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‘Tiger’ parenting: Good for children?

Amy Chua’s new book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” has skyrocketed in sales and public attention lately with the Wall Street Journal’s excerpt of some of the book’s most controversial pages on “Chinese” versus “Western” parenting. The article prompted a deluge of outraged reactions and debates in the blogosphere, with one thoughtful response piece from a “Western” mother — and even Chua’s own daughter spoke up in defense of the way she was raised. Last week, Chua sat down with Alison Stewart to elaborate more on her own evolution as a parent, emphasizing that “Tiger Mother” is “not a how-to book; it’s a memoir.”

Some of the heated discussion surrounding Chua and her views on parenting gave way to a broader conversation about which methods are effective in modern parenting. On our website, one reader, Denise, supported Chua’s strict policies and high standards:

Rules, expectations, lessons, molding: These are my takeaways from the few interviews I’ve heard with or read about Chua this week. She says we should assume our children’s strength, not tiptoe around their presumed vulnerability and fragility (I’m paraphrasing). To which I say, right on!

Trojan44 concurred:

My 4 boys have thanked me time and time again for their strict childhood. I did not place as many restrictions upon them as Amy Chua placed on her children but there were definite guidelines. They had to do things they didn’t like. If you are to succeed at anything you have to learn to do the hard things you don’t want to do. Being permissive is not loving it is taking the easy way out – it isn’t done for our children it is done for us so we can be their “buddies” instead of their parents. Each of my sons have expressed their frustration with those that work for them whose parents never taught them responsibility or self discipline. There has to be a median between permissiveness and harshness.

Another commenter, Rojobahr, stressed the importance of praising children for their successes in addition to pushing them to do their best:

There is nothing wrong with having high expectations of your children. I believe that they should be able to choose their own activities – but I also think that they should BE involved in an activity. I push my own children to be the best they can be – but I also counter that with encouragement and praise for a job well done. I think that her ultimate conclusion that a blending of parenting styles is best is correct. I found it refreshing and admirable to read something so honest about parenting — both the good and the bad. Anyone who thinks that they are the ‘best’ kind of parent is [delusional], IMO.

GK Sushi, on the other hand, cautioned against the negative effect that such rigorous standards might have on children’s social functioning later in life:

What tiger moms miss is that there is HUGE disconnect between the elder generations and the younger. They may feel obligated to maintain their relationships to a certain point, but it comes with no small amount of derision from the children and ruins their lives in other ways. Sure they have great careers, but they constantly lament that they never were allowed a social life and are often socially dysfunctional. The fact is that your kids are NOT you, an error many parents take, western or “eastern,” and living vicariously backfires most of the time.

Are American children being “coddled” by parents trying to be their friends rather than disciplinarians and motivators? How much focus should parents put on their children’s self-esteem and social skills? Keep the conversation going — Need to Know will be continuing this discussion in an upcoming show.



  • Spectrummy Mummy

    From a Special Needs mother’s perspective:

  • Rick Jewell

    It seems that modern ‘western’ parenting is in the drink. Tiger go! Something i don’t hear enough of, “when it’s gone there is no more.” I was poor; soda was a treat. This inflated entitlement and ghetto fabulous-ness is obnoxious. Expectations and accountability shared around a dinner table of communication. I may have been born trash but i was not taught to ignore the smell. My kid has a shorter life expectancy than I do!? Well, here in the American West (not western US) we stuff our little fatties so full of everything except metacognition.

  • Astropeep

    Chut UP!!!!!!

