'Tiger Mom' needs a bear hug

'Tiger Mom' Amy Chua is back to tell parents how to get the job done by making their kids more fiercely competitive. Meanwhile, one 'Kung Fu Panda Mom' bear hugs her kids, knowing control is an illusion.

Larry D. Moore/AP/FILE
Tiger Mom Returns: Amy Chua's newest book, “The Triple Package” has spurred criticism for its assertion that some ethnic and religious groups are more prone to success than others. This file photo shows Ms. Chua at the Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas after the release of her first book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in 2007.

Yale Law professor Amy Chua, dubbed “Tiger Mom” for advocating a strict Chinese parenting style in her first book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” is back again to drive parents further from inner peace about their kids.

In her new book, co-written by her husband Jed Rubenfeld (also a Yale law professor), “The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America,” the authors claim some cultural and ethnic groups – primarily Jews, Indians, Chinese, Iranians, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerians, Cuban exiles and Mormons – have innate qualities that make them more likely to succeed in life, according to a review in Forbes.

“That certain groups do much better in America than others – as measured by income, occupational status, test scores and so on – is difficult to talk about,” writes Ms. Chua and Mr. Rubenfeld, who check two of their own racial success boxes as Chinese and Jewish. “In large part, this is because the topic feels so racially charged.”
As a self-proclaimed “Kung Fu Panda Mom” of four sons ranging in age from elementary school to college, I want to say thanks to Chua and Rubenfeld for that input.

Also, I want to return the favor by adding a few more animals to their parenting ecosystem. When I was a new parent, Chua’s books would have made me crazy-angry or panicked about my parenting being viewed as inferior by other Tiger Mom-types (and dads).

As a mom who’s been doing this for 20 years, I have attained inner peace about my kids and when their goals take an unexpected path or fail to meet benchmarks set by authorities.

However, I have had to be a whole lot more than just a Tiger Mom to raise four unique, talented, brave, compassionate, and successful sons over the past 20 years.

When my sons slack, I have to decide if taking them by the scruff of the neck like a tiger cub and shaking them will produce the desired effect, or if I simply need to be a cricket – chirping softly in their ears.

Sometimes, it’s a big old panda bear hug that’s needed, and sometimes I need to snake around their worries, or even outfox them.

As a result of this menagerie approach to parenting, our two older sons are both in college, dean’s listed and with scholarships. One is the crew team star athlete, and the other a blue belt in Gracie Jiu Jitsu, paying his own way for his training by cleaning the dojo and teaching children and adults self-defense.

Our high school freshman is being a bit of a gamer geek at the moment, but he plays cello in the orchestra and I’m sure after I serve as a bit of a herd-dog to keep him on track, he will do just fine.

Therefore, reading about Chua and Rubenfeld’s latest effort made me want to share some parenting advice with them. Sit with your kids and watch “Kung Fu Panda.” On repeat.

Because I doubt a Tiger Mom would do something so frivolous, I will distill the entire parenting message via this dialogue from the film between Master Oogway (an ancient tortoise) and Master Shifu (a red panda).

Oogway, the wise old tortoise, is counseling Shifu, who is completely beside himself with the frustration that a portly, undisciplined, seemingly inept, panda named Po has been selected to be the Dragon Warrior to defeat the deadly Tai Lung (a snow leopard).

Oogway: My friend, the panda will never fulfill his destiny, nor you yours until you let go of the illusion of control.

Shifu: Illusion?

Oogway: Yes.

[points at peach tree]

Oogway: Look at this tree, Shifu: I cannot make it blossom when it suits me nor make it bear fruit before its time.

Shifu: But there are things we *can* control: I can control when the fruit will fall, I can control where to plant the seed: that is no illusion, Master!

Oogway: Ah, yes. But no matter what you do, that seed will grow to be a peach tree. You may wish for an apple or an orange, but you will get a peach.

Shifu: But a peach cannot defeat Tai Lung!

Oogway: Maybe it can, if you are willing to guide it, to nurture it, to believe in it.

My youngest son Quin, 10, likes to know what I’m writing about and he’s keenly interested in why I’m looking up Kung Fu Panda quotes.

I told him about Tiger Mom.

“Kids need confidence to do things,” he said. “Like, I want to be a scientist so I know you need trial and error. Fail equals win because then you know what’s not working.”

From a little panda’s lips to Tiger Mom's ears. “Fail equals win” in parenting. No kidding.

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