Sunday, 23 January 2011

How far do you push?

A new parenting book has caused quite a stir. The book is The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (a professor of law at Yale Law School ).
In this book, Amy reveals how she adopted a strict Chinese parenting style with her two kids; in which she DID NOT ALLOW HER KIDS DO THE FOLLOWING:
- Attend sleepovers;
- Have a play-date;
- Take part in a school play;
- Watch TV;
- Play computer games;
- Achieve any grade less than an A;
- Play any other musical instrument apart from the violin or piano.

I guess it's safe to say that her parenting style was very strict. For example, on her birthday, her daughter (Lulu - aged four) handed her a 'surprise', which turned out to be a card. Amy looked at this 'card' which was a paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front  and 'Happy Birthday, Mummy! Love, Lulu' scrawled in crayon above another happy face.

Amy then gave the card back to Lulu saying 'I don't want this, I want a better one – one that you've put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can't go in there.' She then grabbed the card again, flipped it over, pulled out a pen and scrawled - 'Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!' - added a big sour face. … then 'I reject this!!!'

Amy confirms that this is the way she was also brought up - and it worked for her!

My Reaction:
As I said earlier, the book has drawn varying reactions from readers and book reviewers - ranging from 'Too much!' to 'Just right!' to 'Push Harder!'

While some commentators claim that they had an epiphany after reading the book  (as in - 'Oh! that explains why Chinese children are such high achievers'); others claim that her style is too autocratic and might stifle creativity.

My reaction - As a rule, I do not read parenting books because I think EACH CHILD IS DIFFERENT. So, I do think her blanket approach is a bit too autocratic.

However, a lot of what she talks about is similar to the general Nigerian style of parenting - a great emphasis on academic success, minimal emphasis on creativity/ extra-curricular activities and little or no emphasis on nurturing individuality.

So, this book got me thinking about how I was raised by my parents AND how I am now raising my children:

Parenting Styles - My Parents:
With regards to parenting styles, I like to imagine parenting as equivalent to leadership (which largely involves exerting control and giving direction to your followers/ subordinates).

With regards to how much discipline and control parents dish out to their kids; I see parents as falling between a 1 and 10 on the 'Parenting dial'.

At No.1 is the Passive Parent who rarely disciplines his/her child, does not set any expectations for the child and allows the child do whatever s/he wants. This kind of parent rarely reprimands and is more likely to place more emphasis on nurturing the child's self esteem.

On the other hand, at No.10 is the Autocratic Parent who is quick to discipline, dictates expectations to the child, attempts to control the child's choice of activities, friends, clothes etc. This kind of parent is also more likely to reprimand slight failings and will not place much emphasis on nurturing a child's self esteem.

I would rate my parents as an 8.

This is because I often felt very much misunderstood. I also felt that sometimes, the punishment meted out by my parents exceeded whatever offence I had committed. To be honest, I often felt that their reaction was heightened by other issues they were facing (i.e. financial pressures, family squabbles etc) rather than whatever mischief I had perpetrated. *smile*

What I did not particularly like was that they took a 'one size fits all' approach to parenting i.e. if A did this, B must do this....If A misbehaved like this, we assume B might also misbehave...........*sigh*

However, I totally accept that this was generally the parenting style of that time. While their style has shaped me into a disciplined and organised person; it has also placed some distance between us - as we never could communicate with each other freely.

Parenting Styles - Mine:
My childhood experiences now make me question myself all the time - especially whenever I am disciplining the kids.

I am definitely no saint and I know I have - and will - make parenting mistakes BUT I always try to make sure I do not let other issues (financial worries, office tensions, deadlines etc) push me into overeacting to the kids' occasional mischief.

In relation to the 'parenting dial' - If I am honest, I would say hubby and I are a 6 - uncompromising when it comes to school work, strict when it comes to behaviour; but relaxed when it comes to pursuing whatever extra-curricular activity the child likes. Again, while each child has a chore - sweeping, washing dishes or tidying up; they can also 'earn' pocket money by doing extra housework or excelling at school.

