“Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best” (Special Report: Tiger Mums, The Sunday Times).
Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, affectionately referred to as a “Tiger Mum”, has raised eyebrows with her purported strict “Chinese-style” parenting, which places tremendous emphasis on her children’s academic and co-curricular performance, and simultaneously restricts their participation in an assortment of leisure activities. More importantly, as highlighted in The Sunday Times Special Report “Tiger Mums” (January 23, 2011), the controversy has gathered perspectives on education and parenting, with a plethora of individuals contending the “proper” or “perfect” methodologies to teach or raise a child. In reality, these notions are no a one-size-fits-all.
The traditional point-of-view, put forth by academics and observers, is that Asian parents – historically the Chinese – place more emphasis on studies and academic performances. Statistically, Chinese students have been profiled to do comparatively well in mathematical and science Olympiads, excelling in global standardised tests, gaining entrance into top tertiary institutions et cetera. Nonetheless, the premise that it is imperative for students to develop a host of skills – aside from regurgitation and rote-learning – and simultaneously mature in character or moral development is valid. Beyond the school environment, employers are increasingly basing their judgement on potential employees who may possess interpersonal skills, communication techniques, negotiating abilities so on and so forth. It has evolved to be a more holistic evaluation.
Should we then readily dismiss Amy Chua’s techniques as being extreme and near-fanatical? Not necessarily. The parents themselves are in the prime position to determine the appropriate parenting methods for their own children; unless, of course, they neglect the basic rights of their adolescents. Different parents have varying expectations; and based on their personal backgrounds and teaching-learning experiences, adopt differentiated approaches. Some have taken more laissez-faire attitudes; some are stricter with discipline and regimentation: yet each has its own pros and cons, and delivers dissimilar results under conflicting circumstances in differing households.
Parenting is a constant work-in-progress, and should be analysed on a case-by-case basis. From my angle, parents should cultivate basic values and infuse inquisitiveness since young, and can impose standards for their children to reach; however – progressively – they should be increasingly cognisant of their children’s personal preferences and passions. The latter should be given space to do what they like, and not be treated like pets to be reared. Individuality is a commodity that is increasingly desired.
The obvious conclusion to the ongoing parenting debate? Balance and adaptation. The “best” methodology is not the one that is the most popular or widely-recognised; it is the one that is just right for the targeted child.