West Side Stories

A Tosa resident for almost 20 years, Karen is a mom and freelance writer, addicted to playing tennis. When not on the tennis court, she spends the fall and winter in the stands at Green Bay Packer and Marquette basketball games.

Karen is the author of “Grab a Bite,” a dining out column and the former community columnist for the Wauwatosa NOW newspaper.

Confessions of a non-Tiger Mother

Kids, Books, Parenting

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” Chua previewed the book in this article in the Wall Street Journal. Suffice it to say, it’s been nothing less than controversial. Basically, Chua’s upbringing taught her to take a VERY tough love approach when raising her own two daughters.

(Full disclosure: I have not yet read the book, but plan to do so very soon.)

I’m not a Tiger Mother. I’m not even a housecat mother. Based on the list in Chua’s article, she’d probably say that I’m a wimp. I let my kids do every one of those things on her list.

Today a friend and I discussed how we were decidedly un-Tiger-like in our parenting methods. Now that our kids are older, we are beginning to see the fruits of our efforts. We are also at a time in our life when we look back and wonder “what if” we had done things differently.

(Let me make a sidebar and say that despite my parenting weaknesses, my kids are terrific. I wouldn’t change them if I could. I take little or no credit for their gifts but I’m so proud of them that my friends are too nice to say that they’re sick and tired of my bragging.)

Anyway, back to my friend and I discussing our non-Tigerishness. She admitted that one reason she wasn’t tougher on her kids was because she didn’t want hear the whining, the crying, or the feeling of being intensely disliked by her kids. To that admission I said: “THANK YOU FOR SAYING THAT.” She expressed, in a nutshell, my deep, dark parenting secret: I don’t like to be the bad guy. Never have, never will. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. I think good parenting is hard…really, really hard. There’s no instruction manual. (No, “What to Expect When…” doesn’t count.) It’s a seat-of-the-pants proposition that comes with no guarantees except that it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

I think any parent will tell you that discipline is absolutely the TOUGHEST part of parenting. Remember when our parents would say: "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you." (Usually uttered right before a spanking.) We never believed them…but IT WAS TRUE! Doling out the punishment is WAY worse than being punished. And to make things even more complicated, just when you figure out how to deal with one kid, the next one is COMPLETELY different and you’re back to square one.

Parenting, like many endeavors, is subjective. What is right for one parent may be over-the-top for another. Who are we to judge? And yet, we do…or at least I do. Just the other day in the grocery store, I saw a young mom talking to her elementary-aged son, uttering a series of profanities. I was appalled - so much so that I almost wanted to say something. But who am I to do so? That woman might be Mother of the Year, for all I know. (I kind of doubt it, but you never know.)

No doubt Amy Chua has encountered her fair share of judgments. But based on the blog her older daughter Sophia writes, she’s done a lot of things right. Sophia seems bright, insightful, mature and, most importantly, happy - exactly the same things that I wanted my children to achieve. Thankfully, they seem well on their way.

What about you? Are you a Tiger Mom or a Tiger Dad? Are you the product of Tiger Parents?


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