(Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Photo: WIkimedia Commons)

Yale Law School professor and author Amy Chua made headlines last year with her latest book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In the memoir, Chua argues that the best way to raise a child is by employing strict boundaries – both of her daughters were forced to learn how to play instruments and were not allowed to watch television or have sleepovers. Straight A’s were the only accepted report cards. With her eldest daughter attending her first year at Harvard University this year, some have contended that Chua’s seemingly extreme parenting techniques have been vindicated. But a Michigan University researcher and fellow Chinese mother contends that the “Tiger Mom” approach to parenting is not the best and could lead to more stressed, anxious children.

“I strongly believe that happiness matters tremendously for children to develop well, so they don’t just have success now and then later on experience maladjustment,” said researcher Desiree Baolian Qin. “It’s really important for parents to pay attention to this.”

Through her research, Qin discovered that “high-achieving Chinese students were more depressed and anxious than their white counterparts” and that it is common for Chinese immigrant parents to pressure their children to excel and compare their success with that of their siblings.

Another of Quin’s studies found that “Chinese students are more depressed and have lower self-esteem and more anxiety than white students.”

Qin, a mother of two, was raised in a “fairly lenient” fashion by her grandparents in China and believes that a child’s happiness and ability to maintain social relationships with other children is key. She thinks Chua’s restrictions – especially from play dates with other children – are “ridiculous.”

“Children need the ability to work well with other people, to relate,” Qin said. “I feel strongly that I won’t raise my kids just toward success at the cost of other things. More than anything, I want them to be well-rounded, emotionally healthy kids.”

There is nothing wrong with setting the bar high for your kids, she said. What matters is the manner in which those expectations are communicated to your child.

“I agree with Amy Chua that a child will develop strong self-esteem when they really master something,” Qin said. “So that self-esteem should be grounded in their achievements, their ability, rather than empty praises from parents and teachers saying ‘great job’ for drawing a circle or ‘great job’ for just about anything.”

What it comes down to, she said, is that “there is a healthy middle ground between the parenting extremes of the East and West. What is most beneficial to children, regardless of the culture, is clear and high expectations in a warm and loving family environment.”

Source: Michigan State University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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