Monday, January 24, 2011

Do Tiger Moms Eat Dinner with their Cubs?

When I first read about Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" book in the Wall Street Journal, I had to laugh. I know many "Western" parents were outraged and incensed by her parenting philosophy, but it rang very true to me. I know families like this (my son goes to Brooklyn Tech, a specialized math and science school, where over half the kids are Asian) and they do get "results." My son has told me many shocked stories of how strict the Asian parents can be. (There is a funny parody on YouTube: No Shoes in Asian Homes which tells it all.) He is newly grateful that we are more balanced. (We used to be considered one of the stricter families while he was at a small progressive school). Now he knows better.

For all the sensation over Tiger Mom's strict parenting, the one question on my mind was: do they eat dinner together?

I think the answer has to be YES. Otherwise, it would not work. The genuine love and respect her daughters show their mom, even after the berating and arguments, demonstrate that they have a foundation as a family. The day-to-day touchstone of sharing a meal together is the bottom line "love" that makes the rest of the crazy strict rules work. For more liberal parents, the family meal is the structure and time to talk that allows you to discuss rules and expectations in a non-threatening way. Research shows that the middle way of "authoritative" parenting is actually best. This parenting style means that you have rules and expectations, but are also open to discussion and dialogue with your child. Rather than always taking the upper hand, authoritative parents are respectful to the child and are flexible as the need should arise. For any family, eating dinner together gives you a chance to enjoy each other and learn about one another apart from work or school demands and expectations.

I am not a Tiger Mom, although my husband says I do a good impersonation of a Jewish mom. To run with the stereotype, I'd say that "Jewish moms" just have high expectations and there is guilt and disappointment should you not meet them.  Plus, as a "Jewish" mom, I always make sure there's a lot of food on the table!

Great round-up and post on Amy Chua's book on Thrive by Five by Paul Nyhan, 1.20.11

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