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The Tiger Mom vs. Serious Research On How to Be A Good Parent

English: Amy Chua the "Tiger Mom" an...

Like a lot of our peers, my wife and I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Professor Amy Chua’s explanation of her aggressive “Tiger Mom” “Chinese” approach to parenting.  She makes a strong argument for being a ‘tiger mother’, though her argument is based 100% on anecdote, not data.  Surprisingly, for a book written by a Yale professor married to a Yale professor, she makes no effort whatsoever to look at academic research on parenting.

As a followup, I did some quick research to see what other academic researchers had to say. I’ve attached below the most pertinent studies I could find.  As usual, in the world of parenting research, I found studies to support any a priori bias you may have.

‘Tiger moms’ vs. Western-style mothers?
Summary: Stanford researchers find that different styles can be equally effective.

Poor Little Tiger Cub
Summary: “The first major study of tiger moms is out.  The kids have worse grades, and they are more depressed and more alienated from their parents.”

Is there a “Tiger Mother” Effect? Time Use Across Ethnic Groups
Summary: Asian-American parents make their kids spend more time studying than the norm.

Tiger moms and helicopter parents: The economics of parenting style
Summary:  As the world becomes more interconnected, children in the USA or Sweden need to compete more and more with children in China and elsewhere, which leads to more risk-aversion and authoritarian parenting.

I’d like to identify a clear recommendation based on this parenting literature, but sadly, the data doesn’t validate any single parenting approach.  Virtually every book on parenting which I’ve read (which is a lot, because I have a lot to learn on this topic) agrees that you should minimize screen time, maximize reasonable expectations, feed your kids real food, and be aware that the #1 influence on your child is your own behavior, which he/she will always emulate.  So, parents need to model what they aspire for their children to become, because their example is their most profound influence.

The research suggests that your child will probably marry someone like her parent of the appropriate gender.  Hopefully you like your spouse, because your spouse will eventually become your in-law.

In our own house, we do strive to raise our children to be freethinkers/entrepreneurs (within certain constraints).  Translation: when they don’t do what we ask, which is most of the time, we prefer to think of them as creatives who will not be rule-bound processors when they grow up, but instead innovators and leaders with the courage to disrupt the status quo (i.e., create new processes).

This backfired on me recently, when my 7-year-old daughter asked my wife to see a certain video.  My wife said, “No”.  So my daughter of course asked me for permission.  I said, “We’re doing what mommy said.”  She immediately argued, “Don’t be like one of the old-fashioned ladies from the olden times!  Think for yourself!  You don’t have to do what she says!”  Clearly my attempt to teach emancipation has its downsides.

On my personal short list of favorite parenting books, I’d put Positive Parenting; Bringing Up Bebe; and The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind.  What would you add?

I made a presentation about a year ago to Womensphere on parenting entrepreneurs, included below.

Photo: Amy Chua the “Tiger Mom” and her daughters at the 2011 Time 100 gala. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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