From the comments

Albert Ling writes:

How about this: Amy Chua’s method is better in raising successful kids career-wise, at the expense of emotional attachment, family warmth, etc. It’s a trade-off. If you envision your child’s future life to be of economic hardship and misery, maybe it’s a GOOD trade-off (as evidenced by the stricter methods of parenting on poorer societies, and also in the past when being poor really influenced your happiness).

If you already earn more than USD 25,000$ a year (which is the threshold after which income stops correlating positively with happiness), then it’s probably better to be a B.Caplan-style parent. (if your goal is to maximize your child’s total future happiness).

I think the answer is that simple.


This would make sense except that there's no evidence that Amy Chua's method is better in raising successful kids career-wise or otherwise.

Amy Chua's method is better in meeting her own narcissistic needs for promoting her success as a parent through the achievements of her children. You are all missing the point. Tiger mom parenting styles are designed to maximize immediate benefit to the parent, not future benefit to the children.

Here is an interesting anecdote of my own experiences growing up in the system, which I believe is responsible for making me reasonably successful. Take it as you will.

The greatest benefit from the tiger parenting style in my view is peer reinforcement. Parents are more likely to value education and to associate with similar parents. As a result, growing up my companions in school and socially were all skilled in sport, music, art, math, chess, science, etc. This put great pressure on me not to "lose face" or appear inferior with them. As a result, I dedicated significant time to my studies and standardized tests, which allowed me to attend a highly rated university and enter a competitive career.

As a corollary, from what I've observed of laddism in the UK and slackers in the US, their everyday companions do not value education and hard work. Instead, those traits are denigrated in favour of parties and drugs.

That's it exactly.

Except that at much as that seems to be common sense, it's not what the data show, according to Caplan. He says the studies consistently show that parental style has about zero effect on income after age 30. Zero. Chua obviously feels differently but she has no evidence other than her feeling.

Zero STATISTICAL effect. Maybe.

As opposed to what, anecdotal effect? Fantasy effect? When you're dealing with studies on people, where there are so many variables you can't control, statistical evidence is the only kind you have.

If, on the other hand, what you really meant to say was "zero average effect," then sure, it's possible that tiger parenting leads to no effect on the average outcome, but produces a higher variance. In that case, if there's a real benefit to being out on the tail (perhaps because the average sucks), then tiger parenting might make sense. That's basically what Albert Ling is saying in the comment that Tyler quoted. However, lets keep in mind that there is no evidence that tiger parenting really does produce higher variance; it's just a hypothesis. Moreover, it's a hypothesis that is motivated largely by a desire to salvage the proposition that parenting style really can affect outcomes, which makes it a little suspect.

I could give a flip about tiger parenting. Haven't read either book, but the discussion has been that parenting is not as strong as genetics. Big whoop. Well, to me, that's like saying you can never teach a Chimp calculus. That's fine, but you can teach kids calculus. Sending kids to school IS parenting. Genetics via mate selection IS parenting. Having kids in the first place IS parenting. I doubt parenting has zero effect, although I agree it can be washed out compared to things like genetics and many other things. I suspect what Bryan did was show that parenting is one of many factors, any one of which other than genetics has a hard time competing statistically with genetics. Parenting "style" is very costly, and yes, as a parent, I can definitely tell my efforts are largely washed out by the things I don't control. That's not to say that his premise is wrong. I agree with it. We need more parenting! Have more kids!

I'd be interested to see more studies determining the rate of effect of individual parents versus social norms. It isn't for nothing that kids sit for hours at computers and TVs when previous generations had much more constant contact with their parents throughout a lot of their youth. People like to think of the past as typically "Victorian" in terms of social norms, but I think that's really misleading.

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that at times, parents were far more straightforward and open with their kids in the past, sharing in all kinds of discussions which our polished, politically correct society seems to "abolish" today. If parents don't acknowledge some of the problems facing kids today, including spirituality, children will have no models to follow but social ones which are modeled around a hierarchical social organization. Without more significant, mutualist input on the individual level, the nurturing characteristics of parenting are wiped away in the stead of a very harsh, non-nurturing environment.

As opposed to what, anecdotal effect? Fantasy effect? When you’re dealing with studies on people, where there are so many variables you can’t control, statistical evidence is the only kind you have.

This should have been enough evidence for you to see how weak your position is. The sheer number of relevant variables dilutes the effect of any common-sense cause/effect relationships. If anything, pointing out the dilute nature of statistical evidence makes it a weak argument against Chua's proposition.

This should have been enough evidence for you to see how weak your position is.

Certainly, it would have been, if I were completely ignorant of statistical methods and how to use them. Fortunately, I'm not, so it didn't.

Once again, if you want to attack the statistics, by all means, do so; after all, it's not as if poorly done statistical studies are completely unheard of. But, if you want to do that, you actually have to do the homework, examine experimental protocols, analyze statistical power, and so on. Anecdotes and appeals to "common sense" don't qualify. On the other hand, if that's too much work for you, you might want to consider as a heuristic that the researchers who performed these experiments went in to them hoping to prove that parenting does affect outcomes, and in the end they had to grudgingly conclude that their data supported the opposite conclusion.

This should have been enough evidence for you to see how weak your position is. The sheer number of relevant variables dilutes the effect of any common-sense cause/effect relationships. If anything, pointing out the dilute nature of statistical evidence makes it a weak argument against Chua’s proposition.

This is a weird argument. I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around it.

