Most people will remember the “Tiger Mom” controversy that was stirred up last year when a Chinese-American mom wrote an essay called Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior for WSJ.com. Here is a quote:
What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America.
At one point in the essay, she recalls an occasion when she called her daughter “lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic” when she had become frustrated with a piece of music and wanted to give up.
Now a new essay comes from an American expat in France, again on WSJ.com, Why French Parents Are Superior,
And once I started thinking about French parenting, I realized it wasn’t just mealtime that was different. I suddenly had lots of questions. Why was it, for example, that in the hundreds of hours I’d clocked at French playgrounds, I’d never seen a child (except my own) throw a temper tantrum? Why didn’t my French friends ever need to rush off the phone because their kids were demanding something? Why hadn’t their living rooms been taken over by teepees and toy kitchens, the way ours had?
Soon it became clear to me that quietly and en masse, French parents were achieving outcomes that created a whole different atmosphere for family life. When American families visited our home, the parents usually spent much of the visit refereeing their kids’ spats, helping their toddlers do laps around the kitchen island, or getting down on the floor to build Lego villages. When French friends visited, by contrast, the grownups had coffee and the children played happily by themselves.
This essay seems less provocative than the “Tiger Mom” essay, although as I type this it is the most popular “Read” on WSJ.com.
As a psychotherapist, I do a lot of family therapy and provide a lot of guidance about parenting. The “Tiger Mom” essay generated a lot of questions in sessions, and I’m looking forward to seeing what pops up with my clients over the course of the next few months.
More to come.