Guest blogger, Dr. David Walsh responds to the emerging debate surrounding Amy Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother…
A perfect storm has catapulted Amy Chua’s controversial parenting book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, to the top of the best-seller lists.
First, the latest international test scores revealed that Chinese students (at least the ones in Shanghai) are the world’s smartest, with American students still lagging behind (23rd place in science and a dismal 31st in math). Then, Chinese president Hu Jintao’s state visit lit up the blogosphere with renewed worries about China’s rise and America’s decline.
What are we doing wrong?
Enter Amy Chua, the Chinese American Yale law professor with the answer: American parents don’t know how to raise kids and the Chinese do. She issues a searing critique of U.S. parents as weak, coddling, enablers. A real mother—a Tiger Mother in her words—demands, demeans, screams, threatens and punishes until children perform perfectly.
But before we write Chua off as an abusive maniac, she does have a point!
We know that self-discipline is the key to children’s success and happiness. In fact, it is twice as strong a predictor of school success as intelligence. Our kids need it to harness and balance their powerful emotional drives, delay gratification, learn the benefits of sacrifice, and build their powers of concentration and perseverance. Without it they can become lazy, self indulgent and self-centered. Sadly too many of our kids have developed what I call “Discipline Deficit Disorder” (DDD for short) with symptoms of impatience, distraction, a sense of entitlement, and a need for constant entertainment and fun.
Kids have to learn how to say “no” to themselves if they’re going to be successful and happy.
The problem is they don’t learn that on their own. They outsource it to their parents, caregivers and teachers. The remedy is not, however, Chinese style Tiger Parenting. We need a course correction, but it would be a mistake to overdo it. It’s all about balance.
We need to balance a no with a yes; a reprimand with a hug; a rule with reasonable negotiation.
Parenting is a long-term investment. The reward doesn’t come when we insist that our kids take the challenging courses, enforce a reasonable curfew, or tell our kids that video games come after homework is done. The reward comes when our kids are the adults who know when and how to say no to themselves so they can delay gratification and accomplish greater achievements. No isn’t the goal; it’s the road to yes.
David Walsh, Ph.D. is a Search Institute Senior Advisor, the author of No. Why Kids-of All Ages-Need to Hear It and Ways Parents Can Say It. Search Institute is the exclusive provider and trainer for Say Yes to No: A Parenting Program to Raise Successful, Happy Kids. For more information on Say Yes to No visit www.SayYestoNo.org.
*Photo Credit: (CC) Larry D. Moore