HIGHLAND PARK (CBSDFW.COM) – Coined by controversial author and Yale Law School professor Amy Chua, the phrase ‘tiger mom’ has some North Texas parents divided on how children should be raised.
The term comes from Chua’s 2011 book “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a best-selling memoir about her strict parenting methods while raising her two precocious daughters.
“This is not a parenting book,” Chua said. “One of the reasons I went this way with my kids is because the model applied to me was so successful.”
In Highland Park, the top priority at the Lu household is education. That means perfect grades, and striving to reach the top of the class no matter what the cost. As such, fifth grader Lily Wu said her mother sets all the rules.
“They don’t let me go to sleepovers,” the 11-year-old said. “I’ve never been to one, and don’t know what it’s like.”
“I think sleepover is really a bad habit for the kids,” her mother, Jinny Pan, responded.
For Pan, who grew up in China, education means opportunity, and being the best means having the best chance for success.
“If she gets the same education as other people, she probably don’t have the same opportunity,” she said. “So, she has to be better in order to get the same opportunity.”
Pan jokes that she’s a tiger mom, which Chua said is used by many Chinese-American parents.
“They always try to get me to do more homework each day,” Lily said.
“I feel like I don’t push her enough,” her mother added. “Sometimes you push your kids, and your kids will say ‘Why are you so mean to me?’”
Not all parents are sold on the virtues of being a tiger mom, however.
“I have to say I was horrified,” said Liz Lazear, a new mother in Irving. “It seemed like her love for her daughters was very conditional.”
Lazear said her parents raised her with a lot of freedom, and it still led to success. Today, she’s an attorney.
“It was really a nice, organic, natural way to learn,” she said. “I definitely wanted to replicate that with my own children.”
Dr. Sylvia Gearing, a psychologist in Plano, says she sees a lot of issues with the parenting style of the “Tiger Mom”.
“When kids are over controlled and micromanaged, they don’t learn how to define themselves independently,” Dr. Gearing said. “They just constantly orient to the parent.”
She said some parents push for an unhealthy level of perfection, and don’t allow their children to explore what might interest them.
“They don’t emotionally develop into the independent, resilient people we want them to become,” she said. “Growing up is about taking risks, making friends, making mistakes, and bouncing back.”
Even Amy Chua, who spoke at a recent book signing, admitted she had a few regrets about the way she raised her daughters.
“I wish that I had paid more attention to the individual personalities of my two daughters,” she said. “And, I do wish that I had given my kids more choices.”
However, she was quick to defend her parenting style because she said it worked so well on her.
“My parents having very high expectations for me and sometimes using harsh words coupled with this deep love was the greatest gift that anybody has ever given me,” Chua said. “That’s why I wanted to give it to my kids.”
Aside from the rule about no sleepovers, Lily says her mom does allow her to have fun with her friends, and pursue her own interests, but schoolwork always comes first. And, she believes her mother’s rules will pay off.
“It’s worth it when I grow up,” she said.
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