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“Chinese Parenting” vs. “Western Parenting” – Is the Tiger Mom Right?

"Chinese Parenting" vs "Western Parenting"

Everyone’s been asking me to weigh in on this new book,  “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother” by Yale law professor Amy Chau.  If you haven’t heard the buzz, you can read the original short article she wrote for the Wall Street Journal claiming traditional “Chinese Parenting” is superior to “Western Parenting,” which is what started all the subsequent media frenzy.

Amy claims that “traditional Chinese parenting” is why Asian kids actually live up their stereotype of being musical prodigies who excel in math and sciences, who win all the awards and take all the top positions.   In Amy’s words, this parenting method results in producing children that are “successful.”

What Amy fails to report is the number of students who commit suicide when they receive a grade less than a A+, leaving notes behind to apologize for disgracing the family with their poor performance.  Anxiety, depression, isolation and fear are too heavy a price to pay for this measurement of “life success.”

We have three decades of research on parenting styles and the type described by Amy would be classified as “Autocratic.”  We know definitively the best life outcomes from a psychological wellness, resiliency, and life satisfaction perspective are achieved through “Democratic” parenting practices.  If Ms. Chau is wagging her finger at Western parenting, it’s because she does have a valid point that we seem resistant to hearing:  culturally speaking, this generation of parents is predominately raising children in the “Permissive” style of parenting.

Permissive parenting creates equally as severe outcomes for children as neglectful parenting.  So while I certainly don’t endorse the extreme methods Amy Chau espouses, I think we needed the wake-up call as a nation to realize we have gone just as far to the opposite end of the continuum from Amy, and realize that our current parenting practices are actually just as extreme and warped.

If you want to learn how to be a democratic parent, sign up for my upcoming Parenting Bootcamp weekend Feb. 12th and 13th, 2011.  Believe me – it’s not intuitive, and yet it’s easy to learn and apply immediately.


About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

3 Responses to ““Chinese Parenting” vs. “Western Parenting” – Is the Tiger Mom Right?”

  1. Amy Brown

    This doesn’t change the validity of your points, but I think you and your readers will be interested to know that the article in the Wall Street Journal was a misrepresentation of Amy Chua’s book, which is apparently not a parenting manual but more a memoir of being raised by, and then becoming, a “Chinese mother”. There’s a more nuanced article about the book here:
    It seems like it will be an interesting insight into a particular parenting philosophy – and how that philosophy breaks down in our more democratic society. I’m planning to read it.

  2. Christy den Haan-Veltman

    Thanks for your feedback as always Alyson. I was wondering what I could l learn from Amy’s experience. You have provided a wonderful framework. Like Amy I look forward to reading this book now.

  3. Diane Kilcoyne

    Alyson, thanks so much for posting this. As I struggle NOT to be an autocratic mother in favour of being democratic, I found all the hype around this to be deeply discouraging. I think, like everyone, I worry whether we’re doing things right – and I can usually just ignore all the media junk I see and stick to the Adlerian principles. But for some reason, this one rattled me. Your response is just the shot in the arm that I needed. THANK YOU!


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