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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Tiger Moms: A Whole New Way of Parenting (Part I)

Brace yourself. Stories are leaking about a new way of parenting — a style that many of the moms who embrace it call: Tiger Moms.

According to Time magazine, Amy Chua is one of them. She made her 7-year-old daughter, Lulu, practice her violin for hours on end, straight through dinner and into the night with no breaks, until at last, Lulu learned to play the piece. Later, when Lulu gave her mom a homemade birthday card, Amy rejected it saying she expected a card that had more effort put into it. She knew Lulu was capable of more — so she literally wouldn’t take it from her daughter. To say Amy is demanding would be a huge understatement.

I know, I know. You’re like many others who think this style of parenting is over-the-top. Far too strict. Too military in its flavor. Where’s the love and compassion? Amy says in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, it’s all about love and compassion. She learned this style of parenting from her mom and dad: “By disciplining me, my parents inculcated self-discipline. And by restricting my choices as a child, they gave me so many choices in my life as an adult. Because of what they did then, I get to do the work I love now.”

We bristle because this style flies in the face of popular parenting styles today. You know — the style that affirms the kid constantly, even when all they did was show up at a recital; the kind that gives ribbons and trophies for merely playing the game; or claps for their kid because mom wants them to always be happy. According to Amy Chua, her parents didn’t think about their child’s happiness. “They thought about preparing us for the future.”

In the 2008 book, A Nation of Wimps, Hara Estroff Marano reveals evidence that shows Chua is correct. “Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don’t develop what psychologists call ‘mastery experiences,’” Marano explains. “Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they’ve learned they are capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.” Kids who have never tested their abilities grow into emotionally brittle young adults who are more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Tomorrow, I’ll go deeper into this style and what I think — but for now, let me know your thoughts. Is this style far too extreme? Or is it a stroke of genius?



  1. K Soss on February 3, 2011 at 8:12 am

    Tim, my brother took his life by suicide in January, 2009. My dad thinks it is because he was never allowed to fail as a child. My mom had a militant parenting style and my dad tried to compensate for this by demonstrating a protective style. In our adolescence, after our parents divorced, we were left to fend for ourselves. Then, when my dad became involved in our lives again, he took on a co-dependent style. I believe that God brings opposites together in marriage to complement each other’s strengths, but when there is a divorce, the children are required to reconcile the differences between the two parents they love to find their own identity.

    • Tim Elmore on February 4, 2011 at 10:39 am

      So sorry to hear the story of your brother’s suicide and parent’s divorce. You are right — when these kinds of things happen, kids are left to fend for themselves. Our temperaments have a lot do with how well we cope. I think what all kids need as they figure out how to navigate life is a caring adult who is both responsive and demanding. This kind of leadership keeps us real, yet motivates us to grow.

  2. Grouchy Old Lady on February 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    The idea is sound. We always encouraged our children, now in their 40’s, to give 110% to everything. If they knew they’d given their best effort, there would be no regret. And if they failed, at least they gave their best. Our children do not support competition in which every child gets a medal…failure is a part of life, and just *showing up* does not deserve a medal. I disagree with Ms. Chua’s demanding perfection in a card made with love by a 7-yr-old child, however. And insistence on learning the entire violin piece in one sitting is over-the-top, IMOH. The pendulum always swings, and it usually swings WAY too far.

    • Tim Elmore on February 4, 2011 at 10:40 am

      I totally agree. The intent is good in Amy Chua, but her method’s are over the top. Maybe the answer is high standards yet lots of support.

  3. Greg on February 4, 2011 at 9:46 am

    A little too over the top for my taste. I like the high expectations, and the messages about determination and adversity, but for Chua to say this is about love and compassion?

    Another Tiger parent, Tiger Wood’s father Earl, had some of the same expectations and demands, but if I remember the stories correctly, he showed what that looked like to Tiger (modeled it), and allowed Tiger to choose how to use, in golf or wherever. He did not demand that he played a certain sport. I think there is a balance here. I like the message of the job of a parent – to prepare, but not the method. What you mentioned, most parents today etc., is the other extreme. Somewhere in the middle, or even more towards Chua’s style is appropriate in my mind. Her expectations and reason for parenting, combined with maybe Earl’s way of modeling and communicating the message?


    • Tim Elmore on February 8, 2011 at 4:28 pm

      Greg — Good thoughts. I am with you — the answer lies in the middle. We must challenge kids more than we are, but in a very responsive, empathetic way. I really believe this kind of leadership will prepare them far better than our present, popular parent and teacher styles. Thanks for weighing in.

  4. BNE on February 5, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I believe that people of all ages feel better about their abilities when they actually accomplish something, so I agree that parents should not celebrate every little thing their children do – the “trophies for showing up approach” is lazy parenting, agreed. But I don’t believe that anyone grows in their ability to love and trust by being treated as if their accomplishments matter more than they do.

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Tiger Moms: A Whole New Way of Parenting (Part I)