Ep 145: Why a Tiger Mom Approach to Parenting Does NOT Work

Feeling guilty about not being a Tiger Mom (or Dad)? Let me give you 3 reasons why you don’t have to feel that way. Get yourself ready for the next time that someone says that you (or parents in general) have to be tougher on our kids.

You’ve probably heard about the authoritarian parenting style advocated by Amy Chua in her Tiger Mom book. Lots of Americans think she has good point that the problems with American kids is that they are being raised with too much leeway, and that we’re not being tough enough on them. The reason, they say, that our Math scores are too low is that we’re not strict enough and we don’t have high expectations for our children. Are they right? Or are there other ways that our children are being successful that we don’t take into account? If you’re feeling discouraged about parenting let me raise your spirits.


Here’s an article worth reading: Why It’s Never Mattered That America’s Schools ‘Lag’ Behind Other Countries.

The United States has never ranked at the top of international education tests, since we began comparing countries in 1964, yet has been the dominant economic and innovative force in the world the entire time……The reason for the apparent disconnect is because schools don’t prepare students for the real world, so broad educational attainment will have a weak correlation with economic power…Research has consistently shown that on nearly every measure of education (instructional hours, class-size, enrollment, college preparation), what students learn in school does not translate into later life success. The United States has an abundance of the factors that likely do matter: access to the best immigrants, economic opportunity, and the best research facilities.

Why Chinese ‘Tiger Moms’ Are So Controlling


Comments

  1. Please give the date inside the broadcast.
    I like listening by topic and so I have no idea when you recorded something and what you’re referring to when you say ‘earlier this year’ or whatever.
    It’s true I could track down the date of the broadcast, but it would be more convenient if you’d give the date in the recording or together with the broadcast number.
    I’m a math-science person and would normally quickly dismiss a psych lecture, but you are really great.

  2. Debbie: you make a good point about mentioning the date. I stopped doing that because I thought listeners might think, if they were listening to an episode from, say, early 2010, that the content was out of date. However, I could see how not having a date could get confusing. Well, thanks for the feedback and for your kind comments.

  3. Can you add a download link. My phone cannot support flash so I trend to dl. If there is a dl link I couldn’t find it.

  4. John: you can download the mp3 file by clicking the play button and then clicking the 5 little boxes in the lower left of the audio player. This will bring up some additional options, including the download button. I know – it’s not intuitive – but it’s one of the few players that works on iOS devices (iphones, ipads).

  5. Michael,
    I couldn’t help but hearing a little bit of hidden jealousy in your argument that basically said, “Just because these Asian kids are good at maths, doesn’t mean they are good at other things like creativity, here are some TED talk examples of creative thinkers, and THEY didn’t have tiger moms.”
    It didn’t seem a very scientific approach.
    The example of the child doing homework at the Chinese restaurant is a typical migrant story. The 1st generation will have a corner shop or a restaurant and work hard to give the 2nd generation the best start in life. These businesses work on a number of levels. Firstly they require low skills, they can generally get by with only one or two members of the family knowing the language of the new country and the low skill base means all members of the family can help out. Secondly, since it is a family business, when the kids finished school for the day they don’t go to an empty home, they go to the business where they are surrounded by a support network who can help them out. The strong sense of family among Asian communities further contribute to the worth of this support network.
    These kids work hard because of this support and succeed not just in maths, but many subjects. As a result the top scorers in the Higher School Certificate (the high school graduation certificate) have an over representation of children of migrant and particularly Asian migrants compared to the population. One of the selective schools in Sydney is almost exclusively Asian, not because of racist policies but because they are the kids getting the high scores required to be able to go to the school.
    To throw in my own anecdotal examples I will use Ahn Do and Khoa Do. These brother wear born in Vietnam and came to Australia in the ’70s on a refugee boat with their parents. They were brought up in the traditional Asian “tiger parent” way and about from high school marks what have they achieved? Ahn Do who originally studied law is an actor, stand up comedian and recently won several awards for his book “The Happiest Refugee”. His brother Khoa is an award winning film director, award winning playwright, and was awarded “Young Australian of the Year” in 2005 for his philanthropic work. So this type of parenting didn’t impede the creativity of either of these men, and far from being ‘kids who are just really good at maths’ they are valuable and well respected members of society.
    Taken out of the context of its cultural origins and strong family network, the tiger mom approach will probably not translate to a WASP nuclear family, but they is not sufficient to dismiss it entirely,

  6. Andrew McAdams says:

    My sister and her friends (all mothers) read the book about tiger moms, and I just laughed at how afraid they were that their kids were not going to succeed unless they became more tiger-ish. Ironically, China is known for its patent and copyright infringement of Western products. To sum up this podcast, I recalled the famous words of Albert Einstein (whose own childhood is remarkable), “The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.” The tiger mom approach, it appears, tends to perpetuate the same level of thinking.

