Wednesday, October 12, 2011

American Tiger Mom, Helicopter Mom or Tiger Mom....Know the Difference

I am an American Tiger Mom. What kind of parent are you? Have you wondered if your friends parent the same way in the privacy of their own homes as they do in front of others? Perhaps you appear calm, collect and in control while others are watching, but behind closed doors, your kids rule the roost. Speaking for myself, an American Tiger Mom’s parenting style is unwavering whether there is an audience or not. So again I ask: what kind of parent are you… and why? Is your method of parenting going to result in your children’s success or demise?

New parents don’t receive a how-to book on the proper way to raise our children; so we utilize every resource we can to help us raise our children into happy, healthy, and independent adults. We reference our own childhoods, examining what our parents did that worked and what didn’t. We look to other parents to admire and emulate their successes, while scrutinizing other’s blatant failures. Much of parenting is trial and error, but it all comes down to one thing: we don’t want to lose our kids. As parents leave the hospital with their precious newborns in tow, and without that ever-desired parenting manual, they can find solace in knowing that there are some tried and true ways of successful childrearing. Having raised two daughters who are well-rounded, happy and extraordinarily successful, I want to share with others what has worked for me as an American Tiger Mom.

I know that my children are intelligent, skillful leaders. I made it a priority to provide them with a strong academic foundation so that they would be able to choose the best-fit college and career, enabling them to lead happy and fulfilled lives. An American Tiger Mom exposes her children to music, dance and the arts so they may lead enriched lives, complete with a strong academic foundation. While some may scrutinize my way of parenting as overly-strict, I am quick to remind them that I never deprived my children of their social lives or striped them of their personal identities. They are confident young ladies with their own interests; I am only here to support and reassure them that they are fully capable of accomplishing anything.

In the parenting world, we are labeled and categorized based on our parenting styles. The most widely used titles include the Tiger Mom, the Helicopter Mom, and more recently, the American Tiger Mom. Each subcategory of mother is quite different, although we do have something in common: we all think we are doing what is in our child’s best interest. I can assure you however, that each of these parenting styles is very different.

The Tiger Mom has been called the dictator of all mothers. You may recall Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” where she boasted that her children were never allowed to attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch television, play video games, or choose their own extracurricular activities. They were forced to master the piano and violin, and were strictly forbidden to explore other musical interests. She proudly admits to calling one of her daughters “garbage.” Convinced that her kids are successful because of her authoritarian parenting style, she is eager to claim that all Tiger Mom’s are superior. Where then do we see the individuality and leadership in these children? The Tiger Mom is afraid that her children are incapable of finding the correct passion, so she makes executive decisions and drills them relentlessly until they have become the people she wants them to be. While this may work in some societies, it denies the children the opportunity to explore their interests and to experience their youth like their peers in our American culture.

Another infamous type of parent is the Helicopter Mom. Simply put, she hovers. She is always one step ahead of her children so that she can fight their battles. She prevents any possible failures, and will even boast that her child got an A on their last science project…. Because she did it herself! The Helicopter Mom often does her child’s homework so that they are not inconvenienced by doing “busy work.” By doing their schoolwork for them, Helicopter Moms are sending a message to their children that they don’t believe they can succeed on their own. There was an incisive article published by CNN recently titled “What teachers really want to tell parents.” The article aptly discussed the many ways that helicopter parents are helping their children fail in school (and in life for that matter) because of their parenting style. In addition to doing everything for their child short of eating their meals for them, the Helicopter Mom is adamant that her kids are signed up for as many activities as possible. Keeping up with the Jones’ is extremely important to her, and she gets an immense amount of satisfaction from being able to say that she spent her entire day driving her kids to every paid activity that her community offers. Even if their actions are genuinely well-intended, Helicopter parents are setting their kids up for a lifetime of failure.

Surely if you are reading this article, parenting is an important aspect of your life. As an American Tiger Mom, an educator, and the founder of one of the nation’s most elite private schools, I can honestly say that as I reflect on the way my daughters were raised, I am proud! My girls have made inspiring contributions to society, have graduated from Stanford University and Claremont McKenna College; and they did not have to sacrifice their childhoods to do so.