  • SG1965

    I have a 15 yr old son who is in 9th grade at high school. He is a great kid, gets good grades, does his homework without asking, helps when asked without whining, is very caring and considerate, just a well behaved and conscientious child. I would guess that most of that is luck and just his personality, but I attribute at least part of it to the fact that I was quite strict with him when he was little. I can’t stand to see these “brats” in the stores running around, whining, hitting their parents, crying over not getting a toy and the mothers standing there saying “now honey, lets not do that” without doing anything. When my son went through a phase of throwing tantrums at age 5 (not age 2), as soon as he started, id leave the store, drive home and put him in his room until he stopped the behavior. I never gave into the demand. After 4 or 5 months the behavior stopped. I have a friend who’s 13 yr old refuses to go to school sometimes, demands things, acts like a 5 yr old, and she feels helpless because their school system drills it into the kids that if their parents punish them (corporal or otherwise), its child abuse. There is a big difference between a spank on the tush on a 3 yr old and child abuse. There is a big difference between making a kid sit in a corner for 5 minutes and child abuse. What this country (and public schools) is doing is raising a bunch of spoiled, demanding, lazy, overweight brats who think everybody owes them something. I am still strict with my son, but he gets lots of praise too, lots of love, praise for jobs well done, etc..and we are very close. Kids feel alot better about themselves and alot better about their role in the world when they have clear boundaries, clear expectations, and know the consequences. Youre not doing your children a favor by giving into their every whim and letting them be the boss.

  • East Asia Expert

    Amy Chua is not a Chinese-style parenting expert. She does not even speak Mandarin Chinese. How can she know the current Chinese parenting culture? Because today’s East Asia is very dynamic economically the East Asian culture changes pretty rapidly and East Asians have different views on their own culture.

    Somebody like Amy Chua who grew up in the United States and does not even speak Mandarin Chinese or her ancestor’s language cannot even comprehend how Chinese or East Asian people have different views in their own parenting culture.

    Amy Chua is a second-generation Chinese American who appears to be trapped in her own little outdated Chinese subculture that she may have inherited from her parents and a small number of Chinese Americans she grew up with in the American Midwest.

    Moreover, it has been reported that Amy Chua bans (or had previously banned) her children from participating in school plays and that she doesn’t care if her kids does not get an A in acting class, thus belittling the art of acting. This is shocking because, as a law professor, she should know the benefit of good acting by lawyers in the courtroom but she appears she does not.

    Also, she does not take gym classes seriously. There has been reports that swimmers get good grades and researchers studied what makes swimmers generally good student. Whether that assertion is true or not, the bottom line is that if you have good health you have a better chance to excel academically. She does not appear to know this.

    Finally, there has been a report that she allows (or allowed) her children to play piano or violin but no other musical instruments. Why not cello or organ? Does she disrespect Yo-Yo Ma?

    Overall, she has huge disrespect for many other academic disciplines and being so academically shallow is definitely not Chinese or East Asian parenting. Amy Chua is a classic example of how growing up in a confined subculture and not being able to see the whole society and social issues can make even a Yale law professor an extremely narrow-minded coward. Amy Chua is not a tiger. She is a wimp, like David Brooks said.

  • Henleosc

    From SG1965:

    “What this country (and public schools) is doing is raising a bunch of spoiled, demanding, lazy, overweight brats who think everybody owes them something.”

    As a public school employee I just wanted to point out that we are, generally, required to take the same stances as parents in terms of student behavior and how we address it in the classroom. We can’t get anywhere with high expectations if the parents are calling and balling us out for “picking on” their extra-super-special-snowflake children.

  • Abigail Norton

    Honestly at this point I believe that parents are being coddled. I don’t see the public in my community holding parents responsible for their underage children’s behavior. Children are not the ones in charge. Parents/ caretakers are. This means saying no and sticking to it. I understand this is harder said than done. But really why is it so hard to be in charge when you are the grownup? Children are not fat because of school. They are heavy because people at home do not tell them NO. Children are not lazy because of teachers. They are lazy because people at home do not make them turn off the computer, the tv, or the game system and go out and ride their bike or be outside. I understand that this may mean you have to go with them (depending on where you live) but really would it hurt you either to go with them for an hour or two? Or to instruct the babysitter to do it? And yes I am poor and my husband and I both work, I know how hard it is. However we are the grownups and if we aren’t in charge of our own children why should we expect someone else to do the job? Talk about a feeling of entitlement.