  7. Well said Andrew and a very relevant quote to boot. thx

  8. Carmel Bowman says:

    I am a recently addicted listener to your podcasts. I found them doing some research while pursuing certification for Early Childhood Education in the Montessori method. I am addicted because every time I hear you advocate an approach to dealing with children (whether it’s about education or discipline or child development) I hear the words of Maria Montessori. I read a little bit of her work about 15 years ago and tried to apply that to my own family and found that it fit very well with my approach to how children should be treated and taught. But it wasn’t until I took this training that I discovered how her ideas are based on science and backed up by current brain research, and help children reach out to their true potential, far surpassing us parents and teachers, if only we will let them (help them?) and not put up obstacles. Montessori children are inquisitive, polite, thoughtful, explorative, creative, independent yet collaborative, problem-solvers, enthusiastic and academically very smart. Montessorians like to let people know that the founders of Google, Amazon and Wikipedia are Montessori educated as are creative folks like Taylor Swift, Joshua Bell, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Dr. Montessori’s contributions to child development theory seem to be unacknowledged or overlooked by many in the USA, and yet, her teaching methods work. I am particularly excited about the differences in teaching Early Childhood and Elementary ages. Have you ever visited a true Montessori classroom? Have you come across Dr. Montessori’s ideas in your world? If so, what do you think? Do her theories, which were once pooh-poohed by Dewey, stand the test of time? Do you think modern brain research and psychology theories are upholding her observations from 100 years ago? Where would you put her in the pantheon of developmental theorists? Of course, I’m a big fan of Maria Montessori and have just taken a few tentative steps to finding out what she was all about. I’m sure that there are practitioners and trainers (check out American Montessori Society or AMI–not sure what that stands for) who could give you the scoop on what the Montessori philosophy really is. Most people think it’s a type of salad dressing. How sad.

  9. Interesting. There is a Montessori school not far from my house. I’ve thought about going there to talk to the teachers. Your post is making me think that I should. I’ll have to dig up some research as well. I’ll contact Eugene Geist and see if he can point me toward some good studies. Have you listened to my interview with Dr. Geist? Really interesting guy: http://www.thepsychfiles.com/2009/01/episode-84-how-to-make-learning-fun-again-part-1-piaget/

  10. I agree that math ability shouldn't be the sole standard, but Asian/Chinese aren't exactly faring worse in other values/attributes. In fact, there were some news about how there wasn't much looting during their disasters, and that even the Japanese mafia kind of helped somewhat.

    I also think that it worth some caution with the somewhat dismissive take on repetition/practice. It almost certainly has its limits, but I think seldom anyone suppose that it should be the only sort of focus or training that there is; instead, it's providing the person with tools that will or would assist her in more creative endeavors later on. There's not much room or utility for thinking creatively with multiplication tables and stuff like that. But being sharp on that will probably be useful later on, when there may be something to be creative about.

    Somewhat connected with that, a different take on the crucial differences of Asian/Chinese culture that I've seen didn't have this reduction to/focus on authoritarianism/"authoritativeness", if that's a word, nor in mindless repetition, but instead it was said that they tend to believe more in malleable abilities, requiring effort to develop, whereas Americans/Western people tend to think more in terms of "gift", praising accomplishment that comes without effort, and thus not giving to effort the value it deserves. This difference in belief seems to be correlated with outcomes on school, and it seems it can be more or less easily taught, and it works. I suspect that people would often fall back to their previous pattern of thought, though, if that's not something that they consciously try to remind themselves.

    In some lay discussions I've heard that it's even reflected in the popular culture, with Japanese super-heroes having long, serial stories of struggle, defeat, slow, effortful growth, eventually culminating in a victory, whereas American super-heroes are born or receive a "gift" that suddenly empowers them, and are essentially always winning, only sporadically getting killed in big "events", but coming back from the dead before you know it. (That is not 100% different, though, to me those "power rangers" type of Japanese superheroes seem to pretty much replicate an always-winning formula, over and over; the "growth saga" seems to be more a thing of anime and manga).

    I think that giving too much value on creativity may have the risk of replicating this difference. Creativity is often thought to be somewhat magical, not quite requiring effort, repetition and trial and error. Perhaps even more if it's contrasted with learning by repetition.

  11. Perhaps it isn't a stretch to make a connection of those differences with an education for greater self-control. Creativity sort of has this image of spontaneity, that it shouldn't be squandered by self control (something that many actual writers/artists will dispute, though), which seems somewhat analogous to eating the one marshmallow now; whereas the focus on mindless repetition/effort seems to be more connected with waiting for two marshmallows.

    Not a black and white thing, though; I recall reading that some of the kids that didn't ate the marshmallows didn't do it only by sheer effort, but actually had their creative ways of making themselves disciplined, by distracting themselves, not looking at it. If I recall one of them just licked it, which is quite a funny and creative way of interpreting the rules favorably, however arguably not-so-honest.

  12. PS/Sorry: Read something like "restricted", "tamed", instead of "squandered".

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