High Achieving Teens or Parents with High Expectations?


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Parenting styles are often debated, from baby books to parenting websites, to even Today Show interviews. The reason for this is that no one has found one distinctly ‘right’ way to raise a successful child.
In the Lisa Ling documentary appropriately titled Extreme Parenting, she showed two sets of parents simultaneously with vastly different parenting styles. One was the stereotypical, white tiger mom; her children played tennis, had piano lessons, morning math problems, and summer was filled with flashcards. Her two boys went to a year-round private school for $40,000 with no summer while also giving her children a daily schedule with no more than 5 minutes to spare between events. The parents even require their children to wear collared shirts daily unlike their counterparts in superhero t-shirts. The mother, seen as the alpha in the scenario views her parenting in the way that, “If we instill these values now, the structure, the discipline, the foundation that we feel we’re setting now is going to dictate their lives: and there’s nothing more important than that.”
I’m aware that I am ‘just’ a teenager in the eyes of some out there, but aren’t I, at least for the moment, most impacted by the issue? Without giving children the independence to think and decide for themselves, could they grow up to be robots with resentment? Ling quotes, “At what point do the parents desires diverge from that of the child?”
In the controversial Amy Chua book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the tiger mom, defined as “a mother who is overly strict with her child in order to foster an academically competitive spirit intended to direct a child towards financially successful careers,” explains just that, her journey to ensure that her children become superior to others and are lead into the glittering, gold pool of success. Even the family described in the Lisa Ling documentary, the Bischoni’s, seems to have imported this culture for their own children. The mother even described herself as a “soviet coach” when watching her two boys play tennis: all of this, to ensure that her children have the most competitive and lasting opportunities to bask in success. But, in an analysis by slate.com they found a very different path to the same goal.
Supportive parenting styles were found to have the most high achieving, happiest children. Success is the goal of strict, controlling parents after all, but they were seen to have the lowest achieving children.

This graph shows the parenting styles (in black) and both the emotional and performance based effects.

This graph shows the parenting styles (in black) and both the emotional and performance effects.

It is noted that this study was in relation to criticism on Chua’s book, but the analysis cannot be overlooked.
Focusing on your children walking the halls of Congress, rolling in money, and being the lead violinist of the New York Symphony orchestra will get both them and you running a risk of many consequences. In an analysis of parenting styles entitled, “The Relationship Between Parenting and Delinquency: A Meta-analysis” which was published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, it was reported that a psychologically controlling parenting style like those who select habits for their children was strongly associated with anti-social behavior and delinquency in the children of these parents. The effect was strongest for children whose parents combined a controlling style with neglect, hostility or rejection.
It has been studied that children and teenagers who lack the option to make decisions for themselves tend to have higher dependency rates and fail to be independent. While parents can often condemn aspects of adolescence like ‘finding yourself’ to be unnecessary principles to get in the way of success (aka things they find important like grades, athletics, perfection, etc.), without allowing children to develop on their own teenagers lack the fundamental skills to be productive adults. Overprotective parenting is doing the complete opposite of protection, but is setting children behind when the ‘18+ adult’ comes around.
This is not an article meant to attack Amy Chua, or scold Bischoni family and their military-like discipline, but meant to give information to any parent, self-proclaimed tiger mom or not, that controlling and criticizing your children can have dire consequences. Speaking from the experiences of myself and my peers, most teenagers put enough pressure on themselves in one way or another, and harsh parental influences can be detrimental to the overall success of a child; it is the job of a parent to protect their children but not shield them from using their own judgement and making their own choices. Teenagers are often known for having ‘attitudes’ as many parents will say, which most tend to grow out of, but the consequences of resentment toward parents are things that children and teenagers will not forget. In other words, teenagers will not forget an iron fist.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.” While he may not have been talking about Amy Chua or the parents of collared shirt twins, the message endures. Will these children grow up to resent their parents for the freedom that was stolen from them? That question remains…

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High Achieving Teens or Parents with High Expectations?