Are You A Tiger Mom?

This week's Moms Talk Q&A is all about tiger moms.

Marblehead Patch invites you and your circle of friends to help build a community of support for mothers and their families right here in Marblehead.

Each week in Moms Talk, our Moms Council of experts and smart moms take your questions, give advice and share solutions.

Grab and cup of coffee and settle in to read this week's question. Below is how the mom's council answered but we want to hear from you. Leave a comment in the comment box below and share your thoughts.

Question: What's your take on Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? Are there any books  you've read over the years that have shaped the way you parent?   


Darcy Mayers: As a white, suburban-raised, non-religious woman whose only sense of tradition was polishing silver the day before Thanksgiving, a part of me envies Amy’s sense of historical, parenting purpose.  

But that’s not the only way I appreciate her: I think I am a Tiger Mom too. Maybe a Tiger Mom Lite?

Let me be clear: I have accepted every hand-drawn card from my children with glee, and I have not forced any kinds of lessons on any of my kids — until they begged for them. 

But I get Amy’s point of view and I appreciate it.

I think we’ve overdone it with the “self-esteem.” 

Some of the ugliest and least successful young adults I know are those with parents who applauded every little thing they did. Entering the “real” world, they found their entitled behavior didn’t work and their boss didn’t care for their excuses. I’m working hard to raise kids who understand the value of making copies for a genius — or anyone if in the process, they might learn something.

I appreciate Amy Chua. I respect her for expecting the best of her kids. I do the same. I respect Amy for teaching her kids the very true value of hard work and practice. I do that too. Her strategies are different from mine, but her goal is not far from my own.

Frankly, I think Amy Chua is a victim of the modern publishing “pull quote.”  She’s a delicious hot topic. 

Our reactions to her so-called incendiary ideas gives us a glimpse into the slow burn of the angst that is modern motherhood. We all want the best for our kids: there are many ways to get there. 

It makes me so upset that we as mothers, as women, are the first to beat each other up. We can learn from Amy; we can learn from each other.


Cindy Shieffer: Captivated, I read every word of Amy Chua's extremely well written New York Times article. I'm grateful that she shared her parenting methods with those of us struggling to raise well-behaved, respectful and (someday) highly-successful children. Thank you, Amy. Because at least I can now cross ONE METHOD off my list.   

That being said, I'm no "pussycat" when it comes to my kids. I'm the first to pull mine out of a noisy crowd of kids racing around a restaurant and force them to sit down and be quiet. I'm the first to correct grammar, say no to a treat before meals and my children know that when they sign up for soccer lessons they'll FINISH soccer lessons.  

I twitch a little when I read about a sporting event where no one wins and smiling adults dole out celebratory blue ribbons that read "Participant!"    

Give me a break.  

But, I was stunned to read how Chua called her children "garbage" and warned them frequently of the dangers of imminent life FAILURE. She crushed their self-esteem as regularly as she forced them to practice Beethoven Sonatas. And, while her children may very well wind up the next CEO of a Fortune 500 company, what will they remember of "child"hood?  Were they ever allowed to be children? Dopey, silly, fun-loving children?

There must be (read: there IS) a Middle Road somewhere between Western "Coddlers" and Young-Eating "Tigers."

Here's hoping most of parenting society can somehow find a way to travel it.


Pam Wanstall: From what I've seen, heard and read, in my opinion, this mother is "very the top." While everyone has a right to parent their children in the manner they see fit as long as it does not involve neglect nor abuse, denying a child the right to use the bathroom, is, in my mind, cross the line. By denying her children playdates, sleepovers, et al, she is denying them social interaction which children need.

Does she really think all those long hours practicing instruments will really make her children better than most, or all? I doubt it, there are some children who just "have it" when it comes to playing an instrument or performing a sport. I personally think she is very negative and do not like the way she generalizes about parents. Maybe it works for her, but I have to wonder emotionally what she is doing to her children and what type of relationship they will have with her as they grow and mature.

Anyway, just my opinion...



Pam Wanstall - Pam is a stay at home mom of four, two biological sons, 14 and 11 and two adopted daughters, 7 (China) and 2 (South Korea). She holds both a BSW and an MSW (social work degrees). Pam is 41 and have lived in Marblehead for 10 years, She grew up in Lynn and has been married for 16 years.

Sharman Pollender - Sharman lives in Marblehead, with her husband, one son, 4 1/2 and a 2-year-old lab. I have been volunteering with Marblehead Festival of Arts for 5 years and have been a board member for two and currently serving on Newcomers and Natives board. 

Blakeslee Detels - Blakeslee lives in Marblehead with her husband and three girls -- ages 14, 12 and 10. Blakeslee juggles a rewarding part time job with volunteer work and getting her three girls to all to their sporting events.

Cindy Schieffer - Cindy is Devoted Mom to two crazy little boys and Lucky Wife to a man who makes her laugh harder than anyone can. Marblehead, marriage and motherhood play starring roles in her blog Confessions of a Serial Swooper. In her words, "I really can't complain. But I do a little anyway." 

