Over at Slate, Paul Tullis reports on some new research by Su Yeong Kim, a specialist in human development at the University of Texas-Austin, and others that suggests "Tiger Parenting" - made infamous by Amy Chua - is generally not effective. This is from the abstract of Kim's recent work on the subject:
Path analyses showed that the supportive parenting profile, which was the most common, was associated with the best developmental outcomes, followed by easygoing parenting, tiger parenting, and harsh parenting. Compared with the supportive parenting profile, a tiger parenting profile was associated with lower GPA and educational attainment, as well as less of a sense of family obligation; it was also associated with more academic pressure, more depressive symptoms, and a greater sense of alienation. The current study suggests that, contrary to the common perception, tiger parenting is not the most typical parenting profile in Chinese American families, nor does it lead to optimal adjustment among Chinese American adolescents.
Notice that Kim and her colleagues quite consciously work to quantify the notion of "Tiger" parenting, placing it on a scale between "supportive" and "harsh," though closer to the latter than the former. And, on the whole, it would seem that it produces precisely the opposite results than what the "Tiger" parents desire: lower grades, less filiality, more alienation. Chua might, of course, say that it worked for her and her daughters. But, in light of this analysis, her success (and I do not meant to imply that the paths her children have taken are the only manifestation of "success" in child rearing) might have more to do with other factors, such as the socio-economic and academic context in which her children grew up, as opposed to strict parenting.
All of this further suggests that Mencius may be the better source for parenting advise than Han Feizi. When Chua's "Tiger Mother" argument first emerged, I argued that we should not view it as an example of "Chinese" parenting but, more particularly, of Legalist parenting. The classic text of Legalist thought, Han Feizi, does not focus on parenting, but it gives us these sorts of statements:
In a strict household there are on unruly slaves, but the children of a kindly mother often turn out bad. (125)
Turns out it is just the opposite: the children of overly strict parents turn out badly.
Compare this to these lines from Mencius, who comes closer to the "supportive" style of parenting:
Encourage them and reward them. Help them and perfect them. Support them and give them wings, and reveal them to themselves. Then you will bring Integrity alive in them. (5.4 )
That is Hinton's translation; here is the Chinese, from Ctext:
Bloom has it:
Encourage them, lead them, reform them, correct them, assist them, give them wings, let them "get it for themselves." Then follow by inspiring them to Virtue.
Some interesting differences there but the sense if the same: it is not about strict punishment but, rather, igniting something inside children to bring them into their own. And that, the data suggests, makes for better humans.