Tiger Parents Are Raising Sad Kids With No Social Skills

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shutterstock_42826387__1371992945_142.196.156.251I was at the park last summer enjoying a leisurely day with my toddler. A woman’s stern voice kept cutting into our bliss. Just do it! You’re not a baby. Stay up there! This is the only way you are coming down! Stop being a baby! She was shoving her child who looked to be about three years old up the high slide on the “big kid” side of the park. After 10 minutes of listening to her berate her child for being too scared to go down the slide, I had to leave.

That’s a tiger mother, right?

I try to be a disciplinarian because I think children need structure and rules. But some of the passages I read from Amy Chua‘s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother really made my head spin. One in particular was the tale that Chua told of pushing her daughter to learn a difficult piano piece:

“I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn’t do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.”

What? I tend to agree with those that think we may be coddling our children a little too much – but this type of parenting just doesn’t make sense to me. How can berating your children and pushing them to succeed with threats and insults be a good thing? Some new research is showing that it’s not.

UC Berkeley News Center reports, “Children raised by authoritarian parents are showing maladaptive outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and poor social skills,” Qing Zhou, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a statement. Zhou’s study focused on more than 600 Chinese and Chinese-American families and educators in mainland China and in the San Francisco Bay Area. It found that this type of authoritative parenting was based in setting unreasonably high expectations for kids – and showing affection through actions like cooking and providing for children, rather than expressing physical and verbal affection.

The research led Zhou to conduct an 11-week intensive parenting class at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University for “divorced Asian-American mothers, many of whom are Chinese immigrants raised in the authoritarian tradition.” Zhou says, “When they first came to the workshops, a lot of them would say, ‘Why should I praise my child for doing something they are supposed to do?’ But we encouraged them to try and they saw positive changes in their relationships.”

The verdict? If you are going to be a Tiger parent, you better temper it with some affection and support or you’re going to end up raising some sad kids with questionable social skills. Or as I like to interpret it – don’t try to follow any hyped-up “parenting styles” because they will be proven wrong eventually.

(photo: YanLev/ Shutterstock)