Blogger Priyanka Sharma-Sindhar recently wrote a piece for the Atlantic titled “Being an ‘Elephant Mom’ in the Time of the Tiger Mother,” which takes a look at the softer side of parenting while challenging the tough love parenting approach writer Amy Chua discusses in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
For those of you unclear about what Tiger and Elephant moms are, here’s a breakdown.
Tiger Mother: A mother who is very strict with her child to foster an academically competitive spirit.
Parenting example: Chua shares a story in her book about how she hauled her then–7-year-old daughter's dollhouse out to the car and told her that the dollhouse would be donated to the Salvation Army piece by piece if the daughter didn’t master a difficult piano composition by the next day.
Elephant Mom: A mom who believes that she needs to nurture, protect and encourage her children.
Parenting example: Sharma-Sindhar shares a story in her Atlantic blog about how she herself failed a Hindi test when she was in fifth or sixth grade. She went to her mother, teary-eyed, with her results. Her mom said that it didn’t matter. There were many more tests ahead. As Sharma-Sindhar sobbed in her mother’s lap, she stroked her hair, hugged her and told me her there would be another test, and she’d pass that one.
Finding Your Own Parenting Style
My daughter, Lena, is only 15 months old, so I’m not dealing with tests and piano compositions just yet, but I am still trying to find my parenting style. It’s tough.
While I’m an elephant mom in the nurturing sense—I hold her quite a bit, still rock her to sleep, etc.—I think that just comes with the territory of raising a toddler. I suppose I have tiger mom tendencies when it comes to teaching Lena to share. If I see Lena isn’t playing nice with another toddler—taking toys aggressively and saying “mine”—I make her give the toy she’s fighting over to the other child. She’s not always happy about it, but she listens and quickly moves on (most of the time … we’ve of course had our moments of meltdowns!). Alternately, if I see she is sharing nicely, I praise her by giving her high fives and clapping my hands. She gets really excited and will normally start sharing every toy because she knows it makes me happy.
At the toddler age, it’s all about setting boundaries. Lena knows what she can/can’t do. She understands I’m in control, but, most important to me, she understands I’m her safety net. If anything is wrong or she is upset, I am there no matter what.
While I can’t predict the type of mother I’ll be to an adolescent or teenager, I would always like to be that safety net for Lena. So, perhaps my parenting style isn’t animal-like at all. I’m not an elephant. I’m not a tiger. I am Lena’s mom. I am what she needs me to be. No label necessary!
I do think Sharma-Sindhar said it right: “The best parent you can be is the one that you want to be. There is no perfect parent, just as there is no perfect kid.”
Please share your thoughts in the comments below.