In my last post, Mimi B reminded me of the proverb - 'If you beat a child with your left hand, you use your right hand to draw him back to you chest'. This sums up my approach to parenting.

I believe that even when you do discipline a child, it is only fair that you (a) tell the child exactly why he is being punished and (b) Later - after the child has shown remorse - pull him close to you and play with him - so he is reminded of your love.

Children are like wet clay - a parent is supposed to help mould them. However, like wet clay, if you press too hard, the intended 'shape' can become damaged. Discipline does not always have to be physical reprimands i.e. smacking. Again, it is wise to note that the parenting style that MAKES one child folurish, can BREAK another child.

Indeed, the author I mentioned earlier (Amy Chua) confirms that while her first child blossomed under such strict parenting, her younger child (Lulu) rebelled - 'First, Lulu hacks off her hair with a pair of scissors; then, on a family holiday to Moscow, Lulu and I get into a public argument that culminates in Lulu smashing a glass in a cafe, screaming - "I'm not what you want – I'm not Chinese! I don't want to be Chinese. Why can't you get that through your head? I hate the violin. I hate my life. I hate you, and I hate this family!" - Her relationship with Lulu in crisis, Amy, finally, thankfully, raises the white flag.'

Yes, its lovely to have all your children turn into lawyers, doctors and engineers BUT what would this world be without Authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Chinua Achebe; Sportsmen like Muhammad Ali or Tiger Woods; Visionaries like Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Fela, Steve Jobs or Mother Theresa, ..................?

I would like to conclude by recalling a confrontation between a demanding mother (aged 60 yrs) and an exasperated daughter (aged 36 yrs):

Mom: 'Your behaviour is not Christian-like'
Daughter: 'What do you mean?'
Mum: (steadily raising her voice) 'Hmmph......Ephesians 6! Ephesians 6!!
Daughter: (quizzically) 'Ephesians 6? What part?'
Mum: (shouting and wagging her finger) 'Ephesians 6 - Honour your father and mother so that it may be well with you and your days on Earth may be long!'
Daughter: (smiling) ' always quote the passages that suit you!'
Mum: (frowning) 'How?'
Daughter: 'Read further...after that statement its continues to say - 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children...instead bring them up in the way of the Lord.'
Mum: (sighing and walking away) 'You no be beta person at all!'

I would now love to hear from you:
- If you are already a parent: How would you describe your parenting style?
- If you are not a parent yet: What kind of parenting style would you ideally prefer to adopt in future?
- From all (parents/ non parents): How would you describe your parents' parenting style? What did you like/ not like?

Indeed, how far should one push his/her child?


  1. I read about this lady and also read an article her older daughter wrote. I like how you wrote this. I grew up in a single parent home (even though my parents were "together" my dad was out the country the whole time i was growing up). Anyway, my mom was very much a good 8.5 - 9, on some issues like friends and going out, grades. To be honest i felt at the time that i was growing up in kirikiri maximum prison.

    But at the same time, on any given evening at my house, everyone was probably eating something different. You ate whatever you wanted. She never forced us to eat anything we didn't want. Also in terms of what we wanted to do with our lives, she gave us free reign on that one. I wish i could say she was exactly one way, but it's more complex than that but i can say for sure that she was a very authoritative parent. It was her way or no way a lot of the time.

    When i become a parent, i want to take the positives of my mom, the lessons i learned from watching her do the "wrong" thing with me and my siblings and do things a little differently. I'm lucky that i have a much better relationship with my mom right now and that's really because we moved away from Nigeria, and she finally accepted that we were people who were separate from her and we wouldn't always do things exactly how she would have done them. It was a tough road for me cos i was a rebellious teenager. My poor mommy.

    Now that i have written an essay on ur comment section, i shall now proceed back to the book i was reading before i took an unauthorized break and landed here.

