Life lessons

Parenting practices — how do you do it?

I know I have been missing in action for a while from this space. And of course, NaBloPoMo went bust for me after just 10 days. What can I say? I opted for real life instead. Anyway, in the 10 days gone by I have been busy…with work, watched Black Swan (Natalie Portman was great, the movie 50-50), had an intensive four day professional development course on the Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) and am now preparing to study for my accreditation in 2 months, and during all this, read a couple of books: Sing you Home by Jodi Picoult and Battle hymn of the tiger mother by Amy Chua. (The latter was part of my book club read).It’s interesting that I read Amy Chua’s book after receiving training in the Triple P. I have known of the Triple P and its principles since my postgraduate days and I have used it individually in my work with parents of children with behavioural problems. Basically, the Triple P emphasises a safe and nurturing environment, positive interaction with your child along with setting limits and consequences for the child’s behaviour. And then I read Amy Chua’s book, a memoir about Chinese parenting seemingly superior to Western parenting.

I’m not going to review the book here as I’ve already done it elsewhere. However, I must say, I was shocked while reading the book. Amy Chua comes across as a dictator. Now I know we all probably thought our parents were the worst while growing up and that no one else’s parents were as strict but Amy sets them all to shame. Her underlying motto appears to be success and maintaining a certain position in society. And the Chinese way apparently to obtain this is by verbally putting your child down (telling them they are fat, that they are garbage) because this apparently will motivate them, emotionally blackmailing your child (telling them how much you have done for them, telling them you are going to die eventually), or just being a dictator and pretty much torturing them (by getting them to practise piano or violin for 6 hours at a stretch with no bathroom breaks). She doesn’t believe in her kids going on playdates from when they were little nor for sleepovers. The days revolved around school, schoolwork/homework and piano and violin practice. She even got her kids to practice the piano and violin when they were on holidays overseas!! [That should give you just one small inkling of how crazy she is!]

She thinks that western parents give up too easily if a child finds a task too hard and thereby they let the child give up too. She believes that kids don’t know what’s good for them and therefore need to be pushed in order to reach their potential. But I find myself thinking, there’s pushing and then there’s pushing!

While I was reading the book I found myself thanking my stars that my parents weren’t Nazis like Chua. Although while growing up, I did think they were harsh. But you know what? This book has definitely put their strict parenting in perspective. My parents (possibly like most other Indian parents) stressed the importance of academics with the outcome being more important than the effort you put. But, at the same time, they let me have a balanced life. In primary school, I had to do my homework and studies straight after lunch at home which was fine (even though I know I had my moments of not wanting to do it!). But then, around 5:00 p.m. I’d be out — playing with friends. Playing football, getting dirty in the mud, playing hide and seek, riding my bike — being a kid basically. My parents wanted me to learn Indian classical dancing (which I did for a year and didn’t like it) and then Carnatic singing (which I persisted with for some years). They didn’t torture me to practise and it was more of a hobby than anything else.

The only thing they constantly stressed was academics — until I snapped in Year 8 telling my mum to back off and that the more she ‘nagged’ the less I wanted to study. The good thing? She did back off. Decreasing her nagging. And eventually, I was able to study because I wanted to. Especially once I finished school and got rid of the subjects I hated.

I guess all I am trying to say is that I found Chua’s approach to parenting very black and white (and very tyrannical). True, it may have worked with her older daughter who has a passive temperament but again, how much of that is on the outside? How is she certain that her kids do not have mental health problems? At work, I see kids like this often — extremely strict parents, verbally putting their kids down, calling them fat to their faces resulting in teenagers feeling depressed, feeling anxious, feeling like they are just not good enough and can never be good enough. I’m not saying the answer is the opposite. Because I get to see adolescents with behavioural problems when parents are too slack and too lenient. Or kids that give up too easily because they are used to quitting. However, it is possible that there will be a few kids out there that will thrive in a Chua-like environment and kids that will thrive in a laissez-faire environment. But it won’t work across the board.

The answer is somewhere in the middle. Yes, it’s important to push children but not to the point of it seeming like a concentration camp. It’s more important to encourage them to achieve their potential. Yes, they need consequences and limits. But they also need a life. A life with their own peers. A childhood.

But I will admit, this middle road may not work with all kids either.

Have you read Amy Chua’s book? What was your view? And as a parent, how far will you go to push your kids? Or were you pushed as a kid?

Do share.

Until next time,


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  • Lesleyg
    21 March 2011 at 7:09 am

    I like your blog thus far. I also am studying part time for my Psychology degree, and love cricket too. First SA team and then I am a big Aussie cricket fan,much to most SA’s dismay!!!


    Being a parent of two teenage girls can be exciting, fun and tough. Let me know where I can find out more about the 3P you mentioned?


  • Psych Babbler
    21 March 2011 at 8:39 am

    Welcome to this space Lesley! I see we have some things in common 🙂 I think it’s almost considered a sin these days for anyone who is not Aussie to like the Aussie cricket team! 😛 More info on the Triple P can be found on The program has gone international but I’m not sure about which countries…it’s quite interesting.

