Happy Friday, everyone! Today’s guest post is about a wonderful book, Beyond the Tiger Mom, by author Maya Thiagarajan. I’m very pleased to provide a brief overview of the book, an excerpt from the book, and an interview with Maya about her top three parenting hacks. This is a great read so I hope everyone enjoys!
In Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age, Maya Thiagarajan looks at the differences between Western and Asian approaches to parenting and education.
How do Asian parents prime their children for success from a young age? Why do Asian kids do so well in math and science? What is the difference between an Asian upbringing and a Western one? Why do some Asian mothers see themselves as “tiger moms” while others shun the label? How do Asian parents deal with their children’s failures? Is it sometimes good for children to fail? These are just a few of the compelling questions posed and answered in this fascinating new parenting book.
In Beyond the Tiger Mom, Thiagarajan examines the stereotypes and goes beneath the surface to explore what really happens in Asian households. How do Asian parents think about childhood, family and education—and what can Western parents learn from them?
Through interviews with hundreds of Asian parents and children, Thiagarajan offers a detailed look at their values, hopes, fears and parenting styles. Woven into this narrative are her own reflections on teaching and parenting in Asia and the West. Thiagarajan synthesizes an extensive body of research to provide accessible and practical guidelines for parents. Each chapter ends with a “How To” section of specific tips for Asian and Western parents to aid their child’s educational development both inside and outside the classroom.
In Beyond the Tiger Mom, you will learn how to:
– Help your child achieve maximum academic potential
– Train your child to expand his or her attention span
– Find the right balance between work and play
– Help your child see failure as a learning experience
– Learn how to raise tech-healthy kids
“In this exquisite book, Maya Thiagarajan distills her observations about parenting as a global citizen who has lived, studied and taught in India, the United States and Singapore. Drawing on a refreshing mix of comparative observations, Maya writes a compelling book to explain to parents how they can best support the development of their children, drawing on some of the best practices from Eastern and Western cultural traditions.
An accomplished teacher and skilled writer, a reflective parent, and above all a global citizen, Maya has produced a unique book that every parent trying to make sense of how best to help our children grow into global citizens should read.” – Fernando M. Reimers, Ford Foundation Professor of Practice in International Education, Harvard University
“Beyond the Tiger Mom is a brilliant book. Hard-hitting and brutally honest but also balanced, insightful, and funny. It avoids clichés and draws on years of research and personal multicultural teaching experience.” – Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package: What Really Determines Success
“Maya Thiagarajan brings a unique East-and-West perspective, and a refreshing balanced discussion, to hot-button issues in child rearing. Her interviews and ethnographic analyses deliver a wealth of insights into Asian vs. Western parenting decisions on topics ranging from math drills to self-esteem.” – Katharine Beals, Author of Raising a Left Brained Child in a Right Brained World
Excerpt from Beyond the Tiger Mom
In early 2010, my husband, children, and I packed up all our stuff, waved goodbye to our cramped apartment in Manhattan, and flew across the world to Singapore. This wasn’t my first cross-continental move: I was born and raised in India, but as a teenager, I moved to the US for college, and then stayed on there for graduate school and work. After fifteen years in the US, I found myself hungering for “home.” I was yearning for tropical sun and heat, for the sounds of Tamil and Hindi, for idli-dosa breakfasts, and for the color and chaos of India.
Since home—India—wasn’t really an option for my husband in terms of his career, we settled on Singapore, a tropical island and a global city that’s just a short flight from India. Sight unseen, my husband and I, along with our two young children, arrived in Singapore right before Chinese New Year. Amidst deafening drumbeats and colorful red and yellow lion dances, we ushered in the Year of the Tiger and began a new phase in our lives.
As an Indian in Singapore, I felt at home. It was as comfortable as a soft couch, and like the smell of jasmine flowers and garam masala, everything on the island felt familiar. Besides having the tropical heat and color in common, Singaporean and Indian cultures, too, are very much alike. Family and filial piety are of supreme importance; kids are expected to obey and respect their elders; every older person is an “auntie” or an “uncle”; and exams dominate the lives of young children and their families.
Six months after I arrived in Singapore, I began teaching high-school English at an elite international school on the island. My students came from a wide range of backgrounds: a third of them were East Asian, another third were South Asian (mostly Indian), and the rest were Western (European, Australian, and American). At my first set of student-teacher conferences, I was taken aback when an Indian mother turned to me and said, “Please be stricter with my son. He needs a firm hand, and he needs to take his studies much more seriously.” I had thought her son was doing just fine, but she clearly thought he could do much better. Later, at another parent conference that same evening, a Chinese mother whose English was not very good bowed low and said politely, “You must be thirsty from talking to so many parents.” I nodded, and she immediately ordered her ninth-grade son, who was attending the conference so that he could translate if necessary, to run and get me some water. She proceeded to thank me profusely for teaching her son. I was struck by how different these conversations were from the parent conferences that I had experienced in the US. As I began to spend more time interacting with East Asian and South Asian students and parents, and increasingly with local Singaporean families, I found myself reflecting on the way that these families viewed childhood, parenting, education, and the very purpose of life itself. I became increasingly interested in the Asian reverence for education, the nature of parent-child relationships, the number of hours that children spent on academic work, and the importance given to both mathematics and memorization. What values did these Asian families—both Asian expats and local Singaporeans—hold; where did they originate; and how did they shape and dictate the decisions that parents and students made? Is there anything that Western parents struggling to discipline or motivate their children can learn from Eastern parenting and education? And if so, what is it? These are some of the questions that this book seeks to address.
