Tiger mother or kitten mother or somewhere in between?
Ruth Marcus ["Tiger vs. the B-minus," op-ed, Jan. 19] and others have been critical of Amy Chua's Chinese parenting style, described in Ms. Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." Ms. Chua defends her demanding style of accepting nothing less than perfection from her two daughters in schoolwork, homework, Chinese language lessons and music. The book juxtaposes the Chinese style of parenting with the American style, claiming that American parents are too soft, while it reveals the rebelliousness of Ms. Chua's daughters and their rejection of her ways. While I agree with much of the criticism, one point is being missed: Extremely demanding parenting is self-serving and sends children the wrong message.
If Ms. Chua's children were exhausted at day's end because they sacrificed some of their free time to pick up trash at the neighborhood park, tutor less-fortunate children in mathematics or English, collect cans for food banks, or write letters to soldiers overseas, it might be more character building. Her children would not only have helped to make a better world but would have learned that it's not all about you, or even your mother.
Elizabeth Varela, McLean
Tiger mother Amy Chua and kitten mother Wendy Mogel both fail. It's not about them and their preferred parenting styles. It's about their children: What parenting style best motivates the child?
Some children will wilt under a tiger-mother style and throughout their lives never feel "good enough" about themselves, no matter how successful they become. Other children will rise to the challenge with an "I'll show you" attitude that makes them feel accomplished, providing the basis for a lifetime of confidence. But both sets are likely to possess some undesirable traits as a result of being driven to perfection by an unrelenting parent.
Under a kitten mother, a "have fun and get by" child will do just that, even if capable of greater achievement. Such children need to experience accomplishment before they can seek excellence in their own lives. On the other hand, a child with an internal drive to excel will probably do all right with the kitten mother.
So I agree with Ruth Marcus that the "sweet spot" of parenting is individual and constantly changing. But I don't think it's "elusive" or a "lucky" find. Successful parenting is the result of knowing yourself, knowing your child and figuring out the best mix of parenting tools.
Marilyn Stoney, Clifton
Ruth Marcus is wise to conclude that good parenting lies somewhere between "demanding too much and accepting too little." While the emphasis on hard work, perseverance and achievement are essential elements of Chinese parenting, I, and many Chinese parents I know, also strive to provide a loving and supportive environment to nurture our children. Amy Chua, with all her accomplishments, could have done better to promote cross-cultural understanding rather than reinforce the stereotyping of Asian children as nerds - good at math and music but poor in sports. "Tiger mother" is a derogatory term in Chinese, meaning a domineering woman with a bad temper.
Wanda Tseng, Rockville
The discussion regarding Chinese children and their tiger mothers was amusing until I remembered what it took to get an unwilling boy through his bar mitzvah. We all have our tiger-mom moments.
Harise Poland-Wright, Silver Spring