Have you read “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua? It is a quick read; at times you want to laugh, but most times you want to rescue Amy’s two daughters from their over-the-top and verbally abusive mom! Amy was there for her children, with a heavy, overbearing presence. She did sacrifice her time for them – and reminded them of her suffering often. But she did not allow them to find a passion on their own, something to fulfill their own inner drive. Amy did not see mistakes as opportunities for learning. Only perfection satisfied her. Nor did she see the value of social opportunities for her girls to learn the basics of negotiation, cooperation and problem solving with other children without parents’ direct guidance. That is exactly what David Brooks’ comment about the benefits of attending a sleep over with 14-year-old girls was all about!
Many American readers are outraged by this Tiger Mom, but also defensive. We are not comfortable with these tiger cubs ruling our world. Are our children being raised to be prepared and be successful in this competitive global world? Children who are raised in a supportive, nurturing family where discussions take place and decisions are made collaboratively are well equipped to be divergent thinkers and problem solvers. Authoritative, not authoritarian parents produce children who are willing and able to take cognitive risks. In these families, mistakes are one way to learn and grow. That is one reason the Montessori method is booming in China. The Chinese government has discovered that an education system focused on teaching students through rote learning and hours of homework and practice is not producing creative thinkers. Creativity, innovation and collaborative learning are skills that are needed in the future global world.