Meow: Prof Says 'Tiger Moms' Should Tame Themselves

Family Matters on 01.12.12
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Photo: Rosana Prada

Kids need to be pushed to exceed, even if it makes them unhappy. Be a "Tiger Mother."

So goes the Eastern view of parenting, as described by author and Chinese mother Amy Chua in a year-old book called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."

Not so fast, says new research by another Chinese mother, Desiree Baolian Qin.

Qin, an assistant prof in Michigan State University's Department of Human Development and Family Studies, says high-achieving Chinese students are more depressed and anxious than their white counterparts. Happiness also is important to child development, Qin says.

Her words are based on research due to appear in an upcoming issue of the journal New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, and the Journal of Adolescence. For the second paper, she interviewed almost 500 high-achieving students at a prestigious East Coast high school.

Chua, a Yale law prof, created some controversy with her best-selling book. In it, she writes about how she demanded straight A's from her two daughters, and didn't allow them to watch TV, be in a play or even play with friends.

Qin, also a mother of two, calls that kind of extreme parenting "ridiculous." Can you disagree?

"Children need the ability to work well with other people, to relate," Qin says. "I feel strongly that I won't raise my kids just toward success at the cost of other things. More than anything, I want them to be well-rounded, emotionally healthy kids."

Now this all doesn't mean that we should be soft and (too) forgiving with our kids. And Western parents can learn a thing or two from the Eastern way, Qin says. Don't overpraise, for instance.

"I agree with Amy Chua that a child will develop strong self-esteem when they really master something," Qin says. "So that self-esteem should be grounded in their achievements, their ability, rather than empty praises from parents and teachers saying 'great job' for drawing a circle or 'great job' for just about anything."

Chua also has recently backtracked a bit, calling the "Tiger Mom" book more memoir than manual.

What's your parenting style?

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