The latest battle of the parenting tribes pits the Tiger Moms against the Fun Slobs. In one corner growls Amy Chua, proud hot-houser of her daughters, whose book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother extols the virtues of achievement-oriented, ‘Chinese-style’ parenting. In the other chills Bryan Caplan, whose book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids tells us that we could have more fun raising our little darlings if we just recognised that none of this pushy parenting works in any case. Our children’s fate is in their genes, apparently – and nothing that parents do (at least after very early childhood) makes a blind bit of difference to how our children will turn out.
…The truth is that there is a lot more to raising children than this. As adults, it doesn’t really matter if we see ourselves as Tiger Moms, Fun Slobs, or some other category entirely, provided that we are clear on two things. First of all, to the extent that parents can shape how our children turn out, it will not be determined by the number of hours parents put into their children’s piano practice, but by the context of our family lives as a whole. It is simply bizarre to pretend that the impact of particular parenting practices can be separated out from other factors, from where families live and how they earn their living, to their values, relationships and experiences. In any event, there are all sorts of other experiences that children have – through friends and schools, for example – that will have a big impact beyond the realm of the family.