Posted by: Shireen | January 28, 2011

Tiger Mama vs Bee Mama

Two mommy friends sparked an interest in this article in The Wall Street Journal.

I know lots of moms have been talking about this new book, Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.  In fact most of the major newspapers have covered a review of this book or an opinion piece spun from all the controversy surrounding this new book about parenting.  The gist:  Amy Chua has raised her high achieving children in a sort of boot camp parenting style of no extra curricular activities except the ones she has chosen, no sleepovers, no parties, hours of homework/music practice….you get the idea.  It might sound harsh, but it has worked.  Her kids are pretty much genius children.  That leaves the rest of us parents looking like we are molly coddling and spoiling our kids in comparison to the author.

Really, I think it is about wanting the best for our kids.  And about knowing that we can’t really control the kind of person that they will grow up to be, no matter how much we think we can.

This morning, I had a debate with F about whether to sign Little Bee up for a sports skills class.  This would be in addition to her Sing and Sign Baby signing class (a fabulous decision to take this class, by the way – has helped her communication amazingly) and her Aquatots swim class.  This would also be in addition to the drop in classes we take like, Amanda’s Action Kids, Rhyme Time and the one where they set up the bouncy castle and soft play things and the kids run around like they have never had so much fun in their little lives…..At the same time, I want to make sure there is enough time for quiet, imaginative play at home as well as some time for messy, arty activities (I love this stuff!)  We were wondering whether the skills she would be learning at the sports class would be worth it enough to pay and commit time to yet another class or whether the fact that F takes Little Bee out for some run-around-kicking-the-ball time in our garden is actually enough at just 18 months old…ahem.

Seriously, this was an actual discussion (okay, mainly me talking, but is that unusual?)  We could have used our hour together in the morning to discuss any number of grown up things, but instead I chose to talk about toddler classes in West Hampstead!

Why do I do this to myself and Little Bee?  Why do I want to expose her to the this, sometimes insane, amount of interesting and stimulating experiences?  Why do I time naps, snack and lunch around fun toddler things to do?

It’s just one of the ways we are trying to do the best for Little Bee.  There are other things too, like having play dates, taking her to museums and parks, rolling around on the floor having a good tickle, having messy play, playing the run-and-cuddle-game at the end of the day, giving her a variety of food groups to eat, making sure she has enough sleep, researching the best schools (another blog post!)….all ways of wanting and trying to provide a great life for Little Bee so that she can reach her full potential (whatever that means is another discussion) as a person.  We all want that, right?

So back to the book….

Amy Chua really loves her children and wants them to be the best they can.  That is why she is so hard-core about their education and development.  She thinks her kids are smart and intelligent and this is her way of showing that she loves them.  I can understand this.

I think Little Bee is smart enough to take over the world.  We think she is awesome.  But we have to think that – we are her parents.  It is impossible to think anything less of her.  Every single mommy and daddy think their kids are the most amazing things in the world.

So here it is.  Is there just one way of showing that you love your children and think that they are the most fantastic people who have ever lived and to give them the confidence to reach their best selves?

No, of course not.  It is really up to us as parents to decide how we are going to show our children that we love them.  For some it might mean that we stand over them for four hours watching them practice piano because we know that they will make their Carnegie Hall debut at age 14 (one of Amy Chua’s daughters did this!), but for others it might mean that we spend half an hour after Daddy gets home playing the run-to-dadda-give-him-a-hug-then-run-to-mamma-and-do-the-same-then-repeat game (really, we do this!).

We all have the freedom to show our children how much we love them in the way we believe is right.  I can’t be sure that the way we are choosing to parent Little Bee is right…in fact, I know that we have made lots of trip-ups along the way.  Just the same way that I can’t say for sure that Amy Chu’s parenting techniques are wrong.

Is there any parent who really knows what they are doing?  Even the ones who have written books and claim to be experts can’t be sure of themselves every single minute of every day, right?

I can’t be sure that the hug game is going to make Little Bee into a prize-winning piano player, but I do know it is one of the most fun games to play right before bath time!



  1. so right, the baby has to fit in with you as much as you have to fit in with her. No right or wrong, just different. Safe, secure and loved, that is all babies want in whichever shape or form. Not rocket science, just common, instinctual and intuitive sense. You are the best parents for your child.

  2. It’s so easy to look at Amy Chua and think she’s mad / hardcore / really effective and in turn have the wind seriously taken out of my sails for my very different parenting techniques (well, it’s still early on, but no doubt they will be different). But you are so right. It’s all about us doing the best for our kids because we love them, however that manifests itself. I really enjoy your writing. Maybe I will catch you at Cybermummy again this year? When did S&S start to really make an impact, btw? I am in the middle of a second session of term one with my year-old and she understands the signs more than she does them at the mo.

  3. Tanya! How lovely to hear from you! I have to visit your space too…its been way too long! Totally agree with you….lets just love the kids and see what happens….
    Love Sing and Sign! Mira started at about 1yr and she picked it up right away and has been happily signing ever since – she loves it. A friend of ours, was more observant and didn’t sign for a while…but when she started to feel more confident, she really flew with it and is signing just as much as Mira even though M jumped in sooner. I think it is more of an age thing. I notice at class that after they are 1yr old, they start to realise they can actually communicate with the signs…if that makes sense! Now that M is 18 months old, she is really using her signs a lot and they have really helped her with her language development. It has also helped with reducing temper tantrums….note the use of the word..reduced!

  4. Hello from Vancouver!!!Funny enough…at our “only mums”
    book club meeting that begun soon after kids were asleep and
    babysitters and husbands and grandparents were on board we too had
    the opportunity to discuss, not the book but the Tiger Mum article.
    I loved it!!I believe it is important to teach your kids to stick
    things through until the end. Although, I am guilty of filling in
    my kids schedules with extra-curricular activities. I have made a
    cautious decision to decrease the amount of “paid” activities to
    learn just this…do what you do well and take it to the end. Might
    I add, the trapeze class at phc center is not to be missed by
    little bee. My memories of living in London vicariously through my
    girl will never be forgotten. Love everything about you
    Shireen!!!Keep up the good work!!x

  5. I love her perseverance with her children. She accepts nothing but the best…and I want to do the same with my Little Bee. But how? Its up to us to find the way that works best for us as family, right? And how to raise our little ones so that they feel that they are superstars right from the start.
    Will check out the circus acts for Little Bee… you Iram….your honesty about everything is so real!

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