It takes a lot of guidance, discipline, and carefully structured boundaries to raise responsible, successful children - this is an intuitive truth. Equally as intuitive to Americans is our appreciation for individuality, creativity, and self-determination, and our concern for respecting and fostering those qualities in our children. These two belief systems often conflict with each other in the midst of the hard, everyday decisions that parents have to make, resulting in a tension in our parenting culture that has existed for decades.
Many parents deal with this uncertainty by treating these two philosophies as mutually exclusive, and subscribing almost entirely to one. Some of them choose to be like Amy Chua's "Chinese" Tiger Moms, fierce defenders of traditional values such as respect for authority and academic excellence. They believe that success in life is the key to happiness, and set out to ensure their children's success by controlling almost every aspect of their lives and limiting the amount of time they "waste" on non-competitive interests, such as socialization and self-expression. Tiger Moms believe that there's no point in letting your child do anything unless it helps them get into a top college. While their goals are admirable, most Americans regard their methods as overly harsh, even deplorable, and would rather err on the side of the other extreme. These parents, who fall under the banner of the Helicopter Mom, focus almost exclusively on their children's emotional well-being. Not only do they give their kids the freedom to try (and quit) as many things as they want, they also obsessively try to shelter them from any difficulties or setbacks that might threaten their self-esteem. While these kids are able to live a more "normal" life, they often grow up to discover that they lack the confidence and self-sufficiency to find their own place in the world and thrive.
Americans don't have to settle for choosing between a spartan childhood and an aimless adulthood. Self-exploration, fun, and a happy childhood lay the foundation to living rich, enjoyable lives, and are as important as Helicopter Moms think they are. On the other hand, Tiger Moms are also right to recognize that achievement is the gateway to self-esteem, and that children are often challenged to do much less than they're capable of. Rather than rigidly following one immutable formula, we can get the best of both worlds by adapting the most sensible parts of both approaches. We can emphasize academics without short-changing personal development and empowerment. We can choose to be American Tiger Moms.
To learn more about the American Tiger Mom, go to www.americantigermom.com.