I have two daughters, and like any other mother, I love them. But after 15 years of marriage, and 12 years of parenthood, I now realise that most of the fights between my husband and me are centred on parenting.
Praveen and I are both Indians, both from normal, middle class households and yet, we have diverse ideas on raising kids. So in 2011, when he read an article in the TIME magazine about ‘Tiger Moms’, it opened up a channel of communication between us and allowed us to find a level of parenting acceptable by both of us.
So, how did this phrase come into being?
According to the English dictionary, a Tiger Mom is – ‘A very strict mother who makes her children work particularly hard and restricts their free time so that they continually achieve the highest grades’. The phrase was coined thanks to Amy Chua (a Chinese American) and her best seller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, where she chronicled a mostly self satirical narration of how she brought up her two daughters.
In the West, expectedly, parents reacted with horror on Amy’s parenting methods while in India, China and other Asian Countries, it opened up a debate, but not one of shock value.
That is because when we were kids, being hit or scolded by parents were the norm. It was just an accepted fact. I have been hit and shouted at by my mom several times and I never questioned it, or thought myself as ‘unlucky to have cruel parents’! Most importantly, I always knew the reason for me getting smacked. The scolding and shouting did not hamper my emotional growth, in fact I would go as far as to say, that it stabilised it.
Kids today are far more knowledgeable and mature than we were at that age. Their exposure to the world in general is huge, thanks to the Internet and tech devices. So, they cannot be brought up by the same yard stick that was applied to us.
You can’t hit them or shout at them the way we were. Seven years back, my sister was told by her 12 year old daughter, after a shouting session, ‘If this was America, I would have gotten you arrested!’ Today, my sister and niece are able to laugh about that incident’ but believe me, at that time it was anything but funny.
The key to being great parents today is effective communication. Kids today have to put up with a lot more in terms of peer pressure, academic stress and extreme competitiveness. So you need to be able to balance the act between being a parent and a friend.
Kuhu, a neighbour and the mother of a 15 year old boy and an eight year old girl, has managed to do that beautifully. She is their friend and confidante, but they also know that she can be quite firm, when they need to be corrected, and will not tolerate nonsense.
I used to be a sort of Tiger Mom. I say ‘sort of’ because I pushed them to do their best, but that did not mean standing first in class. I could recognize the strengths and weaknesses of my kids and rated them accordingly.
But the sad thing was that I forgot to play with them, whilst in this pursuit. And since I was playing the role of the disciplinarian, Praveen happily took up the role of a friend. I started to feel hurt when I realised that their faces didn’t light up on seeing me, like they did, when they saw Praveen.
That’s when Amy Chua and the ‘Tiger Mom’ phrase entered our lives. It allowed us to re-evaluate our roles and reach that moderate level of parenting that I talked about earlier. Praveen now disciplines them on certain issues and ensures chores around the house are done, and I am slowly learning to let go. The kids now know that Mom is not always a tiger, and that Dad is not always a pussycat.