  2. I would rate my parents a 6 too. I never got that very strict upbringing maybe thats because I was an only child for over 9yrs.
    I wasn't into the whole keeping friends thing so usually if I mention a friend of mine was coming over or I would be going over to a friends place, my mum gets really excited and my Dad would make it his duty to drop me off or take us on a treat.

    Choosing clothes, omg, I really didn't like my mums choice of clothes for me so I usually get to go shopping with my parents so I could make my choice since there was really no need buying clothes I didn't want because I would NEVER put them on.

    I think I was a miss goody two shoes so I didn't get that strict upbringing at all.
    The only problem was when I told my mum something(u knw all those girly things plus small small school gossip), she gists my Dad about it. Notice I said "gists" because she didn't intend "reporting" and she doesn't see anything wrong in my Dad knowing but I used to feel embarrassed so I stopped telling her stuffs or I had to remind her that Daddy must not hear this but hey right now I tell her anything I feel like telling her because I no longer get embarrassed if my Dad hears it but she usually keeps to her own side of the deal "If Daddy hears this I would stop telling you stuffs"

    *imagine what I typed in 3mins if it were a school essay I woulda been as blank as ever smh*

  3. i would really like for someone to do research on the parental style of the average Nigerian parents and the results.

  4. This is a very serious issue. As I read about the description of the chinese parenting style i remembered the chinese family in the movie Akeelah the bee.

    My deductions from all of these is that children are never the same and thus must be brought up based on their peculiarities without compromising godliness and discipline.

    I have noticed that in present day Nigeria must parents do not discipline their children, by discipline i do not mean striking with a cane. Why overpampering will produce ill mannered children, excessive strictness would make the children hardened. Every parent must pray for God's wisdom to succeed at parenting.

  5. I think it's important to have a balanced parenting style. By that I mean that it is important to set boundaries for children as per discipline, knowing right from wrong, etc. It is also important to allow a child to be child through various activities to let them enjoy life and to grow. I strongly believe that a child can only come into their own when parents spot their talents and skills and create avenues for these to grow, whether it be academics or the arts - dance, acting, writing, sports etc. The days of 'you can only be a doctor or a lawyer' are well and truly gone. Thank God for that! Our parents did what they did according to limited knowledge and the Nigeria of that time.

    The internet has created the potential for young people to put whatever talents they have out there and make use of the many opportunities that come their way. Any parents using the old school methods of Nigerian parenting and insisting their kids become doctors and lawyers (and I know there are many of them still out there) are surely doing their kids a disservice.

  6. Wow. I can tell you're a parent. You have put much thought into this.
    well, I'd say my mum was an 8. She raised four of us single-handedly and i give her Kudos.

    However I feel I may love to do things a little differently. I wouldn't slack on the discipline angle but i'll throw in lots of love and cuddling.
    I guess a balanced parenting style would work best, but adjustments will be nice, as all children are not the same.
    Nice one here. Makes me wanna be a mum now and see if my style works. Lol!

  7. My mum was a 9. However, later in life she did a complete shift to a 4 (still amazes me). When I have kids, I plan to be a 5. I pray God helps me to be a good mother and friend to my kids. I am scarrrreeeddd.

  8. Truthfully speaking, i cannot rate my parenting skills, nor that of my parents because i simply follow my instinct; I discipline my kids anytime they are naughty, so did my parents. I allow them to watch t.v & play with friends just as my parents did. I make decisions for them concerning some issues until they are old enough to take decisions themselves.I DON'T ALLOW SLEEP OVERS FOR SECURITY REASONS just as my parents did! all i am concern about is to if i was a good mother to them!


  10. Yep! am battery was running low..hence the brief comment...had to go & put on the gen becox this is one interesting topic that kept my adrenaline pumping..hehehhe...sorry for all the above typos.

    As i was concern is if i am a good mother to my kids. Is the way my children see me that matters most. I want to be appreciated, my love reciprocated back to me.

