If you’re a parent and you’ve been anywhere near Twitter, the news or the internet in general in the last two years, you’ll have heard the term ‘Tiger Mom’, a phrase coined by Amy Chua in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. An article, which contained large excerpts from the book, appeared in the Wall Street Journal under the title “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“, and basically centered around the fact that Chinese parents are a lot stricter with their children and the time that they spend on extracurricular activities, enforcing strict study regimens and ensuring that any free time is spent learning musical instruments, languages and dance, arguing that their children end up more successful overall, than children of Western parents.
One example from the book of how Chua’s Tiger Mom parenting looks centered around the musical side of things…: “… I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have ‘The Little White Donkey’ perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, ‘I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?’ 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.” They then “work[ed] right through dinner” without letting her daughter “get up, not for water, not even for bathroom breaks.” The anecdote concludes by describing how her daughter was “beaming” after she finally mastered the piece and “wanted to play [it] over and over.”
Telling my daughter that she’s pathetic if she’s struggling to do something is really not my idea of parenting, but the whole Tiger Mom debate is pretty passe now. I’m not here to debate the effectiveness of deriding your child, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’d rather be a Hippo Mum than a Tiger Mum – here’s why:
- Hippos give birth to one or two young and nurture them until they’re at least a year old
- Hippos give birth under water so that their young don’t fall onto hard ground when they slip out
- Newborn hippos often climb onto their mother’s backs for a rest
- Hippo Mums will suckle their babies for at least a year, even after the babies start eating grass at three weeks
- In water, the mother helps the newborn to the surface, later teaching it to swim, when it’s ready.
- Hippo Mums will protect their babies ferociously, from crocodiles, lions and even humans.
I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a far more appealing parenting style to me. Sausage is a super bright child who has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and we’ve never once had to drill, deride or force her to get involved in anything. Sure, tying a kid to a piano for 4 hours a day might produce a virtuoso, but nurturing children emotionally is far more important to me, as is giving them the confidence to approach something and commit for themselves. Name-calling seems like the exact opposite way to achieve this, in my humble opinion.
For me, parenting should be about love, nurturing and support. Helping your kids to find their way without pushing anything onto them, just like Hippos do. It seems to me that extracurricular activities should be about a want to learn, and anything that’s forced will just become a chore…and we all know how much kids hate doing chores!
So, who’s with me? Are you more Hippo than Tiger or are you a different species altogether?!