  • Heather

    Each parent has to do what she/he thinks is right. The rest is up to the child to figure out as they grow up. I’m sensing some hostility towards the children of American from these comments that seems unwarranted. A tantrum is an expression of frustration which is a completely normal emotional response for a child to have. Just because I can be caught with a whiny child at the store, doesn’t mean I don’t hold her accountable. It means that she’s not afraid to express herself in my company. And recently when a grown man hurt her when I wasn’t around, she wasn’t afraid to tell me. I personally think it’s the baby boomer generation that were the spoiled, lazy generation and they tried to teach us to be the same way. We are doing our best to overcome it, so lay off.

  • Lynnenorris

    Anyone who knows hovering, “helicopter” parents knows that they ruin their children by making them unable to function on their own. Whose needs are they really fullfilling?

  • Jjb9010

    Yes, a tantrum is a normal response for a child to have but a public tantrum is inappropriate behavior! Just like if I’m frustrated with an employee my normal emotional response could be to get angry and curse them out and flip them off. That’s me expressing myself, but that’s not the appropriate action in our society. Kids can’t be allowed to do whatever they want and feel just because they are kids. They need to be taught about appropriate ways to act and respond and how to deal with their behaviors in accordance with the social contract. The kids who don’t become teenagers who can’t handle themselves and then become adults who can’t. So if you feel like there’s hostility towards children there is because those of us who work with them on a daily basis, even those of us who have great report with them, see the effects of kids not having any set boundaries and teachers like me pay the price and end up having to teach kids social cues instead of the content they need to be good citizens and scholars.

  • kfran

    Kids (and people, in general) rise to expectations.

  • Another mom

    I just heard a report today that about 1/3 of children entering kindergarten aren’t prepared. This means they can’t distinguish between letters and numbers, or decide when to use a spoon vs. a fork. Parents just aren’t doing their jobs anymore. I am a mother and I make it my most important goal to prepare my son for the real world. Period. I give him lots love and support but let him know what my expectations are on a daily basis. I can only hope he becomes a successful adult. If anyone has seen the movie “Idiocracy”, it isn’t a comedy…but a sad prediction of the future. No parent is perfect. We are all lacking in ways and strong in others, but if I do my job right he can complain later about what he will do differently as a parent. But at least he will be ready to be a parent if he chooses and be a functioning part of society.

  • DM

    The one thing that the author said that really made me think is that in her culture they assume strength in the child and in the US culture we assume weakness.

  • Heather

    Or fall according to expectations.

  • Heather

    But why do you feel hostile towards the actual children, they are children. And they sense your hostility and act accordingly. Children also need to feel like they are heard. I was only trying to say that you shouldn’t judge a child solely based on one window of behavior. I would rather expose a few shoppers to one inappropriate temper tantrum that I don’t give into than to make her think that expressing herself is unacceptable. If you think that you are the one paying a price for other people’s bad parenting, think of the price that child will pay. Are you one of those people that thinks children are born bad and you have to “make” them good? Do you know what it’s like to work at a shoe store and be traumatized by someone slapping their child in the face a few feet away from you? Is that a more appropriate response?

  • Heather

    I also refuse to have my shopping held hostage just because my kid wants to look at toys. I have things to do. I’m not embarrassed that I make her unhappy in public. Of course she is instructed about appropriate behavior. But to dismiss all children based on a minority is wrong. Of course there are “bad” kids, but there always have been.

  • Betty

    “The kids who DON’T become teenagers who CAN’T handle themselves…”? and I believe you mean “rapport,” not “report.”

    A tantrum, public or otherwise, IS proper behavior for a toddler. There are teaching moments associated; and I don’t advocate not taking advantage of those moments, but to deny children normal steps of development because they inconvenience you is an ultimately unworkable plan.

    You would not have a meltdown with your employee because that would be inappropriate to your age and development level. The same cannot be said for young children. They are NOT miniature adults, and adults (parents, teachers and others) who can’t handle that fact are a far greater problem in this society than the so-called permissive parent. We have become a society that has no time for childhood because it doesn’t fit into our schedules and we will pay a very high price in the future.

