The Battle Hum of the Tigger Mum
Yale Law School professor Amy Chua made quite a splash in 2011 with her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua’s memoir detailed her demanding, no-nonsense style of raising her two daughters, supposedly in emulation of traditional Chinese parenting behaviors.
This British Chinese mother says she also had a tiger mother, but now as a clinical psychiatrist, Dr. Holan Liang counsels that tiger parenting focuses too much on academics at the expense of social skills, and can be psychologically damaging to both parent and child.
Instead, parents need to be supportive, loving and tolerant of their children’s faults and failures, while also expecting their kids to excel, Liang says.
Further, although “success” is paramount to the tiger parent, this is measured purely in terms of academic/ career and financial success. What of “happiness”: my preferred measure of success? In psychiatry you have the rare position of seeing the psychological mess behind the veneer of many successful people, and you quickly realise that “happiness” is a much better yardstick for success. In my clinical practice I have asked many a tiger parent that has taken things to the extreme: “What’s the point of your child going to Oxbridge if they commit suicide there?” (it does happen). Of course, achievement and money contribute to “happiness”, which is why I continue to maintain these are important, but self-esteem, integrity and robust personality take precedent in my book. None of this “inferiority” coupled with “superiority” package that Amy Chua is now marketing (this by the way, sounds like the professional description of a personality disorder not the secret to success). What I advocate is pure and solid (and highly unmarketable): self-esteem, self-respect, respect for others, positivity and humour.
How can this be engendered?
To a large degree by parents.
Parents that spend time with you, and enjoy spending time with you. Parents that prioritise you and make you feel special. Parents that care enough about you to tell you when you are out of line. Parent’s that give you a reality check when you need it. Parents that listen to you when you speak, or speak for you when you can’t. Parents that make time for you even when they have no time. Parents that pick you up when you are down. Parent’s that are always there for you. Parents that cheer for you even when you are actually pretty rubbish. Parents that include you. Parents that know you and try to understand you. Above all, parents that make you live, laugh and enjoy life.