Most moms have probably heard of tiger parenting or tiger moms, a term coined by American author and lawyer Amy Chua in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In the book, she describes a tiger mom as someone who pushes her children to be achievers and top performers by being very strict. “Tiger parenting emphasizes excellence in various aspects such as academics, sports, and music,” writes Andrea Herrera in a previous SmartParenting.com.pharticle.
Many Asians, most especially Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, are often stereotyped as tiger moms. Their parenting style are often thought of as the key to develop children to become high performing achievers. Tiger parents aspire to send their kids to go to the best schools, so they can have a steady career with high-paying jobs. “For tiger parents, the success of their children reflects on how successful they are as a parent,” adds Herrera.
Of course, it's a parenting style that has its share of criticisms. According to Dr. Peter Gray, a research professor at Boston College and author of Free to Learn, too much focus on academic skills can negatively affect the development of a child’s intellectual skills. It puts a lot of pressure on children especially those who have difficulty with memorization tasks and are shamed into thinking they are slow or stupid. These kids begin to withdraw, give up or misbehave.
Some parents believe that instead of being a tiger, you should be an “elephant” parent instead. In a 2014 article for The Atlantic by journalist and author Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar, she describes an elephant parent as someone who believes they “need to nurture, protect, and encourage their children, especially when they’re still impressionable and very, very young.”
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Care.com describes them as parents who allow their children more flexibility and choices rather than definitive and strict guidelines that need to be followed. If a baby is crying, an elephant mom would not hesitate to rock her until she stops crying (despite what others may say about baby’s need to self-soothe). Elephant parenting focuses on emotional security and connection over academic excellence.
But, of course, there are those who blame elephant parenting for the rise of overparenting that has led to kids having an overly-entitled attitude. We often hear that kids nowadays are too sheltered or too spoiled. Is it because more and more millennial parents are choosing to become elephant parents? Or maybe because there’s a pressure to be the perfect mother?
Children of tiger parents may have a hard time dealing with failure as they are always pushing for academic superiority. Children of elephant parents may also face difficulty, especially if their parents are always hovering and intervening whenever there are challenges to overcome.
So, what’s a parent to do? Loosen the reins and allow kids to learn by making mistakes. “Parents will need to take a leap of faith and do a balancing act if they want to raise their kids to become successful adults,” says Katherine Reynolds Lewis, author of The Good News About Bad Behavior in an article by Smart Parenting. “Give him as much power as you can stand and try to save your direction for the things that you don’t think he can do.”
We often talk about grit and resilience here at Smart Parenting. We are firm believers that these are important life skills, even more important than academic skills, that contribute to a child’s success in the future. Why? It’s because these two life skills teach that failure and criticism is simply a part of life, and not a detriment to success.
There are many more types of parenting, and what might work for you may not work for others. When it comes to raising your child, what’s most important is that your kids know that they have a support system that will encourage them to try again in times of failure.
“I’ve realized that the best parent you can be is the one that you want to be; and there is no perfect parent, just as there is no perfect kid,” Priyanka says.