  • Heather

    You said it so much better than I did Betty. Thanks!

  • Tadzma1014

    My parents had very difficult childhoods (both of them) and had to “grow up quickly.” They had 4 children and gave us as much freedom as we could handle. If we proved we couldn’t handle it, then we were restricted. We had no curfews, no grounding, no physical punishments. We were expected to do our best, to be honest and helpful, and responsible for our actions. Many of our peers’ parents thought ours were too lenient. However, as we matured, it became obvious that our parents were doing something right. None of us was ever in trouble at school or with the law. We were all good students who went on to college and completed at least 4-year degrees, and each of us is successful in our chosen line of work. There is no “right way” to parent, as long as the child is given a few rational rules and cause/effect are explained (eg, if you stay up too late, you can’t do well in school because you’ll be too tired to concentrate). But I can tell you, I have very fond memories of childhood, social activities, and family life. Despite typical struggles with peers, schoolwork, etc., home was a haven where we knew we’d find a sympathetic ear and a plan to help us improve things.

  • Okayapril

    Good for you Heather. I understand how people think it’s inappropriate to see a tantrum in a public place, but you are talking about a store not a quiet restaurant. Also, if you give in to a tantrum (by buying that candy or toy) it only teaches children that there are no boundaries. It’s embarrassing to wheel around a crying child, but the momentary comfort of strangers means nothing compared to raising a child right and lovingly.

    Responder to Heather: you must not have children of your own if you really compared the behavior of them to the behavior of adults. As a TEACHER you should know, first how to use grammar and vocabulary correctly, and second that the frontal lobes of growing minds aren’t fully formed until the early 20s. That area controls impulse.

    Basically, hearing a whining child in the store should clue you in that perhaps the parent is actually teaching the child to learn the meaning of no and limiting excess. Or Mom needs to hurry and get food to feed that hungry baby.

  • gb

    I agree with much of what SG1965 says. BUT – I do not agree with the statement “What this country (and public schools) is doing is raising a bunch of spoiled, demanding, lazy. . .” Schools are here to educate children not raise them. By the time they start school the training/education they have received from their parents is apparent. I have been an educator for many years and have worked with many wonderful students. Unfortunately I have also had the difficult job of trying to create a learning atmospher with students who are rude, disrespectful and lazy.

    I have raised three children of my own. They knew that if they created a distruption in school there would be consequences for their behavior at home. They have grown into responsible caring adults and parents. I believe that their children will be successful in school and life because of the training/education they are receiving at home.

  • Antiquesareus

    It is interesting that we all think that we have the right to tell others how to raise their children. We would do well to remember that God has intrusted us with children or we would not have them. God tells that we are fools if we do not dicipline our children, yet the government tells us we do not have the right to dicipline our children because its not dicipline, its “abuse”. I personally appreciate the fact that my parents raised my brothers and I with dicipline in our lives, to me, we as a society have come to believe that there is no such thing as discipline, that there is only “abuse”.I say that in believing that we can’t raise our children with disicipline because others see it as “abuse” has indeed made our children disrespectful and lazy, leaving them with an attitude that the world owes them and that they should not have to work hard for what they want in life. Our government has bought into this as they have continued to pay the way of those who simply dont want to work. And lets remember that recently the government decided that if credit card debt was too high for those who got themselves in debt, the debt could be lowered or even forgiven entirely. We were tought that if we wanted something that we could not afford we couldnt have it until we worked long enough to save the money needed for the item, we were tought that it was never wise to go in debt. Lets remember how much our Nation is in debt thanks to our government.
    I was not ever abused, I was disiciplined, I was never tought that anyone owed me anything, I was tought to work hard for what I wanted. I was never tought that my way was the only way, I was tought that each individual had the right to their opinon and to live the way that they saw fit. I was tought to do the best that I could to not judge others for I had not walked a mile in their shoes.
    If I choose to dicipline my children in the way that I see fit others do not have the right to tell my children that they have been “abused”. If you choose not to dicipline your children you have that right also. There is a huge difference in dicipline and “abuse.” Perhaps I believe that parents who do not dicipline their children are “abusing” them more than parents wo do dicipline their children, but I don’t have the right to tell you that you are not raising your children properly any more than you have the right to tell me that I am not raising my children properly.

