There's been a lot of discussion over the past few weeks about tiger parenting. To be more specific, tiger mothers who, for the most part, are Chinese mothers. The main reason comes from a book about child raising written by Amy Chau, a Yale law professor, and self- described "tiger mother." She wrote about such politically incorrect tactics as forcing her 7-year-old daughter to practice a certain song on the piano for hours on end, right through dinner into the night, with no breaks for water or even the bathroom until she had learned how to play the piece.
She also called her older daughter "garbage" after the girl behaved disrespectfully, the same thing Chau had been called as a child by her strict Chinese father. And her response to a card that the younger daughter made for her mother's birthday was "I don't want this," saying she expected to receive a drawing that the daughter had put "some thought and effort into." She threw the card back at her daughter and said, "I deserve better than this so I reject this."
To most Americans, this kind of treatment and talk sounds pretty heavy handed, even abusive.
We're accustomed to praising our children ad nauseum. We even give them medals these days for participating in an event, even if they come in last, because we don't want their tender feelings to be hurt. We tend to coddle instead of discipline and often allow them to treat us as they wish because we're the adult and they're the child.
Obviously, Chinese parents have a different way of looking at child raising and when we compare American children with their counterparts in China, the Chinese children are doing better in practically every category.
But we have to understand this is a cultural phenomena and not a new one at that. These harsh-by-our-standards way of child raising has been going on for centuries in China while Americans have only recently decided to replace themselves at the top of the hierarchical structure with their children.
But my issue is not really with being a Tiger parent or an American parent. My issue is with a one-size-fits all answer that is such a popular thing to do today in American society and we see it everywhere. Every time I turn on my computer at home or at school and go to my home page on the Internet, I see a headline about the ten ways to divorce-proof your marriage, or the eight best hamburgers in America, or 15 ways to get the girl of your dreams, etc. etc.
But the fact is there is no cookie-cutter way to do anything that works for everyone. We're all different, we have different personalities, we're motivated by different things and we're put off by different things. But you would never know that by looking at the headlines.
Education started this fad several years ago when a teacher decided she wasn't making enough money just teaching so she developed a "can't miss" way to get the best out of our students.
Except her way didn't work for a lot of people. In spite of that, she had started a movement that was harder to stop than a train running downhill with its brakes out and now year after year, we bring "experts" into our schools to "teach" us how to make education better or easier or more productive or less stressful or a hundred other reasons. But regardless of what the current fad is, it never works for everyone and usually doesn't work for most of us.
I grew up in a matriarchal home as many of us did during my generation. The men were at work and the women were at home, charged with keeping the house clean, cooking the meals and raising the children. My folks gave me a combination of discipline and love. I remember my 78- year-old great-grandmother whipping me with a switch as tears rolled down her face, telling me it was hurting her more to do it than it was me but it had to be done because I couldn't break the rules and not be punished. But humiliation and verbal degradation was never a part of the discipline I received from them. I was constantly told I had the ability to be anything I wanted to be but it would take discipline and structure to reach those goals and they were determined to give them to me.
So when I had kids, we raised them the same way we were raised and that seems to have worked out well because our boys are both college graduates with good jobs, good families and sound sensibilities about what's good and what isn't good for them and their loved ones.
The point of this column is that there isn't a "perfect" way to do anything because far too many factors are involved when the uniqueness of every individual is taken into consideration. Those of us who want the best for our children have to go through a lot of trial and error before we find something that seems to work and what works for us may not work for you. Unfortunately, a lot of people don't want to make the effort to do that so they become dependent on others to tell them how to do things even when those things often fail.
Parenting is hard work. There are no simple answers to complex questions. We have to figure out for ourselves what works and what doesn't and the answer can almost never be found in a book, a magazine, or a lecture.