A common stereotype holds Chinese mothers to be strict authoritarians, mercilessly ruling over the children with iron fists.
The thought of adopting a parenting style that exerts such extreme control may be hard to think about for many European-American parents.
Yet, there is the nagging feeling that maybe the harsh reality is that severe parenting styles get results.
The idea has gained greater footing through Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua. The book describes the Tiger Parenting style Chua used to raise her own kids, including such tidbits as the hours a day spent relentlessly drilling piano, no sleepovers, and heavy doses of shaming to exert control over the children.
It essentially codifies (Chau’s version of) the traditional Chinese parenting style, and has generated quite a bit of controversy in doing so.
Regardless of whether this parenting style wrenches your gut or sounds like it might make for a good plan B, there’s still the issue of what research says about how well it actually works.
Is it the path to greatness for your kids? Are you holding them back by being too soft?
A recent study on the tiger mom parenting style suggests not. The research was conducted by Su Yeong Kim of the University of Texas, and is described in more detail by Paul Tullis on Slate.
Kim studied Asian-American families, and categorized them into four groups based on their parenting styles:
- harsh, and
The supportive parenting style tends to be democratic, allowing for two-way communications, negotiation, and lots of support, love and affection. Giving praise of the right kind.
The harsh and tiger parenting styles tended to be highly authoritarian, using more coercion, punishment, shaming and related forms of psychological control.
Easy-going parents tend to be more permissive, letting the kids find their own way.
Kim found that the tiger parenting style did not fare so well.
The kids of tiger moms had lower grades, despite feeling more pressure to achieve. They were also more depressive, and felt alienated from their parents.
The supportive parenting style had the best results, including better grades and educational attainment, as well as parent-child relationship. The permissive approach fell in between.
If the Chinese moms are really superior, why do the tigers fare so poorly?
The other interesting result from Kim’s study was that few of the parents in her sample actually fell into the tiger and harsh categories. The majority instead had adopted the supportive parenting style.
So, they may well have a superior approach. It’s just not the one that Chua described.
Image Credit: epSos.de