The Asian tiger mom that Amy Chua portrays in her new book may seem like just one more species in the genus Extreme Parent - the counterpart to the hovering American Parens helicopterus or the Scandinavian Curling Parents, who frantically rush ahead of their children, sweeping their paths clear of the tiniest obstacles.
The common characteristics include an obsession with a , a reflex to treat kids as extensions or reflections of oneself and patterns of conduct that impartial observers might class as insane if not criminal, if not both. In Chua's case, this famously includes prohibiting grades lower than an A, TV, playdates and sleepovers, and warning her pianist child that "if the next time's not PERFECT, I'm going to TAKE ALL YOUR STUFFED ANIMALS AND BURN THEM." In the case of the classic Western helicopter parent, it starts with Baby Einstein and reward charts for toilet training, and it never really ends, which is why colleges have to devote so many resources to teaching parents how to leave their kids alone.
But it is the differences between the Tigers and the Choppers that help explain the furor Chua has caused, at least in the U.S. Tigers fixate on success, defined as achievement in precision-oriented fields like music and math; Choppers are obsessed with failure and preventing it at all costs. Tigers operate in a culture of discipline; Choppers, in a culture of fear. Tigers view children as tough, able to take the abuse; Choppers view them as precious, to be raised under glass. Their fury at a bad grade is more likely to land on the teacher than on the child.
And if Chua appears to sentence her children to slave labor, Western parents enshrine their children and crave their friendship. "The thing that impresses me most about America," observed Edward, Duke of Windsor, who knew something about indulgence, "is the way parents obey their children." There is something bracing about Chua's apparent indifference to her daughters' hostility, especially for parents who have learned that even if you let your teenagers spend 50 hours a week on Facebook, they'll still find reasons to hate you. (My favorite title of a parenting book: Get Out of My Life, but First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?)