Tiger Moms & Defending AP (again!)

This is a post I half-wrote a while ago… but with finals & my 3L paper & the bar, well… it just sat around in a sad, half-finished state. The article that was the impetus for the post still rubs me the wrong way, so while this is all old news, I don’t think the issue is dead & here you have it:

The chatter about Amy Chua has finally died down. But amidst the interesting & not-so-interesting responses Chua elicited, I noticed yet another cheap shot at attachment parenting (the other most recent one being Erica Jong’s confused jabs in her November 2010 Wall Street Journal article on “mother madness”).

Now, I’ll admit, that talking about the Chua articles (haven’t read the book, nor do I really intend to, even if she is a law prof. at YLS) has lead to some interesting discussions about parenting with MFA Dad, some of which have lead me to think hard about attachment parenting. But, that being said, since it’s something I’m rather passionate about (I don’t do anything halfway…) Judith Warner’s piece in the NY Times Sunday Magazine really rubbed me the wrong way, or at least aspects of it did. (And I think the article brought the NY Times tally to something like 1,000 articles in print or on the web site about the seemingly-ever-inflammatory “tiger mother”!)

In trying to explain the potential appeal of Chua’s “tiger mother,” Warner hypothesizes that the “tiger mother” represents one end of the “Mommy madness” spectrum. On the one end, you have the “bad” mom, which for Warner seems to include both tough-love tiger moms & those who indulge in “happy hour” play dates (the latter, frankly, sounds like a great idea to me & not in a “bad mom” kind of way!). On the other end, you have (again, quizzicaly lumped together) attachment parenting, over-praising & over-indulgant parents, and happy moms. These categories, or at least Warner’s map of them, don’t quite seem to make sense to me. In the end she argues that all these approaches to parenting have a common thread: Parents grasp onto their chosen method in an attempt to convince themselves they have some control.

That conclusion seems to make sense, but is no more revolutionary than saying we all live by some moral code because we feel we must exert some semblance of control over our day-to-day lives. We must make choices & we must live by those choices. Same goes with parenting. Now, if you want to talk about control in parenting, that sounds like a really interesting discussion… but Warner doesn’t go that far. She stops short of engaging in whether or not parents have any real control, how much, how much would be too much, etc. & instead just leaves readers with her confused topology of parenting stereotypes.

Mostly, though, it’s Warner’s take on my own chosen approach to parenting that I turned me off. Frankly, I couldn’t take the article seriously after reading the first paragraph. … Warner lumps babywearing, extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping (all typical–though not definitive–practices associated with attachment parenting) together with, of all things, watching “Baby Mozart”?! Um, okay… I don’t know of any principle of attachment parenting that suggests one should “co-watch,” as she puts it, a TV show with your child.

More seriously, though, she lumps these parenting techniques, which are used with babies and young children, with the problems of over-praise, over-involvement and “loosey-goosey lovey-dovey” parenting. I’m not going to say that never the twain shall meet, but these are two (or three or four) vastly different discussion points. Babywearing & co-sleeping are about integrating baby into the lives of her parents, not about being “lovey-dovey” (though I suppose I should be ashamed that many disgusting lovey-dovey moments have ensued from these practices…). And extended breastfeeding is about respecting a young toddler’s needs and natural development, not about coddling or helicopter parenting (& extended breastfeeding is usually not something parents take lightly… MFA Dad & I talk often about whether T’s nursing is still a real need so that it doesn’t develop into an emotional crutch, which even as he reaches two I’m certain it has not).

Is it possible that there is a babywearer out there who does or will indulge is some over-praising? Sure. But I’ll put my money on the chance that there are plenty of stroller-pushing, “tough-love” parents out there who insist that their children “learn” to sleep alone from a young age yet who also succumb to the “peer pressure for never-ending sing-song voiced Mommy niceness” (Warner’s words) or give out too many undeserved “good jobs.” (Note, I really don’t care if you push your child in a stroller… heck, I took my son with me on a jog this morning in our jogging stroller… I’m just playing with the stereotypes & the black-&-white lines drawn in this & other articles… anyway, getting back to my point…). The one simply has nothing to do with the other.

Or does it? My own personal experience with attachment parenting has convinced me that I need to think long & hard about how to foster real self esteem in my son. And I’ve already concluded, based on reading and on my own observations as an AP mom that over-praise and smothering are precisely the tactics not to engage in.

In fact, few words make me cringe more than “good job” or “good boy” when directed at my son. I’m no “tiger mom” but I’m no push-over either, even if I nurse a toddler or occasionally share a bed with my son.


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Filed under Attachment Parenting, Parenting

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