Tiger Mom, Success, and Teen Suicide

As far as I can tell, Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, thinks parenting is a role in which the parent intimidates and cruelly punishes children until they produce an outcome that can be considered best in class in a particular skill in comparison with others.

While that is an interesting definition of parenting, I believe she may want to think about why teen suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens before continuing to happily spread her successful philosophy.

Teens need meaningful connection with themselves and others. They need to know they are valued for themselves, and not simply valued for the outcomes they produce. It has been a decade since we have figured out that fear and intimidation in the workplace results in unhappy workers who express that through sabotage of both process and outcomes. 

If we now organize our businesses around merging personal and professional vision and values to produce triple bottom lines - how is it we think children should be motivated by getting A's in school - and in fact, A's in subjects that may be clearly irrelevant in a few years? In addition, what about the social and emotional intelligence that has been clearly found to be the determining factor in successful leadership in this century?
I recently learned that to train dogs to point to the prey that hunters then kill, they put a noose around the dog's neck, throw a bird in front of him, and hang him nearly to death if he tries to touch the bird. Any creature will avoid pain to do what is required of the torturer. 
That is vastly different than helping a child to explore and discover life, support her to find out who she is, and then through support, teach and model discipline to develop and contribute her gifts. That is much harder than Ms Chua's warden's job. That job is called "parenting".
So, Ms Chua, the questions is:"What is the value of your daughter's life?" If the answer is: "What she produces in competition with others so she can earn the right to self-esteem and gain the approval of others who happen to care about what she is good at", I suggest you bone up on the impact of teen suicide.
Anyone else want to chime in here?


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  • I completely agree. There is great value and lessons to be learned from failing at things and making mistakes. If you are never allowed to see the true consequences of actions, you never truly learn. If you're looking for drive, isn't it far better to see it come from within the child and not merely to please the parent all the time. Tiger Mom expects her kids to be #1 in all subjects but gym and drama. Can you imagine if there are more than one child raised this way in that class. Someone would be doomed for "shaming" their family. Suicidal tendencies, I believe, come from the need to be perfect, or the fear of failure. I do hope her kids learn to experience these situations in a healthy way, because no one, no matter how well they play the piano, is perfect and will certainly struggle at some point in their lives. Good piece!

  • Looking back at my own two decades of being a mother, I often wondered about my parenting decisions. Were they right? Or wrong? Were they the best for my daughter? Could they have been better? I would think that most parents assess themselves on a regular basis.

    Having read Chua's book, I now think that it could very well be a self-assessment of her parenting style. Instead of doing it in private, she chose to do it in public by writing a memoir.

    Now, when one's children are barely out of high school, writing a memoir extolling the virtues of a particular way of parenting can have very serious consequences for the author's children. There is now the expectation for the children to be successful according to the parent's definition of success, and that expectation is no longer coming from the parent alone, but from the readers as well.

    People who have read the book will be watching the children closely to determine if the suggested parenting method has indeed been effective or not. For example, will Chua's eldest daughter be offered admissions by Ivy League colleges? I know I am curious.

    Whether they like it or not, Amy Chua's daughters now have the burden of either proving their mother right in how she chose to raise them, or of demonstrating that her extreme parenting methods did not do them any lasting harm.

    Either way, it must be no picnic being Amy Chua's daughters.

    www.the goodchinesemother.wordpress.com

  • Thank you for this perspective! I'm not a parent, but I found the excerpts from Chua's book to be very disturbing, indeed. You've articulated a very fine alternative view.

  • http://www.chicagonow.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-cp.cgi?__mode=do_confirm&email=sherinoga%40yahoo.com&blog_id=1&id=54892&token=wVTFTU4e2E6tqwDCGaFqWdtGbBRrRiwTPuBUXShW

  • As a psychotherapist in private practice for 30 years and the author of a book on parenting, I"m not surprised that American parents are considering a memoir as a guide for child rearing. American children are more depressed, anxious, entitled and unmotivated than they have been in many years. Parents are over-indulging children in most areas - material goods, bad behavior, and praise for the most mundane of accomplishments. Being an authoritative, yet loving parent produces the most well-adjusted and happy children. It's not that hard. American parents need to educate themselves.
    I have posted a video parody of tiger mom, for those who want a smile. Go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5zrdoOPOGp8 for an Americanized version of Tiger Mother - equally wrong!

    Sheri Noga - "Have the Guts to Do it Right: Raising Grateful and Responsible Children in an Era of Indulgence"

  • In reply to sherinogama:

    While I'll acknowledge we do live in an era of indulgence, I know that I try very hard not to spoil my children, sometimes to the point of creating hardship (chores, cleaning their rooms, helping around the house, not giving them money unless they've earned it). I would almost call myself strict compared to most other moms I know, but I think you must allow some freedom and choice and allow them to fail (and succeed) at things on their own, which is not to say parents shouldn't step in now and again, but for the love of pizza, we need to let them have a childhood.

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