    In Nigeria, we don't have the culture of 'sleep-overs'...every mother brings up her child in the best way she deems fit & the environment she lives also plays a role in molding that child into a responsible human being without being a nuisance to himself/herself & the society.

    What is workable for one family might not be for another. I believe in not sparing the rod, reward them when they excel in an activity, protect them from all harm & let them enjoy their childhood to the fullest, so as not to affect them in the future. DRUM THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION INTO THEM, which unfortunately in Nigeria is all about academics & not creative because of our lack of develpoment.

    It is wrong for any parents to try & re-live their life through their children! They have a mind of their own, we should respect that & direct them on the right path to take & be their for them, when they need a shoulder to lean on & cry & a succor when the harsh realities of life begins to reveal itself to them.

    As for the author of the book, i don't agree with some of her methods.

  11. @Madam Sting:
    LOL @ 'growing up in kirikiri maximum prison'

    Re: 'When i become a parent, i want to take the positives of my mom, the lessons i learned from watching her do the "wrong" thing with me and my siblings and do things a little differently.'
    That is exactly what I have tried to do! So, I feel this a great plan. That is why I try to recall things - so I know what to emulate or what to change.

    LOL @ 'i have written an essay on ur comment section' .... To be honest, I appreciate your comment because it shows you gave some thought to your answer.

    Hope you enjoy the book you were reading xoxoxoxo

    @Coy~Introvert said...
    *Envy* re: 'I was an only child for over 9yrs.'

    LOL @'....I would be going over to a friends place, my mum gets really excited and my Dad would make it his duty to drop me off or take us on a treat.'

    *Thoughtful nod* re: 'I think I was a miss goody two shoes'.... I guess you were made to feel really special so there was really no need to rebel!

    Re: Gists with your mum...I do envy you because I never had/ still dont have that relationship with my mum and that saddens me.

    LOL @ 'imagine what I typed in 3mins'.... I guess we all put in more effort when things interest us. For example, I have 2 boring reports to deliver next week and I havent started either yet ...However, here I am blogging *sigh*

    Thanks for leaving a comment

  12. @ Chizzy D: 'research on the parental style of the average Nigerian parents and the results'....That would really be interesting.

    Unfortunately, research in Nigeria is largely carried out in the face of soooo many challenges. For example, I know quite a few academics who fund their own research - so we do have a long way to go.

    Interesting thought though! Thanks

    I havent seen Akeelah the bee...I'll definitely get it and watch now.

    Agree re: 'children are never the same and thus must be brought up based on their peculiarities without compromising godliness and discipline'.

    Like you said, I have noticed that discipline in nigeria seems to have suffered. It's almost like parentys prove how exposed or wealthy they are by pampering their children.

    Like you said...'Every parent must pray for God's wisdom to succeed at parenting.' Too true. Its a hard job but one that can be done well - with love and prayers.

    Thanks for that

    I do agree with ....'I think it's important to have a balanced parenting style.'

    Again, agree with ' Our parents did what they did according to limited knowledge and the Nigeria of that time.'

    However, like you did say, sadly, some of our generation are still repeating the same mistakes - putting pressure on their kids to pursue certain professions while discounting extra-curricular activities.

    I'm loving what you said about the internet - This is sooo true. I guess the key is to get a balance and nurture individual talent.

    Thanks for commenting.

    @ RemiRoy said...
    LOL @ You have put much thought into this.'
    Yes oh! I have to confess that I am a parent and a nerd - so unforunately/ fortunately I do dwell on stuff a lot!

    Re: Your mum raising 4 of you guys single-handedly. OMG!!! That is not a small thing at all, at all!

    Totally agree about a balanced parenting style and generally taking things in stride. Best way I think.

    LOL @ 'Makes me wanna be a mum now and see if my style works.' Abeg wait oh! Find the 'right' guy first because it's a lot easier when you have two hands on deck!

    Thanks for dropping by.

  14. @ILOLA: your mum changing from a '9' to a '4' 'When I have kids, I plan to be a 5.'...We'll see, we'll see...LOL

    Why are you scared? If you are actually thinking of what type of mum you'd like to be shows you'll be a good mum. Why? because you really want to be a good mum!