Shannon Yates - Shannon lives in Marblehead with her husband Simon, their two kids ages 9 and 8, and a new chocolate labradoodle puppy. She and her family have been in the process of adopting a child from China for the past 4 years and she hopes 2011 is the year they will be matched with a little girl. Shannon has been a Coffin Gerry PTO volunteer for the past 4 years.

Annemarie Rockwell - Annemarie lives in Marblehead with her husband and three mischievious boys. Her sons are 14-, 12- and 10 -years -old. Both Annemarie and her husband work Marblehead and are in the veterinary field.  Thus, a menagerie of strays and orphans reside with them too:  dogs, cats, rabbit, ferrets, fish and a parrot.

Brenda Kelley Kim - Brenda is a Marblehead mom. She is the author of our weekly column, "Not for Nothing."

Darcy Mayers - Is the author of our weekly column, "Playdates for Grown-ups." She is also on the PTO.

Leslie Martini Eddy - Is a former Marblehead business owner and mom. She is the author of our bi-weekly column, "How They Met."

Meredith Tedford -  Meredith has lived in Marblehead for over ten years with her husband and three kids ages 11, 9 and 6. She's an avid volunteer, reluctant mini van driver and fortunate stay-at-home mom. In the "real" world  she publishes "Fans of Being a Mom," one of the largest Facebook fan pages for moms.

Karen Byron - Karen and her husband have lived in Marblehead since 2001 and are the proud parents of two boys, ages 8 months and 3 years. She happily juggles mommyhood with her business as a grant consultant to nonprofit organizations.  They can often be found exploring new hiking trails, parks and beaches in New England with their dog Jack.

Xhazzie Kindle - Xhazzie is a self-employed mom of four-year-old twins.





Brenda Kelley Kim March 03, 2011 at 03:23 AM
I was away this week, so I didnt see this. Let me see. I have not read the book, so I guess I cant speak entirely on it, however, my first reaction is that Amy is a whack job. I do know that she did back off on some of the rules with her older child, and that's great, when you have a kid smash a glass in rebellion, something needs to give. The interviews I saw with the author came off to me that this book is more about Amy than her parenting. She was asked by one reviewer, "how can this system work, what if a kid is not musically talented, will all the hours make them the best anyway" Her answer basically said (and I thought in a very smug way) "well every child is different, if your child isnt right for this kind of thing, then you have to know that" as if it was a failure on the part of the kid, a defect somehow, if they did not flourish this way. Just my opinion. I do think she makes very good points about how there is too much praise heaped on kids for basically showing up at activity. Pretty soon they are going to have a ribbon that reads "Nice breathing Johnny, good job" Her book sure is a hot seller and honestly, I think that was her goal more than any explanation of her parenting. Which is fine, books are made to be sold and it seems Amy knows how to sell books. I personally wouldn't want her walking my dog, but that's just me.
Darcy Mayers March 04, 2011 at 05:06 AM
I've got to note how two moms writing here used the obvious "just my opinion" or "just me" statement. Isn't that the point here? To write a very personalized statement -- an opinion? Women are so good at "apologizing" for what they think with platitudes including the two I just mentioned. If this back and forth is to matter, it will be because moms speak without guilt or worry or excuses. Also: as for that interview Brenda refers to: I still have no problem with Amy's response. You do have to know (as a parent) when your child isn't right for whatever thing they might not be right for. You're the grown up! You can tell! It's your job to gently tell a skinny kid that Sumo wrestling is not their forte!
Brenda Kelley Kim March 04, 2011 at 12:23 PM
When I say "that's just my opinion" I'm not apologizing, I'm just emphasizing that I do not mean to tell other people what is right as in what they should do with their parenting. I do like to tell people what I think is right, so I just throw that in there for clarity. Perhaps you are correct, it's not really necessary and probably waters down the debate a little. I agree it's necessary to tell a child if they are not right for an activity. I have done that many times, and yes, we are the grown ups, no question, and it is our job. I was referring to this way of parenting. It's clear many children are high achievers that are parented this way, and go on to have perfectly wonderful, healthy lives, but I thought Amy's response was sort of giving the impression that if your child does not rise to the top of the heap because you were a "Tiger Mom" then well....perhaps your child just can't hack being held to a high standard. And that is what I didn't like.
Pam Wanstall March 04, 2011 at 06:47 PM
I am responding to Darcy...I am in no way apologizing for my opinion. I am simply stating that my response was based on my opinion, period. Let this mother raise her kids the way she sees fit and get plenty of press and reimbursement for it at the same time (let's not forget that). However, there are several ways she goes about that absolutely walk that "fine line" of inappropriate strategies and even neglect. There also will be other children that "rise much higher to the top" than her kids without their parents acting the way she does. I gave my opinion, I do not agree with her parenting style, but that's her business and how I parent my four children (two of whom are Asian) is my business.
Darcy Mayers March 06, 2011 at 04:46 AM
Should be noted: Pam and I shared some notes privately after this exchange. I apologized for the fact that I made her feel badly and assured her that I value every opinion, including her brilliant one, and that frankly, I wish more mom's would be/act/talk as openly and wonderfully as she did. Bottom line: sometimes in our effort to make a point, we miss it.


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