Recently, a close colleague initiated some thoughts relative to some currently-popular notions of child rearing, in particular those expressed by the Kim sisters in their book. ”Top of the Class: How Asian Parents Raise High Achievers”…. and Chu’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. The “perpetrators” who follow “a highly active role in channeling their students’ progress in academics and other personal growth skills” are sometimes referred to as “Tiger Moms”, conveying a somewhat inaccurate picture of someone taking the last generation’s Tough Love to further extremes.
Examples were provided of what has become stereotypical of Asian Americans—-they are all high achievers in the academic world and owe a major element in their success to the prodding and support of loving, but rigidly restrictive, parents. The suggestion is that this would be something that other parents should consider if they really want their children to succeed in a highly competitive world.
Some of this harkens back to an earlier blog I wrote in which I described my experience in evaluations of alternative high schools, and in which I asked the question of students, “Why are you being successful here but you weren’t in the regular school?”  The answer was always some version of “Because an adult took an interest in me and wouldn’t let me fail”, essentially saying that a lack of the kind of quality espoused by the Tiger Mom Perspective was a prime factor toward the child’s failures. As a further comment, I said that in my 40 years of school administration, it was very unusual for students coming from stable families, whether both parents or a single parent, to not graduate from high school. The stability included helping the child gain self confidence and know that there was a loving figure committed to the child becoming a successful adult.
And this is where I might have some differences with the Tigerism, depending upon the degree of parental and family involvement in providing an umbrella of external motivation to the targeted individual. My initial question would be, how intrusive should be those influences on the child’s performance? As I have written before, a program has a better chance of success if the participants’ have ownership of the decisions necessary for implementation and operation; might this also apply to an individual? If there is too much pushing and prodding from external sources, then the question becomes, “Who owns the success?” Might it not be more fruitful to provide or establish in collaboration with the child a buffet of choices for the child to make, along with interactive discussion of the consequences of each, and let the child make the choice? Of course, the choices presented must all be satisfactory to the parent, but the child is given a goodly share of the power toward personal guidance, and also must live with the consequences.
Too often, we ignore teaching children to evaluate their own performance, to establish associated goals, and to design a plan of action toward achievement. Our Western perspective is one of achievement being representative of the individual’s ambition and industry; many non-Western cultural viewpoints look upon the individual’s performance as a reflection of the family. Thus, in the latter case, the individual is properly submerged within the gestalt of the group. That is not normally an acceptable option within much of our own culture.
Finally, there are cases where two parents may not be in alignment with the implementation of the Tiger approach, just as they also might not agree on any other type of child-rearing practice. It’s not unusual for the male to abandon most of the responsibility to the mother, although reserving “the right” to be critical when things don’t go especially well. In fact, it might be less of a problem in a single parent scenario, as the potential schism would not exist and thus would avoid additional anxieties and tension being added into the mix.
I must confess that all of these comments are based upon my own speculation without having read anything more than reviews and articles referencing the Tiger literature. As such, they are only opinions but perhaps ones that offer a springboard to further consideration.
I can withdraw into my comfortable Winter shell, tomorrow facing the first major snowstorm of the season, and try to plan my travel route to my son’s California wedding next week. I’ve already delayed leaving until this Saturday, and hope that next wave goes somewhere where I’m not.
At the same time, I’m continuing my experiment with Alpha Lipoic Acid to see if it has a positive effect on my neuropathy. Maybe it’ll help my chipping.
Always Be Happy!                                        To Our Youth!

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