    God will answer your prayers. xoxoxoxoxox

    Agree with 'I discipline my kids anytime they are naughty, so did my parents.'

    Also agree with 'I DON'T ALLOW SLEEP OVERS FOR SECURITY REASONS just as my parents did!'

    As you said, the fact that you are concerned about what your kids think about you shows that you are doing your best to be a good mother.

    I always say that I dont care what anyone thinks of me - except God and my children.
    all i am concern about is to if i was a good mother to them!

    No apologies re: the typos

    I had to laugh re: '... molding that child into a responsible human being without being a nuisance to himself/herself & the society'....Because I do believe that some parents forget that the child will one day leave home - and if they are not brought up properly, they can really be a nuisnce to others. Right on!

    *Thoughtful nod* re: ' which unfortunately in Nigeria is all about academics & not creative because of our lack of develpoment.....'

    Gbam re: 'It is wrong for any parents to try & re-live their life through their children!' I see that all the time and it drives me mad. A little boy I know hates football. However, his dad drags him to football club every Saturday. Why? because he is the only son and the dad was good at football when he was younger! *hissss*

    Like you, I dont agree with the author's techniques. It was a bit much.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  15. hmmm...I'm not a parent yet so I can't say that I have a particular parenting style, however I do think that the author's parenting style, whilst intended to bring out the best in a child, could backfire and produce emotionally stiffled children.

    I would expect that a good balance (of discipline, guidiance, giving room for child to express his/her personality, etc) would do the trick...of course with God's help, as we can of our own achieve nothing.

  16. Interesting, I will actually like to read that book, it seems unbelievable that anyone would do that even the chinese themselves.

    I think I grew up in an 8 house hold, but I am glad I did. I grew up scared of my dad, but now we get on well. I never even bothered asking my parents most time to go for parties etc because I knew the answer will be no.

    But today I look back and also look at where I stand and I have no one to thank but God and my parents. I hope I can do as good a job to my kids as they did to me.

  17. Hmm I guess growing up my mother didn't understand me for I will always go into my room and read novels after my chores. so it was difficult for both of us, but as I grew older we became closer. Right now we have a very good relationship, I can call her my best friend. For my kids, I will try and be the best mum. Will discipline them when necessary. Most of all will always be there for them. One thing I remember growing up was that anytime we got back from school, my mother was always home......and it helped us positively as children.
    Sleep overs will not allow it, for all the stories I hear about molestations and bad influence usually come from there..
    I guess we should strive to be in the middle, have a balance of everything. Not be to strict and not be to soft.

  18. @Doyin:
    Totally agree re: 'the author's parenting style, .........could backfire and produce emotionally stiffled children.'

    This is my concern with the traditional Naija parenting style - so much is stifled and brushed under the carpet.

    As you said, it is only through God that any parent can truly raise a wonderful child.

    Thanks for the comment

    Just like you, I grew up scared of my dad.

    latrer in life, I grew to appreciate the fact that he was strict. However, I do think we lost valuable bonding time.

    I'm sure you'll do a wonderful job when you become a parent. Love is the key!

    Thanks for commenting

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. @Ibifiri:
    I'm so glad you are now closer to your mum.

    Oh, the benefit of hindsight! I wish we all were born wise...things would be soo much easier.

    You mentioned something that I think most parents (including myself) sometimes forget (in the hustle and bustle of everyday life) - to 'always be there for them.'

    In the ideal world, it would be nice to have all the mums at home. Unfortunately, financial pressures makes this impossible! *sigh*


  21. My dad was a 10, maybe even 11. His strict parenting style made me scared of him at some point. My mom, on the other hand, was a 1, except when it came to issues of Christianity and safety on which she was like a 8.5.

    I think finding the balance between both styles would be my ideal type of parenting.