    Live and let live, do the best that you can and let others do the best that they can. Let our children believe that we do the best that we can, even if others disagree with our ways. God will judge us all in His time, we need to stop judging each other.

  • Msw1234

    Amen gb!
    Why would anyone blame the schools or teachers for children being spoiled, rude, lazy, etc.? Research has shown that a child’s basic temperament, how they respond to stimuli, is set by age four.
    When I taught school I quickly learned not to be surprised by the parent who responds to a call home concerning misbehavior in school, “Oh, we can’t do anything with him either. The other night he climbed out the window at 2 AM and was playing chicken with cars in the middle of the street.” Or worse, the parent who responds, “I’m too busy to bother to see if he does his homework; that’s your job.” No, homework is called that because it’s done at home, not school, hopefully with parental support. Sadly, these are both quotes from parents. I could provide many more. How is the school system to blame for that child’s attitude and behavior when this is what he lives with at home?

  • TR P

    Amy Chua is an opportunist. She’s just riding the current wave of fascination with things Chinese. This brings back the memories of bookshelves lined with everything about Japan 20+ years ago. If you want to understand the results of real Chinese parenting practices, read the investor Jim Chanos’ take on thing here. (I am in China.)

  • roxanne

    Is there a dislike button for this one? Bringing up God for child-rearing advice? Sounds a bit like an excuse to beat your kids. (sorry– call how i see them). Some people’s version of discipline is abuse and I DO believe that as a country and (yes that includes government) we have an obligation to protect those who are most vulnerable, such as children. And actually, there are better ways than others to discipline children– not all ways are equally healthy and appropriate.

  • Guest

    In reply to roxanne, if I wanted to call it as I see it I would have to assume that you are not someone that believes in God because normally when someone believes in God they tend to bring Him into EVERY aspect of life.

  • sandi730

    My son now 16 told me one time that he was going to call DCFS on me if I punished him. I said that is fine with me…Let me get you the number. Remember these things….1. You leave I stay. 2. You go live with people you don’t know. 3. The other kids will steal your things. Finally after you call DCFS, hang up and call 911 because you will need an ambulance!!!! If I’m going down I’m going down for doing something. How dare you threaten me. He never ever said that again.

  • Acbennett4

    I have no room to talk and I have not read this book. However, I work at a juvenile jail and see some of the worst kids. I have met many of their parents. I truly believe that in most cases these parents are enablers. Sometimes the parents are horrible role models or in most cases these kids find their love and structure on the streets… in gangs… and fail to ever reach their potential because they are corrupted at such a young age. Its sad… but maybe if parents were more strict and allowed their children less freedom they would understand the error of their ways before it’s too late.

  • sam

    I believe Antiquesareus is failing to recognize the difference between abuse and discipline. There are many modes to disciplining that do not include physical discipline. Look to Sweden as an example. They made spanking illegal and over the last twenty years have seen a decrease not only in crime but also in cases of abuse. How’s that for some serious food for thought.

  • Yoon Lee

    Just because you get tiger parenting doesn’t mean that you don’t get social contact. Chua might be an extreme example of this but she does have a point. All geniuses in arts such as Yao Ming started their instruments at a young age and were forced to play. Just because he was forced into this one aspect doesn’t mean that they suffer from defects.

