Raising Enthusiastic “Tiger Cubs”

Raising Enthusiastic “Tiger Cubs”

If Tiger Moms are those who will stop at nothing to ensure that their children experience their full potential, then Tiger Cubs should be children who are enthusiastic about experiencing theirs. That’s what all parents hope for: kids who get up in the morning excited to take on the world with the confidence to achieve their dreams!

Unfortunately, Tiger Moms can’t always raise Tiger Cubs as recent articles on Amy Chua’s shocking memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, reveal. Although in her Wall Street Journal article Amy Chua defends her extreme authoritarian parenting style and makes a case for coercion, the Time Magazine article by Annie Murphy Paul tells another side of the story. She says one thing Chua wants readers to know is that:

“…the hard-core parenting she set out to do didn’t work — not completely, anyway. ‘When my children were young, I was very cocky,’ Chua acknowledges. ‘I thought I could maintain total control. And in fact my first child, Sophia, was very compliant.’ Then came Lulu.”

Chua’s experience with her rebellious second daughter turned out to be very different than with her obedient first, and she learned firsthand how coercing children with punishment can backfire. Paul says that shortly after Chua’s “Lulu, you win,” moment of defeat, she began writing her memoir as a way to understand her daughters. Chua’s subsequent growth as a parent led her to relent and allow Lulu to choose her own dream (tennis not violin) and allow Sophia to reduce her piano practice hours and actually have a boyfriend in high school! This from a mom who didn’t even allow play dates when her kids were little.

While I agree with Chua and the research mentioned in the Time article that what works for kids is having experiences that prove they can succeed, I strongly object to methods that drive kids with guilt, pain and fear. Kids raised like that end up believing they couldn’t have done it any other way and consequently continue to create stressful elements in their lives to provide outside force. (Read more on this in the SWYS Personal Growth blog.) If they don’t, they are sure they would just do nothing and be “garbage,” the word that Chua’s father used on her that she in turn used on her daughter.

Chua verified her belief in the need for external force when she said to the Time reporter, “By disciplining me, my parents inculcated self-discipline…” I looked it up. Inculcated means implanted. This belief that strengths have to be imposed on children from the outside naturally would have her try to force strengths like self-discipline into her children who would then grow up believing the same.

By contrast SAY WHAT YOU SEE (SWYS) parenting is based on the premise that all children already have every possible inner strength, and that they act according to who they believe they are.

Starting there, your job would naturally be to show children they already have self-discipline and self-motivation, so they can draw on them effortlessly in the future. You do this by looking for children’s strengths in everything they do and pointing them out. Hidden strengths can be tricky, but by saying what you see, you can find them, too. In short, SWYS focuses on changing children’s beliefs, so they can change their own behavior.

Parents who take our SWYS Playtime Class (Austin registration deadline this week!) see the difference firsthand and learn how to use wonderfully simple and effective phrases like “Show me…,” to help children return to frustrating tasks and stick with them willingly to completion! The grins and eagerness to take the next challenge that we see prove that pride of success does not require blood, sweat or tears from the children or the parents. With SWYS, everybody wins!

Overall I see Amy Chua as a very brave and intelligent woman who successfully kicked off a lively controversy in the national discourse on an important topic: self-motivation. However, our methods are as different as our conclusions. In the Wall Street Journal article, Chua concludes:

“Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

I and every SAY WHAT YOU SEE parent know that the two actually go together:

When parents respect children’s individuality, encourage them to pursue their true passions, support their choices, provide positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment, it prepares the children for the future, lets them see what they’re capable of, and arms them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.

How to raise enthusiastic “Tiger Cubs?” SAY WHAT YOU SEE is my answer! What do you think makes the biggest difference with kids?

Thanks for listening!



  1. Penelope |

    I just read Chua’s book, Sandy. Although I found it a fascinating read , I agree completing with your findings. Through your method, the actUalization of self discipline and full potential can be reached in an atmosphere of peace and connection. So timely!

    • Penelope, I love your spelling of actUalization. So to the point! Thank you for your insightful comment!

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