Sunday, January 23, 2011

Tiger Moms Writing from Time Magazine

Thought provoking cover story from the latest issue of Time Magazine.

Written by Annie Murphy Paul, "Tiger Moms: Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer?" looks at the idea of strict parenting... with the why and how practice of that described in a current bestselling book by a Yale Law Professor and mother of two.

Amy Chua loves her work in academia (as self-described), worked extremely hard while young (which she cites as the foundation for her current success), and wants the same level of career success and life satisfaction for her two daughters. Out of this, she wrote "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" about her demands placed upon the girls... including long hours of schoolwork and music practice. Additional treatment (and source of the book's controversy) included threats to burn toys if expectations not met and rejection of handmade presents if sufficient work not deemed to have gone into their creation.

The Paul story details all of this and Chua's assertions that in raising her girls this way, she's preparing them for life. As a reader of the piece, I found the whole topic fascinating and agreed in general with her. Setting aside as just plain mean some of her treatment, Chua's concept of putting in work to develop mastery does make sense... and brings to mind the "10,000 hour rule" as described in the Malcolm Gladwell book "Outliers" (reviewed here).

An additional concept from Chua is that children need to be raised not to be protected from harsh realities, but rather as people that can accomplish despite hardship. While some of her parenting techniques can be described as draconian, the premise that children gain confidence by accomplishing something they weren't sure possible does have weight to it.


Related to the cover story was a secondary piece in Time I found of note. The one page commentary "Tiger Daughter" was written by Bill Powell and about his six year old daughter and her long hours spent on schoolwork growing up in Shanghai.

Basically, the same (but, less over the top in it's delivery) idea as Chua... it's hard work working hard, but should pay off. Going back specifically to the Gladwell "10,000 hour rule", this (perhaps forced) time spent leads to proficiency and excellence. Take that and combine it with a loving upbringing and you've got something pretty solid.