  • Yoon Lee

    Why does beating come into this? Tiger Parenting is to encourage a child into only one aspect and is usually not educational. Chua is an extremists. What you are saying is like saying all arabians are terrorists. They are not. So are we Asians. Because of ancient Confucius beliefs, we think that adults are wiser than kids (I personally don’t believe this) and they make all the decisions for us. And this usually doesn’t scar us. I’ve been Tiger Parented into swimming. I couldn’t avoid it so I started to learn to like it. And I’m have good memories, good friends, and a good life

  • Guest

    Tiger, or Helicopter parents can be dangerous. I had a helicopter mother who wouldn’t let me walk 10 feet away from her in public, or walk in the street until I was 14. This resulted in me becoming a “Mommas” boy. My friends would always go bike ride or play in the street in our culdasac and I was never able to. If anyone bullied me at school she would come to my class and personally have a talk with the bully. This resulted in even more harassment from kids teasing me about having to have my “Mommy” to come in and protect me.
    She wouldn’t let me get my license or even my permit until I was 18. So I had to come and leave school riding with my mom during High School since I lived near no one I knew and too far to walk.
    She would force me to play sports I hated. This resulted in me showing no effort in the game and I performed poorly. Kids would harass me even more and make fun of me for being bad at the game. The Momma’s boy reputation ruined my childhood and I remember having close to no friends. Entering High School, still being coddled and having no independence due to my mother’s fear of safety (despite growing up in high class area), I had trouble making friends with any guys because of my reputation as a loser failing in sports.
    I also could not make any girl-friends due to my lack in independence and friends. Girls would never talk to me having to be driven home by mom everyday and playing no sports, and the guy’s would repeatedly harass me as well.
    But I also had lazy parents in other areas. I had A’s and B’s all throughout elementary school, scoring 100s all the time and going into an Enrichment program for private school (kind of like GATE for public). But entering high school, my parent’s slacked off in discipline, and I was not very responsible. My grades dropped and they continuously failed to discipline. They never took my phone, restricted me from friends, or anything.

    The conclusion was poor grades in my whole high school career partially due to a lack of confidence and self esteem, and too much concentration on trying to “fit in.”
    The only thing that saved me from doing drugs and alcohol to cope, (like one of my cousins) was religion. I understood God would not approve and he had a plan.

    When it comes to parenting, there needs to be balance. We should have goals and expectations for our children, but to remember to teach and give them the independence they will need to learn how to transition into functioning adult citizens. We also need to remember to give them praise for their hard work, and their accomplishments, which will encourage them to work more. We can not keep them from their friends, and from having a social life. This will negatively effect them from forming relationship abilities for looking for a proper life mate, and damage their hearts and possibly their minds by destroying their ability to make friends.

  • Superehrokid9

    I don’t agree. Authoritarian parents result in the worst of children.

  • Christopher Black

    The sinful ungodly idea of tiger parenting is against God. If Amy Chua is a wise Christian, she will realize that tiger parenting is a sin, it shouldn’t be followed. Raise your children with discipline in the right way, spank your children, do not embitter or ridicule or discourage, also do not discipline with anger on them, you can break their heart. Encourage your children, do not discourage even if your child did something that required little effort. Encourage your child by telling him/her, ”My son/daughter, though you did something small, I encourage you and I believe in you that you can do better than that, you are special in the eyes of God, He has a wonderful plan for your life, be hard, brave Christian for God.” Say it loudly with an encouraging voice.

  • Luis Homero Cañamar Vega

    i seriously hope you’re trolling… 

  • Marirosa Nazario

    I was raised only by my mother in a tiger parenting home.  My mother was tremendously strict and not once was I allowed to express my feelings.  Having friends come over or vise a versa, was a dream. I was not able to go outside and play with my friends.  I learned how to cook, clean, take care of by nieces and nephews at the age of 9. I always wanted to join the cheerleading team at my junior high school, but that to became a dream. I have many sad memories of  my childhood. I always wish my up bringing was better.  Today, I have fear. I fear how people see me. I am not an arrogant or sarcastic person, but, a lot of things I see and am in volve in bothers me. I don’t have friends as I feel friends sometimes tend to be who they’re not. I only have acquaintances. I keep to myself most of the time.  I am positive, but a lot of  times, more negative. I am however, a good judge of character, or maybe I don’t give people the chance to use me and I cut my relationships really quickly. My stories go on and on and would take more than just one comment to cover it oall.  Thanks mom for making me into who I am today!


    You’re trolling. I know it