The Tiger Mother Meets Butterfly Mom: Space for Both

The Tiger Mother Meets Butterfly Mom: Space for Both

Can you take one more dissection of the "Tiger Mom Phenomenon" that has taken the nation, even the world, by storm?

First of all, please know going in that the Soul to Soul Perspective on this hot topic will not be an angry bashing or even a sigh of disbelief adding to the ruckus, but rather simply an alternative offering.

I truly believe that Amy Chua and most all parents, no matter what their parenting stripes, do indeed deeply love their children and desire the best for them as they parent from their own internal belief system regarding themselves and the world at large.

The key point of distinction in this parenting debate, to me, has always been one's definition of success. If one's definition has to do primarily with status, financial gain, and intellectual achievement stemming from a survival of the fittest paradigm, then Chua's model definitely has some legs.

If one views highest potential as striving to be the best at what society deems most worthy of attention, then her best-selling book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, offers the perfect step-by-step approach.

On the other hand, if you are a Butterfly Mom like me, success is much more about the transformation from a beautiful, divine caterpillar—perfect already in every way despite any outward appearances to the contrary—into a conscious global citizen who knows her own heart.

Parenting from this perspective may appear to follow many of the same "rules" as the former, but the larger vision for the child may be quite different in the latter, for in the heart and core of the Butterfly Mom lies a high regard for both soul evolution and self-realization.

The Butterfly Mom's deepest desire for her child is the capacity to live true, courageously and comfortably within her own skin, emanating a love of SELF from the inside out, so magnificent and so pure, that it takes the breath away.

Allowing authenticity, the total kind that leads to unimaginable liberation to live one's soul purpose (highest individual calling to the world--whatever that may be--despite societal norms) is the ultimate gift a Butterfly Mom offers to her child.

In this Soul to Soul Parenting model, a mother would much prefer to see her child become a lawn care worker if she most enjoys nature or an artist if her inner well of creativity is bountiful or a salesperson if an extroverted tendency is strong than to make a choice for the sake of pleasing the parents, society or any others.

To know thyself and offer one's unique vantage point to the world is what the Butterfly Mom hopes to model and support. In other words, true inner resonation with life choices.

This doesn't mean that children should not be encouraged to try their best in school or stick with things even when the going gets tough or try new experiences that at first glance seem foreign.

This doesn't mean that parents captain a loose ship or allow their children to run the show or hand over the parenting reins in any way.

It's just that within the Soul to Soul Perspective, well beyond societal dictates and embedded in the role of parent, is a very high respect for JOY, LOVE, COMPASSION, EMPOWERMENT, GRATITUDE, FREEDOM and INTIMACY WITH THE VOICE OF ONE'S OWN SOUL.

So yes, as parents, we help our children to do well in school, live appropriately within society, and achieve goals.

But at the end of the day, we also very much enjoy seeing them dance, paint, bake, sing, play, laugh, and socialize joyfully right alongside the academics, the music lessons, and the rules.

In other words, passionately strumming a guitar in the blessed interior space of direct divine connection is viewed as just as purposeful and important as a future walk through the halls of a famed academic institution.

The power of this parenting "uproar" is the call for all parents to regularly contemplate and consciously shape whom they choose to be as parents without pointing fingers at those who may parent differently. Utilize this opportunity to know yourself better as a parent.

For example, I would rather see my child dance in ecstasy expressing with every cell in her body who she really is as an eternal, infinite, creative spiritual being than see her stick to the "right" path because she feels like it should be a fit regardless of personal preference. I would rather help my child identify and harness her gifts to create a life that reflects her spirit than see her focus on a pathway to a "high-powered" career that may not resonate.

As Tiger Moms meet Butterfly Moms, hopefully we can appreciate the numerous common threads to be found in our mutual deep and everlasting love for our children.

As mothers, we would not even be interested in the recent dialogue if that were not the case.

For many moms out there, I suspect that a blending of the two may feel most appropriate for them at this time, and the Soul to Soul Perspective thinks that's great!

For a balance between the being and the doing, the busyness and the stillness, the norms of society and the individual passions, the focused eye of the tiger and the fluttering wing of the butterfly just may be a wonderful bridge for all to cross in 2011, a time of tremendous shift, change and opportunity.


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  • If my daughter were to be evaluated according to her grades and college acceptances, with her near-perfect SAT scores, and offers of admission from Harvard, Yale and Princeton, she is no doubt a successful child, and I will certainly be in the running for the Top Ten Best Parents Award, if there were such an award.

    Is there really only one way to define a successful child? Should we allow someone like Chua to define a successful child for us? Is the child not allowed to define success for herself/himself?

    Can I call myself a successful mother?

    I truly hesitate to do so. After all, there must be more to life than test scores and college admissions.

    In the same way that a successful child can be defined in so many way, there is truly no one way to parent.

    I am Chinese, and I am a mother, but I am not a tiger mother. I wanted to be a good mother, a wish that all mothers surely share.

    In my quest to be one, I read parenting books. I sought advice from parenting experts. I talked to other parents.

    Everyone had something to say to me about parenting, the Asian way to parent, the Western way to parent, the right way to parent, the better way to parent, the best way to parent, the only way to parent.

    It has been more than two decades since I read my first book on parenting. And now looking back, I see that I had the best teacher in my daughter. From the minute she was born, she was telling me how I could be the right mother for her...the best mother for her...

    And I listening to watching her...and by knowing her...

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