The Tiger Mother (with apologies to William Blake)

It goes without saying that parents everywhere want the best for their kids.

We want them to be happy, healthy and loved. We want them to be strong and successful, ethical and moral, loving and giving.

But our definitions of these things  – and how we go about guiding our children to achieve and embody them  – may differ depending on our cultures, our upbringings, and our personal beliefs and goals. And of course we parents are bound to have strong opinions about our methods as compared to those of other parents.

Witness the controversy over Amy Chua’s book, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” and the Wall Street Journal excerpt/essay encapsulating her parenting philosophy. Now, I haven’t yet read the book, but the WSJ article had me condemning Ms. Chua’s parenting as excessive, perhaps even cruel.

It seems I’m not alone, as everyone from Harvard’s Larry Summers to author Alan Paul has responded – mostly negatively – to Chua’s hard-nosed parenting tactics and portrayal of “Western” parents as slackers. Now, I have known a few Sloth Parents, and I suspect their laissez-faire attitude might be an equally harmful extreme. In all, I have to say that Paul’s “Panda Dad” take on parenting seems the most aligned with my own philosophy.

While my household is nowhere near as organized or orderly as I’d like, I make sure my girls do their required work and adhere (mostly) to schedules. We eat relatively healthy meals and I limit tv and computer time, encouraging books over electronics. And of course, they play — and not just because I think it inspires creativity. You see, as much I want them to be successful adults, I want them to be happy children, too.

Thus, my response to the Tiger Mom phenomenon, written with a nod to William Blake’s famous tiger poem.


The Tiger Mother

Tiger Mother, Tiger Mother
With ambition like no other,
What aspirations running wild
Could force such rearing on a child?

Morning, night and afterschool,
Why so strict? Why so cruel?
To what ends dare you aspire?
Why straight A’s your goal entire?

Why deny your precious cub
Sleepovers and drama club?
Why no painting, only math?
Why condemn a laxer path?

What of games and kid pursuits?
Surely free time bears some fruits.
Lounging’s worth as much as learning,
Giving brains the fuel for burning.

What of giggling, goofing off?
At such slacking you doth scoff,
No activity’s blessed unless
It leads to scholarly success.

But shouldn’t children get to be
Little children, running free?
Making friendships and mistakes,
For that’s a lot of what life takes.

When the graduate’s off stage,
Freed from academic cage,
Let her meet each future challenge
With both work and play in balance.

Tiger Mother, Tiger Mother
With ambition like no other,
What aspirations running wild
Could force such rearing on a child?


©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz