That was my first reaction. Upon further reflection of the book, I have come to believe that both sides of the debate have benefits and downfalls. This is why the lesson of the Tiger Mother is that of balance. If we are to read this text and gain any wisdom from it, it should be that everything is about balance, and if we lean too heavily in any direction, as I would humbly suggest Chua did with the raising of her two girls, the end result could be less than desirable.
Chua begins her book with a list of her strict parenting rules. While her rhetoric was good at stimulating my curiosity, I question the benefits to such a rigid and unbalanced regimen for young children. Research in the field of education has determined that kids benefit greatly from playtime, and being allowed to socialize as play freely reduces anxiety and stress. A study done by Krystyan Kryko suggests three areas of development that benefit most from play:
In the social domain free play allows for the development of cooperation, sharing, and language acquisition. When children create and participate in games of their own choosing they learn how to resolve conflicts and develop respect for rules and the opinions of others. It is through play that children begin to gain a sense of self and an appreciation for their abilities.
Unstructured play provides children with an outlet for reducing anxiety. Children learn to manage stress and gain self control. They also have an opportunity to express themselves to others by rehearsing behaviors and practicing skills that assist in monitoring their own emotions.
Unstructured play allows for the development of cognitive understandings through hands on experiences, exploration, and the use of manipulative materials. The context of play provides the most appropriate scaffolding for children as they develop their skills. After children practice their skills in play situations they use their newly aquires skills in different contexts.
My concern here is that Chua does not allow for the necessary stress-reducers that a child (or adult, for that matter) needs. It should be of no surprise then, that eastern cultures have some of the highest female suicide rates in the world, with China leading the way.
This graph shows the alarming rates of suicide among males and females across the globe. It is interesting to note that the highest rates of suicide occur within the cultures that practice the Tiger Mother methods of parenting.
This is not to say that Chua's daughters would fall into such a category, but a look at their social media pages could suggests that there may be some causes for concern. A quote from Sophie's Twitter account suggests her anxiety:
"To an outsider, I just seem like a list of accomplishments. To me, all there is how often I fail."
and in a similar post from her sister Lulu, she states that:
"My spirit animal is anxiety."
One should wonder if the high levels of depression and anxiety in eastern children are linked to the strong demands placed on them as young children. Would such a child be just as successful if not pushed beyond a reasonable limit? If a child's life was balanced with a healthy amount of work and play, would she/he success regardless? Studies have found that genetics play an increasingly important role in determining who a child will grow up to be. Bryan Caplan discusses the effects of genes in child development in an article in Psychology Today:
Adoption and twin researchers in medicine, psychology, economics, and sociology have spent the last four decades studying almost every trait that parents seek to foster. By comparing adoptees to their adopted families, and identical to fraternal twins, these scientists have finally managed to separately measure the effects of nature and nurture. The effect of genes on health, intelligence, happinesss, success, character, and values is glaringly obvious. The effect of parenting on these traits, in contrast, ranges from small to zero. Amy Chua's daughters didn't need a Tiger Mother to succeed; being the children of two best-selling Yale professors was enough.I am not suggesting that the western style of parenting is superior in any way to that of others. I believe we could learn a lot from each other, and that parenting should not be a competition among nations. Success is measured in different terms by each individual, and the journey to success should be pleasant, not painful. Balance.