  22. @PRISM:
    It might be a good thing that your parents were soooo different.
    If both of them had been strict, it probably would have been too much.

    Yes, a mix is best.

    Thanks for commenting

  23. I liked reading this post :)
    My parents were prob 6/7 although my mum relaxed as I got to my late teens but growing up, I was allowed to play sport, visit well behaved friends approved by my parents, and when I was older go to slumber parties, go to city cebtre on my own, watch reasonable tv progs except soaps coz there was a lot of But I wasn't allowed parties late at night, I had to be home by sunset...
    In retrospect, I love the fact that they were kinda protective of me and I can now see why, coz this is one bad world we live.

  24. @Gospel Girl:
    LOL @ kissing on soaps. I know!!!!
    Totally agree that we live in a really BAD world.
    I struggle daily between keeping my kids safe from negative external influences AND enabling them get some 'street-smarts' *sigh*

    Thanks for commenting

  25. My kids think am too strict in terms of upbringing and academics but relaxed when it comes to playtime.

    I will give my mum 7 though she can beat a hell out of any of us if we dont meet her expectation but as i realised later she mean well.

    My daddy will get a 9 in term of caring though strict but in a loving way!

  26. @EyanOba:
    LOL @ what your kids think about you....sound like mine.
    Thanks for dropping by!

  27. A group of mothers accused me of not allowing my kids for sleepovers. They complained to the school. Awon Ika!

    I later found out that their kids were smoking at ages 5-7 and hope to try drugs at age 10. That was what they told my kids. I was shocked! That is their own business.

    What happens if your kids are raped on a sleepover? May our enemies not laugh at us. They think I'm a snub and I wish I could afford to remove my kids from a public school and put them in a private school.

  28. @LadyAfrik:
    I am shocked that mums can actually complain to the school about a sleepover that is held outside school hours.
    Wetin concern school?!

    *shock* at kids smoking at 5-7!
    Where are the parents? Anyway, I guess the parents are no better abi?
    I know how you feel about wanting to take them out of public school. Truth is that not all public schools are bad. Quieter rural areas tend to have better public schools.
    Could you consider moving to a more rural setting?
    Thanks for commenting

  29. aww, my sister & i were discussing this about a week ago.

    My parents were a weird mix of "good cop/bad cop" with my mom being the bad cop most of the time bt always ready to switch without notice. she usually falls between a 6.5-8ish cos she dint av a problem with d rod but my dad was kinda like a 3ish with a serious problem with beating kids and was very soft bt totally uncompromising about some issues.

    My dad was always der with too much luv it was alomost stiffling. My mum was somtimes soft too but i think she knew it wasnt gona b gud for us if they both were like dat. My dad did not like d idea of going for lessons after school which every other kid did which i tot was annoying but we all turned out well which is gud. i was "almost" the rebel but....

    I strongly suspect my dad neva had children in his past life tho. My mum wuld send send me to get stuff from the next street & dat is when my dad wuld remeber he needed to see the neigbour such that, he'll end up escorting me.

    it was a perfect blend for us and i wish i culd be half as gud as they were to us.

  30. sorry about d typos, just need to add that we all (parents & 4 kids) have a wonderful secrets at all. Dint like momsy much wen i was a kid cos i was naughty and used to get into trouble a lot but started bonding with her in my late teens and we're inseparable now. She was strict but u always knew she had ur back whenever u found urself in trouble.

  31. @Toinlicious
    Your parents sound soooooo adorable.
    I guess that's why they say opposites attract. I dont think it would have been good if both of them were too strict - or too soft.

    Parenting is a tough job and I really do think that if a parent truly loves their kids - all their actions will be shaped by this love.

    I try not to be strict but there are some things that I dont compromise on i.e. sleepovers, academic performance or respecting elders. However, I am always the first to cry when any of them do really well or feel sad. Again, my kids know I am the first to wage war whenever anyone tries to mess with them. LOL

    Not easy at all my sister, but we do our best every second. That's all we can do
    Thanks for reading and commenting


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