In his Op-Ed piece in this weekend’s New York Times, Ryan Park contrasts the Asian “tiger parenting” that he grew up with:
hours marching through the snow, reciting multiplication tables… [standing] at attention at the crack of dawn reading the newspaper aloud, with each stumble earning a stinging rebuke.
with the more Americanized way he plans to raise his daughters:
They will feel valued and supported. They will know home as a place of joy and fun. They will never wonder whether their father’s love is conditioned on an unblemished report card.
A specific example of what Park has done so far:
before my oldest daughter was on an early-morning school schedule, I freely indulged her disregard for bedtime on a condition: The night was firmly earmarked for learning. We’d sometimes stay up past midnight, lying on our stomachs with feet in the air, huddled over a dry-erase board and a bowl of popcorn, practicing phonics or learning about sea creatures.
This does sound a tad less tigerish, and a jot more joyous, than marching through snow reciting multiplication tables (or, for that matter, marching through snow practicing phonics!).
But earmarking post-bedtime hours for parent-supervised, erase-board mediated learning doesn’t strike me as more typically American than Asian, even if prone position and popcorn are involved. How many typical American parents are staying up past midnight helping their kids practice phonics or learn aquatic zoology?
Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Loving and teaching, after all, aren’t in competition. We can fill our kids’ days with teachable moments even if we begin well after dawn, eschew snow marches and stinging rebukes, and demonstrate unconditional love. It just takes a lot of commitment and effort!
If traditional Asian parents have something to learn from typical American parents, the reverse is surely just as true.