Since birth, countless a child has been coddled and made to feel “unique” and “one-of-a-kind.” Meanwhile other children have been guided through a more structured and goal-oriented upbringing. Nurtured children are much familiar with being rewarded for the smallest achievements: hoorays for hitting that tee ball and great job buddy for finishing your homework. Meanwhile, children raised in checkpoint-based relationships are much accustomed to hours of tutoring and hobbies like playing piano and competitive chess. This “tiger parenting” is the ethnic Asian response to the traditional American positive reinforcement parenting. But which one is right? Is one better than the other? And more importantly, how is parenting style affecting the youth of today?
Traditional American parenting raises children by way of positive reinforcement, allowing kids to dream, desire, and achieve. Kids are encouraged to pursue whatever they deem their passion and this tradition comes at an early age. In early schooling kids are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Kids enthusiastically and naively respond “Police officer, nurse” and sometimes even “firetruck!” Regardless, the seed has been planted and if Tommy really wants to be a firetruck when he grows up, he will gosh darn be a firetruck. Because that’s precisely what American parenting does! Parents are continuously reinforcing their child’s unique and singular existence. This kid is going to change the world. This kid is going to be know exactly who he wants to be and will live who he wants to be every day of his life. Mind not the mountain of debt nor the lack of satisfactory wages post-passion pursuing. But this raises a confident kid nonetheless. He owns his mistakes and is confident in his ability to rectify them. This is precisely what American parenting does, coddles and nurtures but makes clear that once adulthood is reached, Tommy is the commander of his own ship (even if it is leaking and on the brink of crew abandonment). But how is this different from Asian/tiger parenting?
If Tommy was Asian, he could probably count the number of “attaboys” and “I love yous” on two hands. Instead of receiving praise and encouragement, he would be regimented into violin or chess practice. He’d be sitting through hours of tutoring after school, competing for college admission and scholarships before he was even in high school. Tommy would go on to learn coding in high school, compete in science tournaments, win prizes leading to prestigious college admissions, and maybe become a college professor or scientist. But Tommy likely missed out on playing with the neighborhood kids, watching movies over summer break, and crushing on or dating a girl. So now his stunted emotional development manifests in his own children, but lucky for him that doesn’t really matter because he has a big fat paycheck to support himself and his family (including his parents). Is tiger parenting really any better than traditional American parenting?
The answer is no. Each style has its pros and cons, and so balance and moderation is once again the answer in a time of extremes and “need to have nows.” Regardless of parenting style, kids are growing up un-fulfilled and confused in a culture of “you can do it all” and “you’re unique.” Not everyone can do it all. It’s important to foster a relationship where children and parents can openly communicate possible strengths and weaknesses.
So let your kids be frustrated when a concept or skill doesn’t naturally come to them. Encourage them to work hard and reinforce work ethic and the importance of practice. Talent can be innate, but skill and finesse are from countless hours of practice and effort. And if finally the skill doesn’t develop, then be at peace knowing both you and your child put in the maximum effort. don’t revisit, don’t resent, let the child be.
Please refer to the father and happy children in the featured photograph.