy: An excerpt from Chua's memoir, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," sparked backlash and a national media debate when it was featured in The Wall Street Journal in 2011. In her book, Chua reveals how she raised her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, according to traditional Chinese ways of parenting. Her strict methods (repeated drills to perfect challenging piano pieces, reminders not to get grades below an A) reveal fundamental differences in Western (American) and Eastern (Asian) parenting styles, leading to the nickname Tiger Mom.
Many parents believe Chua's lofty expectations are unhealthy and overbearing, forcing her children to succeed at all costs. "Chua's attempt to even the playing field by focusing on the importance of structure, rules, and consequences push the pendulum to the opposite end, weighing too heavily on harshly punitive, rigid rules, expectations, and punishments," says Fran Walfish, M.D., a child and family therapist. "To only love and nurture your child is to do 50 percent of parenting. To go the other way and be a tough sergeant and cop also scores 50 percent. You must do both to raise happy, healthy children." Still, others think Chua's methods are refreshing and not "too soft," compared with more laid-back styles.
Why the Book Is Important: Tiger Mom's revelations led to a nationwide discussion of effective parenting styles, a conversation that many parents are still having today. The Western style nurtures kids, respects their individuality, and encourages interest in trying new things; the Eastern style enforces a strong work ethic, good grades, and respect for authority. Parents were inspired to reexamine their own stereotypes and feelings of inadequacies about parenting as well as their own parent-child relationships.
Cinderella Ate My Daughter, by Peggy Orenstein
Controversy: When Orenstein's daughter started school wearing overalls, princess mania quickly took over, and Orenstein soon faced the challenges of raising a happy daughter in a world saturated with lip gloss, rhinestone tiaras, high heels, and other princess merchandise. Orenstein decided to venture into the depths of girly-girl culture -- Miley Cyrus concerts, child pageants, an American Girl store, and Disney -- to examine and document the princess complex, which she believes teaches girls that they are judged by outer beauty and possessions instead of their inner beauty, intelligence, and personality.
Orenstein discovered that princesses were no longer for pretending but were teaching girls to be materialistic and self-centered. Some parents agree that princess culture seems to be growing out of control; others believe it is harmless make-believe and pretend play. "No question, we are currently raising a generation of narcissistic, entitled people, but it is not due to princess costumes or themes," Dr. Walfish says. Instead, parents had to set limits and "enforce boundaries with where and when costumes can be worn."
Why the Book Is Important: Orenstein's book highlights the unease some parents have about the fine line between allowing little girls to have fun with princess culture and allowing the princess identity to take over. Although pretending to be Cinderella, Rapunzel, or Snow White is fine, these characters shouldn?t take over a child's personality or life. Instead, girls should focus on being themselves and raising their self-esteem through empowering achievements.
Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting, by Pamela Druckerman
Controversy: When Druckerman, an American journalist, gave birth in Paris, she didn't want to become what she called a "French parent," a laissez-faire parent who leaves kids alone to explore their surroundings at their own pace and who doles out appropriate punishments only when they misbehave. But Druckerman realized that obsessing over and overparenting her children wasn't good either, and she noticed that French mothers seemed more relaxed than their American counterparts.
Druckerman's memoir, released a year after Amy Chua's, reignited dialogue about whether there are right and wrong ways to parent and cast the American parenting style in a negative light again. Druckerman shows that parents don't need step-by-step instructions on how to raise well-behaved, happy, and healthy children; following one's intuition and being more open-minded could allow everyone to thrive. Of course, some parents feel that American parenting methods are being criticized as too involved, too careful, and too soft.
Why the Book Is Important: Druckerman's reflections provide new viewpoints about parenting with dignity, common sense, and patience. She believes it is important for parents to have high expectations for their children and be involved in their lives, but that they also need to adopt a more relaxed approach to parenting. Instead of constantly worrying about and hovering over their children and shuttling them off to different classes and events all the time, parents should help them lead simpler lives.