Tiger mother, hidden dragon?
Is a more demanding approach to parenting all bad? Adele Hamilton attempts an open mind.
Parents know what’s best for their children, says Amy Chua.

It’s a confidence that many of us lack as parents. And it’s only one of the many beliefs that have made Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother one of the most controversial parenting books in America since Dr Spock.

An extract published in the Wall Street Journal has unleashed the fury of many parents who find her approach harsh.

At first glance she does seem extreme, not allowing her children to have play dates or act in school plays, and insisting that they always come first in class.

When her daughter struggles with a difficult piano piece, she harangues her: ‘I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.’

‘What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it,’ she says in the Wall Street journal essay. ‘To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.’

To those of us who have based our parenting on trying to allow our children to make their own choices and decisions, it rankles.

Here we are, asking our toddlers whether they want the red socks or the blue, in order to learn how to make personal decisions in the future, and nurturing our children’s natural interests in anything and everything.

It’s hard to believe that our more child-centric parenting approach is completely wrong.

Are some subjects better than others?

Cutting out entire facets of school life to allow for intensive practice in chosen areas such as music and maths is probably the most reliable way to produce brilliant results, but it seems odd to imply that there’s no value in other pursuits .

Yes, my children may never be virtuoso violinists, but they have definitely enjoyed the many hours they’ve spent on the sports field and yes, acting in school plays.

Yet there are some points that Chua makes that some of us more laissez faire parents should probably take aboard.

‘Western parents worry a lot about their children's self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up,’ she says.

Are we perhaps so busy protecting our children that we don’t encourage them to battle through the obstacles to achieve goals?

Ultimately there are many ways to be a success in life, for children and for adults. And if we keep an open mind, there’s something to be learned from each other’s different approach, if applied with love.

What do you think of the stricter Tiger Mother approach?

Read more by Adele Hamilton

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