Tiger Mother or Mama Grizzly?
Chinese Tiger Mother or Western Mama Grizzly . . . Which metaphor resonates with you? Amy Chua in her provocative book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, creates a conversation for the culture chasm that exists between parenting in a Chinese culture as opposed to raising children in a Western culture. This chasm is probably best identified by Chua’s own words when she writes:
Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.
While this passage conveys a relatively neutral posture from Chua towards the Western style, much of Chua’s book has more of a distinct bite to its tone. Chua additionally writes:
First, I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.
Chua claims that the intent of her book is not to rank one parenting style superior to another, but the reader of this passionately written book definitely will get the feel that Western parents are fragile, weak willed, coddlers of their under-achieving young. Western parents are usually more worried about building their children’s ego. Or as Chua states it, “In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches.” I do understand Chua’s take on Western parenting when I come across blog posts that read, “When we choose to cheer for, encourage, and invest in our kids we shape the future.” I found this quote from a blog post on a tweet from a leading marriage and family counselor/communicator. I also found this quote to definitely be over the top. But to paint that as the prevailing picture of all Westerners, is definitely too broad of a brush to paint with.
Chua does do a nice job of identifying a significant difference in parenting philosophy between the Chinese and Western cultures, but the image that came to my mind when I thought of an American parallel image to a Chinese Tiger Mother was actually that of a Western Mama Grizzly. While truly a different philosophy, the description and accuracy of a single image for strict parenting verses empowering parenting does not adequately or accurately address the real issues of the cultural influences and nuances of parenting in two different world’s.
Overall I felt Chua, while walking on the edge of judgementalism, was writing this book as more of a confessional as opposed to an instruction manual. With her passion for how she raised her daughters (and how she went about many other things in her life for that matter) and the personality in which she displayed in doing so, I believe while for many she overshadowed the humor she wrote with that I took as an air of humility that made the book rather enjoyable and quite actually a great read.
As a parent, I did identify with the Western cultural pressure to handle our kids with great care as if their feelings should be of our utmost care and concern. My personal parenting style is definitely influenced by this pressure. Additionally, my personality inclines me to be non-confrontational in providing lots of room for my kids to choose, experience, and adjust, but I do have my boundary’s, my fight, and my bite that comes out when they are in danger of our everybody is a winner and gets a ribbon culture. I guess that is why I like the Grizzly analogy; because while the cubs can play, they also know the way . . . of the Grizzly parent.
 Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2011), 63, Amazon Kindle edition.
 Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2011), 51-52, Amazon Kindle edition.
 Amy Chua, “Tale of a Tiger Mother” (video), January 12, 2012, accessed May 21, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGHvGw4_ExE.
 Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2011), 52, Amazon Kindle edition.
 Mike Berry, “The Importance of Cheering for Our Children,” Confessions of a Parent: Hope and humor from the trenches (blog), May 18, 2015, accessed May 21, 2015, http://www.confessionsofaparent.com/the-importance-of-cheering-for-our-children/?utm_content=buffer9a05d&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer.