Raising kids tiger style does not guarantee success, prestige

The China Post news staff

Most Taiwanese parents tend to extol the virtues of strictness, while boasting an unyielding insistence on academic perfection. They believe that Westerners are too soft, producing young dudes who are undisciplined and less accomplished than the children of so-called “tiger parents.” This dubious idea is embodied in Amy Chua’s popular book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” through which she urges parents to prioritize academics and musical accomplishment for children over typical fun kid stuff like sleepovers and Facebook. Chua never allowed her daughters to watch TV, play computer games or be in a school club. According to the Child Welfare League Foundation (CWLF, 兒童福利聯盟), nearly 80 percent of local teenagers spend most of their vacations at home and 54 percent are unable to find a “proper place” to spend their leisure time. The survey also shows that around 72 percent of parents consider studying more important than having hobbies and leisure time, and 44 percent of teenagers said that they spend their free time by themselves, without supervision. Without proper outdoor activities, there is little wonder that these “brilliant” teenagers will soon start to lose the ability to enjoy their lives and beyond, their ability to use their imaginations. That is wrong! Extracurricular activities are meant to release the pressure of studying and help to learn group dynamics through interactions — how to get along with other people. An in-depth study in the Asian American Journal of Psychology further debunks the fallacious massage championed by tiger parents: “Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms and a greater sense of alienation.” In other words, this research suggests that the high-achieving children of tiger parents actually struggle more with depression, stress and low self-esteem than their equally high-achieving counterparts, and the main reason involves parenting style. We should not force children to study all day long, but help in the development of habits involving regular exercise and outdoor activities. Studies have shown that exercise not only boosts mental performance but also makes you smarter. Exercise even has long-term brain benefits (in addition to making you healthier): being more able to properly absorb and retain information. Slowing down also gives you time to properly think about your work and the quality life. By giving children a variety of experiences, we can help them become more independent and responsible about their studies. What’s wrong with making friends in summer camps and after school activities? Contrary to all expectations, the draconian parenting advocated by tiger mums like Chu can only breed toxic narcissism. By raising children with an extreme focus on “self,” these parents believe that their children will eventually become immensely successful, with success defined almost exclusively in terms of personal achievement. Yet, you don’t need to become a Nobel Prize winner, a billionaire businessman or an Olympic Gold medalist to have a successful life. We should rather help children find meaning and purpose beyond the dictates of their ambition. If they are pushed too hard, children may rebel and achieve neither success nor happiness. But as parents, we should remember that achievement and happiness can be mutually inclusive, and this starts with a “happy childhood” and a lazy summertime.