As a parent, I began to question my own paradigms of parenting and child development. When we moved to Singapore, my son was nearly five and my daughter was eighteen months old. We’ve been living in this little island nation for five years now; my son is almost ten, and my daughter is six. Both my kids think of Singapore as home and feel a deep attachment to the island. When we first arrived, I enrolled my son in the private international school where I teach, and placed my daughter in a local bilingual (Chinese-English) preschool. Once my daughter turned four, she, too, joined the international school where I teach. Though the curriculum and faculty at this school are distinctly Western, the student body is largely Asian, creating a multiplicity of cultural influences (as well as some cultural confusion) in my children’s lives. Growing up in Singapore, attending an international school that offers them both Western and Eastern influences, and engaging with East Asian and South Asian friends and family on a daily basis, my children are exposed to both the East and the West. As a parent, I have found myself carefully considering the strengths and weaknesses of East and West, Asia and America, and I find myself often caught in the middle, wondering what script to adopt, what decision to make, and what kind of a parent I want to be. Throughout this book, I trace my own journey as a parent and an educator, raising questions and reflecting upon the ways in which the cultures I have inhabited have shaped my parenting attitudes and decisions. This book’s thesis is that Western and Eastern parenting philosophies have vastly different strengths and weaknesses; therefore, parents on either side of the world can learn from each other—and in order to truly raise successful children in a global world, perhaps they need to learn from each other and blend the best of both worlds together. This book offers research-backed suggestions on how to combine the best aspects of Asian and American parenting and education philosophies. I hope you will find my ideas practical, useful, and inspiring, no matter where you are in the world.
Tell us your top three parenting hacks.
I’m not sure if the points below count as “hacks,” but hopefully they’ll be useful to parents who want to foster a learning culture in their homes. I talk about these points (and much more) in detail in my book, “Beyond The Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age.”
#1: Think like a teacher and seize teaching moments whenever you can:
As a teacher, I’m very aware of all the ways in which learning can happen, and I think that it’s important to recognize and capitalize on “teaching moments.”
When a child fails at something, for example they don’t get chosen for a team or a play, a parent’s tendency is to react emotionally. In contrast, most teachers will see these moments as “teaching moments.” So, my advice to parents is to think like a teacher! Instead of reacting emotionally, step back and help your child think through what they could do better next time. Help your child develop resilience by helping them think about mistakes and failures in a constructive way. A lot parents want to protect their children from failure, but as an educator, I think that some low-stakes failure in school can actually be healthy as it helps kids learn.
Similarly, when your child behaves badly or does something wrong, instead of getting angry, stay calm and think about the learning that can occur – we learn most from our mistakes and failures, but for that learning to occur, we need to think critically and constructively about what happened and what can be done differently next time.
#2: Use books for…everything!
When you read with your kids, think about all that you can do with the book. You can use books to teach empathy and kindness, you can use books to discuss big issues like bullying or racism, you can use books to help kids learn about the wider world.
Talk to kids about what they’re reading and engage in conversations about books. It will bring you closer to your children and help you teach them values. It will also signal to them that you value reading. One great “mummy hack” I use are informal book conversations at meals. We’ll go around the table, and each of us will talk about a book we read over the week and what we thought about it. Another thing I like to do is carve out an hour on Sunday afternoons for “family reading time.” We all grab our books and read together in the living room.
#3: There’s math all around us … use it to build a math culture.
One thing that really surprised me when I first arrived in Singapore was the tremendous attention that parents gave to math. One mother told me that she used the elevator in her apartment building to engage her child in math conversations. She mentioned that riding on an elevator is like “riding on a number line,” so it’s a great way to get kids to think about numbers, addition, and subtraction. Another mother talked about getting her kids to identify and recognize shapes in the playground. There’s so much math around us – find it and use it to fuel an early awareness and love of math in your kids.
About the Author
A global citizen, Maya Thiagarajan has lived and worked in India, Singapore, and the US. She earned a BA in English from Middlebury College and a Masters in Education Policy from Harvard University.
Maya began her teaching career with Teach For America, where she taught at a public school in Baltimore City for two years. She went on to teach high school English at some of America’s most prestigious independent schools. After a decade of teaching in the US, Maya moved to Singapore and began teaching at The United World College of South East Asia (UWC).
Struck by the different approaches to education and parenting that she encountered in Singapore, Maya began to interview Chinese and Indian parents living in Singapore. Using her own experiences as well as the stories of parents whom she interviewed, Maya wrote a book titled Beyond the Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Age.
In addition to teaching and writing, Maya also conducts workshops for parents and teachers on a range of education related topics
To learn more, go to http://www.mayathiagarajan.info/