  • Bikram
    21 March 2011 at 1:16 pm

    yeah true when i was growing up I too felt my parents were harsh or my dad would favour others always before me .. or my sister got more .. but now that i have grown up and see other parents and knowing life a bit more and knowing how people beahve outside
    i guess my parents did the right thing they gave me values which i am proud


  • Pesto Sauce
    21 March 2011 at 1:19 pm

    I so so so want to read this book but its not available in Muscat yet; can’t wait to get my hands on it

    This book makes one reflect on the parenting one has received or is currently giving to own young ones. As you rightly said there is no one right way but for all kids and all parents it is important to share that deep bond which will not snap come what may; everything else is secondary and will eventually fall into shape

  • Kim
    21 March 2011 at 1:21 pm

    I haven’t read Amy’s book and I have to say I’m scared to. I am interested in the commentary I’ve seen about it because it certainly strikes a chord. I think her way is extreme and possibly detrimental to the well being of her children’s psyche. I think they are going to be trying to compensate for that in some way in their adult lives perhaps. That or become just like her–Scary!

    I agree, there’s pushing and then there’s PUSHING and sometimes parents do need to back off. I had middle of the road parents and consider myself pretty much middle of the road as far as pushing them goes.

  • Jake
    21 March 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I haven’t read the book, but boy do I have strong opinions on the topic.
    I had not heard about the book until I ran into an interview of Amy on the
    BBC website. The interviewers seemed pretty shocked by some of the
    Book’s content and was really tearing into her. The funny thing is she seemed
    pretty defensive and said that the book is NOT a guideline for parents on how
    to raise their kids and just a biography of her life and on how she raised her kids.As for how true that is …I dunno and can’t comment unless I read the book.

    As far as the technique she used is concerned i think its plain RUBBISH ..NO NO ..that would be an insult to rubbish…if there was a form of matter considered
    to be of lower value than rubbish that’s what I would equate her technique to.
    And my reasons for it ? …

    – First of all she is NOT a Psychologist, neither does she have any viable experience in human mental health. With that being said, neither am I nor are most parents. But raising kids with success as your primary intention is plain ignorance and narrow mindedness .Hell if success is all you are concerned about then might as well breed race horses

    – A lot of “scientists” have apparently acknowledged her technique works, I’m sure it does but ONLY if all you are concerned about is money, status and success. And that in my opinion is the biggest problem with our society today. Aspirations seem to be inclined towards wealth and status. Asian cultures are the best examples for this. The moment and kid is born his/her entire life journey is plotted out by the parents and the rest of the child’s life is a series of strides to fulfill the those “dreams”.

    I think both of her daughters are lawyers, sometimes I wonder if Amy can honestly say that she is absolutely sure without a hint of doubt that in the process of molding her kids for success she did not hold them back from becoming a more highly skilled journalist or a lecturer or a vet or a musician or an engineer or a scientist had she let them make their own choices. They might have some mistakes along the way but trying to shield your child from making mistakes is akin to running around a pride of Lions on an African savanna pretending you are not gonna end up on their lunch pate.

  • Titaxy
    21 March 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I’ve read articles online about Amy Chua’s book. I would like to read it someday. And yeah, as you say, it does make my parents look a lot lenient in comparison 🙂

    I agree with you. There should be a middle ground – letting kids be kids all the while encouraging them to do well (instead of pushing them too much).

  • Lesleyg
    23 March 2011 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the info,will go have alook. And yes, most people I know (but take it with a pinch of saly you know!) say they yell for 2 teams – SA and then anyone playing the Aussies!! I think they’re fab and have been so for the last 2 decades at least, and yes, they’re battling a bit now, but they’ll rise up again. Will be back again

  • Magali
    28 March 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Reading about this book & Amy Chua just makes me so angry. I won’t say anything more for fear of just spurting out impassioned, enraged nonsense.

  • Psych Babbler
    1 April 2011 at 3:13 am

    Oh…I always thought my younger sister got away with a lot more than I
    did…would always complain back then about favouritism. And yeah, in
    hindsight, our parents probably are not as bad as we thought when we were
    younger… 🙂

  • Psych Babbler
    1 April 2011 at 4:19 am

    Do read it when you get the chance Pesto. At the end of the day, as you
    said, it’s the relationship between parent and child that is very
    important…some parents are able to build that at a young age with their
    children, others it can be a bit later…but some unfortunately, are not
    able to do it at all….and that’s the abusive kinds.

  • Psych Babbler
    3 April 2011 at 1:06 am

    Kim, you’re right in that her kids are probably going to be afected by this. I reckon they are going to be overachieving perfectionists and if there is a bump in the road or if something is not perfect, they won’t know how to cope. I hope to be a middle of the road parent myself one day…I can see the benefits in pushing for some things….but yeah…not PUSHING like Amy Chua. She was fortunate she had bright kids…but it made me wonder…what if she had had a kid with a disability? Even a leraning disability like reading/maths/language disorder? Parenting this way would have made that kid depressed….