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Have you heard about Tiger Mom parenting? It's based on the book by Amy Chua, and involves denying your
child bathroom breaks, forcing them to learn the violin and insisting they grow
up to be podiatrists. Or something like that—I haven’t actually read the
What I can say about the book, though, is that it ruined my life.
Why? Because as an Asian-American mother, everyone now assumes this is how I
parent my children. I have to start off every conversation with strangers
with, “My kids don’t know how to play the violin and I let them go to the
bathroom anytime they want. No, seriously!”
But here’s the ironic part—if you met my
daughters, you might just think that they were the product of some Tiger Mom
parenting techniques. They are unfailingly polite and well behaved. They’re straight-A students, overachievers and perfectionists almost to
a fault. They pretend to be medical personnel every chance they get. I’m just
kidding about that last one.
True story: My older daughter, now 16, was
pretty much a straight-A student all through elementary school. When she hit
middle school and things got a little tougher, she became extremely anxious
about failing, and we were constantly trying to reassure her that getting a bad
grade wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Some might call us slackers; we just consider ourselves relaxed.
One night, she was particularly upset that she
might be possibly getting a—gasp—"C," and after spending a few minutes trying to calm her down I issued this
challenge. “I’m ordering you get some ‘C’s. This semester is all about just
passing—don’t be coming home with any 'A’s, young lady.” Although we had a good
laugh about it, I knew she couldn’t do it. Later my husband remarked that I was
probably the only parent in the school district that was begging their kid to
bring their GPA down a notch.
So if we aren’t Tiger Parents, what are we? If
we had to give it a name I’d say we’re more Alley Cat Parents. And here’s our
method: We have done nothing extraordinary or drastic in raising our kids. We
have no set bedtimes, and no set study times. They’ve always come home and done
their homework on their own, through no prodding or nagging on the part of me
or my husband. We’ve never punished them for bad grades, nor do we overly
reward them for good ones (I know one parent who gives her daughter $20 for
every "A" she gets on a report card.)
While we help them with school projects, we
never become overly involved and have never done their work for them in pursuit
of a good grade. (OK, OK, I confess that I did construct the entire roof of the
San Fernando Mission that my daughter “built.”)
What we do is offer support, and try to
concentrate more on the process of learning than on the final grade. Some might
call us slackers; we just consider ourselves relaxed. I think the lesson in all of this is that we all
do whatever works for us and our kids. No book or parenting manual is going to
fit every child. I’m going to get mushy here and say that whether you’re a
Tiger Mom or an Alley Cat Parent, loving your kid and finding out what makes
them tick is the most important key to success.