Tyrant parent or a Tiger mum?

I FINALLY finished reading “Raising Boys” by Steve Biddulph recently. A good read, interesting too. But probably of more use when my son is entering his teens and requires some “coming of age” initiation into manhood.

Apparently… Hopefully.

It did talk a lot about the importance of fathers which, while I agree whole-heartedly, there’s not much I can do in that aspect. I have a lot of things, but not one of “those”.

But I wasn’t left with a very succinct “step one, step two” approach to disclipline, education and play like I had hoped.

And then I read an interesting article on “Tiger Mums”.

Not to be confused with Cougars (whose toddler-rearing days are behind them), a Tiger Mum is typically of Asian descent and projects the the Eastern philosophy of grooming a child for success.

They are strict with discipline, strict with routine and strict with their love. If you’re struggling to come up with an image, think Mrs Kim on the Gilmore Girls.

The book by Amy Chau, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mum, sparked debate when one related article headline read “Why Chinese mothers are superior”. Nothing like a mumma’s sullied street-cred to get the pens moving.

However the book is not a manual, more a memoir on how her parents raised her and how she raised her own two girls. But it does highlight the methodology behind Chinese parenting and how vastly it differs from Western parenting.

And in one study that Chau cites, of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success was not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.”

Not a single one of the Chinese mothers felt the same way.

Instead, they believed their child to be the “best” and it was simply up to parents to enforce the practice required to become as such. They also felt that “fun” only came into it when the practice paid off and they accomplished their goal. 

It altered my perception of parenting.

We all want happy kids, but being strict with them doesn’t make them any less happy (just ask Chau’s daughter). So it’s important to remember that, when we spend hours, days reprimanding them or forcing them to practice or sitting them down to their homework, we are not taking away their happiness. We are showing our love, demonstrating that we believe in them so highly that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

We’re not always there to be liked. We’re there to make sure our kids do the right thing. This is probably not news to most mums reading, but it is a handy reminder for those days when you feel like a Sergeant Marshall and not much else.

Sadly, it doesn’t entirely apply to toddlers who you just want to get through the day without throwing toys at their siblings, but it still helps me feel like a better mum when I feel like I’m being too hard on them.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wanderlust
    Jan 31, 2011 @ 17:24:52

    I’ve been reading a number of references lately to the “tiger mum” concept. It’s helpful to remember, as I so often feel like that drill sergeant as my kids complain about having to take showers, brush teeth, do homework and other simple, daily tasks that get in the way of their preferred activities (playing with iPod, watching movies, etc.).

    I also worry about the lack of a father in their lives but like you, there is nothing I can do there. That was his choice. Maybe someday they’ll have a step-dad, but I know that never really takes the place of a father.

    I’d be curious to hear if you do find any other books you think are helpful. I think our sons are about the same age (mine is 6).

    Parenting can be so very difficult and there is no real roadmap, but I think as long as we love our children with abandon and have it as our goal to keep learning and do the best we can, we’ll all do okay. What a long and rambly comment I’ve left!


    • petajo
      Feb 01, 2011 @ 01:05:51

      Ooh, I think I miscommunicated! Their dad is still with me. I was refering to the fact that I have no penis! So can’t really know what it is that boys need from that frame of reference.

      But I’m always trying to “understand” my boy. He’s four this year but is such a bundle of energy (which is hard when I’m working from home) so I’m constantly struggling with boredom-fuelled misbehaviour. (Peewee ninjas is starting to look like the go).

      Will keep you posted though as this is a constant work in progress.

      And please, rambling comments always welcome!


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