Tiger Mom and Slacker Parents

Tiger Mom and Slacker Parents

I am fascinated by all the reaction to the Tiger Mom book. You know the one, or maybe you’ve missed the fuss so far. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Penguin Press, 2011) by Harvard Professor Amy Chua is the story of how one mom, the American-raised daughter of Chinese-born parents, decided to raise her own children using ‘Asian’ rather than ‘Western’ parenting strategies.  Prof. Chua (with the buy-in of her non-Asian husband) insisted on straight As (NOT A-minuses), multiple hours of music practice a day, and discouraged social time (which in her case meant  banning sleepovers and playdates – playdates!). Maybe I shouldn’t put this all in the past tense, since her kids are still teenagers and so a work still in progress. But basically Prof. Chua is happy with the way it is all going, and in the book brags about the superiority of her methods as a way of producing something other than self-absorbed, non-musical slackers.

Hmm. I’m not exactly a believer, but that’s beside the point. I think this book will sell just fine even if the majority of the people who read it are skeptics.

Thing is, sometimes books like this one sizzle in the media for a bit, then no one buys them; I’d imagine that this will do somewhat better. After all, its message ultimately has to do with how to get your kids to succeed, and given the economic outlook that’s a trickier trick to pull off than ever.

Consider who is parenting these days: the parents of school aged kids (presumably the target of this book) are typically last wave baby boomers (born after 1960), Gen Xers (born early-mid 60s through to mid to late 70s, I know that’s not a very precise definition so choose your start and end dates, everyone else does) and early Gen Ys. Translation: three groups that have hit some rough patches in the economy. Some of them may have hit a sweet spot in terms of when they themselves started their first jobs, but none have been shielded from the last recession or what it has done to their house values or stock portfolios (if them even have those). They can see the brutal job market for youth these days (even youth with graduate degrees) and they want to give their kids an edge. So yes, they’ll read about Asian parenting techniques.

I may not have downloaded the book (I love my e-reader, but that’s another whole blog) because I’m looking for her insights into parenting, really; that 3 hours a day of violin practice for a child isn’t something I’d want to implement in my house, thanks very much. But I do wonder about the idea of more-structure vs. less-structure and all that it implies. Late Gen Ys and Generation Z kids (the ones born after 2000, more or less) have only recently been getting the limelight, and the analysis so far seems to be that they are spoilt, over-indulged whiny little brats – or at least that seems like what Ms. Chua thinks.   It’s a pretty harsh characterization of a generation,  but I’d wager that if these kids are getting too much (in the form of ipads or soccer camp or whatever) its because their parents think what they are giving them now will ultimately result in some kind of advantage in a harsh world.

It’s a jungle out there in terms of the labor market, so Tiger Mom will no doubt find her place in it – probably as the latest buy by all those indulgent slacker parents.

  • Adolph Howitt
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