Eye of the tiger: taking strict parents to a whole new level

Gilana Levavi ('14)/Eastside staff

Three months ago, the phrase “Tiger Mom” did not mean anything to anyone. But since the release of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in January, the phrase has been the subject of innumerable heated debates. Chua’s memoir tells of her experiences as a “Chinese mother” (aka Tiger Mother) raising her two daughters on premises that include “schoolwork must always come first,” “you must never compliment your children in public,” and  “nothing is fun unless you’re good at it”.

Chua chose her children’s extracurricular activities for them, deciding which instruments her daughters would play and supervising grueling, often forced practice sessions for hours every day, even while on vacation. She openly criticized her daughters for making mistakes, once calling her daughter “garbage”.

She justifies these actions as Chinese parenting techniques, the secret to how “Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids,” as Chua puts it.

A written survey was recently administered to 180 East students asking their opinions on the controversial parenting style Chua describes in her book. The surveyed population was 25 percent female and 47 percent male, while 28 percent did not give their gender. The surveyed population was 61 percent Caucasian, 27 percent Asian, seven percent African American, and four percent Hispanic, while six percent specified other ethnicities and three percent preferred not to give their ethnicity. 

The survey revealed that 41 percent of students support strict parenting, while 59 percent oppose it.

Kristen Hearn, who opposes strict parenting, wrote, “The more pressure parents put on kids the more likely they are to rebel or do poorly.”

This rebellious scenario was illustrated in Chua’s book when her younger daughter Lulu began disrespecting Chua because Chua did not give her freedom to choose her own interests.  

Though people disagreed on whether so-called Eastern parenting was better than Western parenting, many specified that they support a balance of strictness and liberal parenting.                                                     

Zach Friedman (’14), wrote, “A kid needs discipline but also freedom.”

Nick Mitchell (’13) suggested a different form of balance.

“I think the parents should be strict during the early years, but should give kids a lot more freedom in the teen years,” he wrote.

             Chua admits to “using the term ‘Chinese mother’ loosely,” saying that she knows people of other ethnicities who she considers Chinese mothers, and she knows Chinese parents who raise their children as “Western Mothers”. Yet throughout the book she continually uses the phrase “Chinese mother”.

            According to the survey, strict parents are definitely not exclusively Chinese, but are more prevalent among Asians. 64 percent of Asian students surveyed consider one or both of their parents strict, while of all the other ethnic groups, only 43 percent consider one or more parents strict.   

Of the students who support strict parenting, 57 percent consider one or both of their own parents strict. Of those who oppose strict parenting, 41 percent consider one or both of their own parents strict, so generally, the majority of students seem to support their own parents’ parenting techniques.

This is interesting, because Amy Chua describes her own parents as being extremely strict. As she grew up, she rebelled against them, defying her father’s wishes that she go to

college close to home. Yet when it came time for Chua to raise her own kids, she tried to recreate the exact environment she herself grew up in. Are tiger moms contagious?    

Miscellaneous Statistics and Quotes……..

48 percent of East students consider one or both of their parents strict, while 52 percent do not.

28 percent are required by parents to study or do homework for a certain amount of time per week or night.

39 percent are required to participate in certain extra curricular activities.

39 percent are required to take certain classes or certain levels of classes.

46 percent believe their parents’ parenting styles have affected their success.

            Of the Asians, 81 percent believe their parents’ parenting styles have affected their success.

            21.5 percent of students heard of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Of the Asians, 43 percent heard of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Quotes:

Anonymous twelfth grader: “[It] depends on the meaning of ‘strict’. I don’t support Amy Chua’s extreme methods [of parenting], but I do think parents should care about their kids.”

            Kaylin Magosin (’14): “I think you should work with your parents to find a balance [of strictness].”

            Jamie Einsbruch (’11): “…parents can’t be too strict because a child needs to learn from their own mistakes.”

Alex Faye (’11): “I support fair parenting.”

Kat Gammie (’13): “If kids are expected to succeed, they need to be pushed. Since the areas of the brain that control self-control and motivation are some of the last to develop, kids need strict parents to be their “brain” until said kids can make good decisions for themselves.”

Rachel McCauley (’13): “I believe that education starts in the home. Without my parents being strict with me and supporting me I would not be nearly as successful.”

Sherin Nassar (’13): “I support strict parenting because although my parents are not strict, I am strict on myself and I believe because of my own strictness, I was able to do well.”

Gabriella Reeb (’13): “When my parents tell me what to do I feel annoyed and less apt to do something… If I complete the activity they’ve told me to do I feel less satisfaction.”