Has Amy Chua started a new trend in American parenting style? Ms. Chua is the author of the controversial book The Tiger Mom. In her book she advocates being an unyielding sort of parent who demands perfection (and long hours practicing the piano.) She also advocates dressing down a child in front her friends for an offense as great as coveting a second cupcake.
Since the advent of The Tiger Mom several other books advocating strict parenting styles have been published. They are also in direct contrast to the usual American books about parenting.
I think the enthusiastic acceptance of these recent books represent a sea change happening in American attitudes toward parenting. American parents were considered to be permissive for many years. Now the majority of American women work outside of the home, and they do not have the time or the energy to put up with much nonsense. Being strict, and believing that is the way to go, can feel like a relief and seems to many to be an easier way to parent.
The dangers of The Tiger Mom, or Bringing up Bebe (which advises training children with methods from the French), or the new book (not out yet) about shaming a child into losing weight is that parents will adopt the recommended styles of parenting from these books. Adopting someone else’s style is not the way to parent. Good parenting is best done if you refine your own style. There is not, in general, a right or a wrong way to parent but there is a beneficial way to BE with children.
Parents need to be in charge of their kids. Being in charge doesn’t mean making a child clean their room every Saturday at 10 a.m. It also doesn’t imply forcing a child to spend many hours practicing the piano. Being in charge denotes not being emotionally reactive, but staying grounded and objective in the face of a child’s emotionality and oppositional behavior. Being in charge requires using a sense of humor and having a lightness of spirit. Because being in charge requires a lot of energy it is important that you feel physically, emotionally and mentally on top of your game.
Research shows that there are, in general, three distinct types of parenting. There is an authoritarian style, a permissive style and an authoritative style. Researchers have shown that the authoritative style works best for the development of happy, mature and successful children. In this parenting style parents are supportive and nurturing. They are in charge, but they also set high expectations and clear and firm limits. Makes sense doesn’t it?
If we are overly bossy the children will rebel and if we are overly permissive we sabotage the child’s efforts to develop self-esteem. If we set high expectations we build self-esteem. If we build a nurturing foundation we encourage and insure that the child has the tools to meet those expectations.
With depression at epidemic rates how are parents going to get the energy to be authoritative? Depression saps energy and overwhelms the spirit. Parenting takes a great deal of energy and even under the best of circumstances it is a difficult job.
I suggest that we turn our attention away from specific parenting techniques, and focus on fostering the wellbeing of parents. At this time millions of parents and millions of children are depressed. This is a drain on our countries greatest resource. Helping a child to grow up is a challenging task. This task isn’t doable if the parent is depressed and it becomes more difficult if a depressed parent is faced with a depressed child.
In Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way Sandra and I give the most up to date scientific information about the causes of depression. With a plethora of research coming out that the anti-depressants do not work our book is a jewel offering natural techniques that do work!
In my many years of clinical experience I never met a parent who did not wish to do a good job. What interfered the most in the achievement of that dream was not a lack of information about parenting techniques. Their own emotional issues got in their way. Parents become discouraged and overwhelmed and often get stuck in communication patterns that fail to be helpful. In addition, it is not uncommon to find that a degree of depression drains the energy of all the members in a family system.
If we are to nurture our children, our greatest national resource, then we need to begin by focusing on ending the depression epidemic. Health, your emotional, psychological, mental and spiritual health is the place to start if you want to become a terrific parent.
Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way can help you to create vitality. Vitality equals physical, emotional and mental energy. You need a lot ofthat if you are to parent successfully. Reading our book will be a good start in your quest to be an optimal parent. Learn how to foster your overall health, create optimal vitality and the rest you will be able to figure out step by step in the way that works best for you and your family.
Sandra and I wish you success in that most important endeavor—parenting.