You're saying that there are so many variables that influence the results that "tiger parenting" doesn't have much effect, so therefore ... therefore ... therefore it's hard to argue that it doesn't have much effect?

I just don't get it.

"You’re saying that there are so many variables that influence the results that “tiger parenting” doesn’t have much effect, so therefore … therefore … therefore it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t have much effect?"

I'm not sure if that's the point he's making, but what the evidence seems to suggest is that "tiger parenting" doesn't have enough of an effect that we should advocate all parents do the same thing. This is not saying that this style of parenting might be a better tool for some individuals than other parenting styles. My 2-cents is that 1) it's not a one size fits all solution and 2) if we want to raise the average by improving outcomes for the children at the lower end of the scale, we would be better off making sure they have enough good food to eat, get enough sleep, have access to health care, and have places where they can study and exercise, which seems obvious for middle class families, who have these things and who are the kinds of families with children who read parenting books, but are less likely to need them. This but still a real problem for many other families.

Surprised with these responses. The effects are hard to measure due to the many variables which dilute any potential effects. This is true for many, if not all, economic correlative effects. Furthermore, a lot of variables go into these dynamics which are taken for granted - and if and when they make rare changes, they can be impossible to recognize.

In reality, the "tiger parenting" could have very serious effects on children - and yet be completely obfuscated by all of the rest of social input that comes after it. Pointing out the myriad of variables that go into something merely point to our own limitations in studying correlations - since each new variable represents a relative, but not a nominal, contraction of the relevance of the original variable.

Dean, I'm still baffled.

Imagine that somebody came to you and said "I have a great way to pick stocks. Stocks picked this way will go up."

And you test the method, and when you test it you can't find any difference in results from throwing darts. You say, "It didn't work!".

And he responds, "Well, but there are lots of other variables that affect the results, so much that you won't actually see a correlation. Still, my method works."

I just don't get it.

Is statistical a dirty word now? It just means that there's a whole lot of examples and you have to do math to figure out what's happening.

There is plenty of reason to hold to the common sense, even if the science hasn't provided support for it. These sorts of demographic studies are really hard to do, especially when trying to capture something as nebulous as "parenting style." Not finding correlation isn't the same as finding conclusive evidence against.

"Is statistical a dirty word now?"

No! What we have are comments like:

"He says the studies consistently show that parental style has about zero effect on income after age 30. Zero. Chua obviously feels differently but she has no evidence other than her feeling."

Chua does have evidence, her kids. So we have Chua saying most people are doing it wrong, therefore we don't have a lot of data comparing doing it wrong to doing it right.

All I'm saying is what the discussion has been about is comparing DNA with near zero variance (identical twins) to parenting and apparently concluding that parenting is not important because it has greater statistical variance.

What Bryan is saying, in effect, is "you are probably doing it wrong, so stop doing it so vigorously."


It's not that. Even Caplan says parenting affects outcomes. He just says it doesn't all that much. But noone has done the actual control whereby a bunch of parents do what Chua suggests compared to a bunch of parents do what Caplan suggests. Dean also raises an interesting point. When life was about farming and one needed the 10,000 hours to develop expertise, parenting was probably a lot more important compared to now where we have no clue what our kids are going to want to do.

If you want to get to specifics, what aspect do you want to talk about? We can start with this:

Chua does have evidence, her kids.

No, she doesn't. Her kids are a very small sample. Moreover, she ignores data points that disconfirm her hypothesis, such as her husband. These two factors together are what makes her observations of her children's outcomes mere anecdotes, rather than data, and anecdotes aren't evidence of anything.

Even Caplan says parenting affects outcomes. He just says it doesn’t all that much.

Now you're quibbling. Where the effects are measurable, they are much, much smaller than people generally suppose, so much so that nobody would seriously argue that they represent a plausible trade-off against the drawbacks of high-stress parenting. Functionally, that's what people mean when they say "no effect".

When life was about farming and one needed the 10,000 hours to develop expertise, parenting was probably a lot more important compared to now where we have no clue what our kids are going to want to do.

Maybe, but that's all just speculation and supposition. If indeed a more interventionist parenting style can produce higher variance in outcomes, then it might be a good strategy, if the median outcome is starvation on a failed farm. However, it's not clear that parental intervention actually produces higher variance, nor that the median outcome for children of relaxed farmer parents is starvation (remember that the question here is not whether the farmer teaches his kids about farming; it's about whether he can make them better farmers by trying to force them to learn more than they are inclined to). So, the "parenting was more important back in the day" story is an interesting hypothesis, but without evidence that's all it is.

That's evidence. It may not be statistics.

"Now you’re quibbling."

No I'm not, I'm being precise. For example, one of his statistics is that having an additional child (which is really the point of the book) may reduce that kid's probability of finishing college by 4%. Now to me, that would be a fair tradeoff if your goal is to create more decent humans, but for that kid, there is a difference on that measure.

"Functionally, that’s what people mean when they say “no effect”." Maybe, maybe not. What people in here seem to be saying is that there is "NO EFFECT" and that is different, because if there were really no effect, we wouldn't expect most of the measures cited to have small effects.

And that leads to my final quibble "quibbles." You have to focus efforts in parenting, while the research Bryan cites talks about all these crazy things like happiness and clearly highly heritable things like intelligence.
"It was the only study of its kind on twins separated from infancy." "Only" thank God. It involved 13 kids. "Neubauer realized that public opinion would be so against the study that he decided not to publish it. The results of the study have been sealed until 2066 and given to an archive at Yale University."

Happiness is only one measure. You doubtlessly want your children to live LONGER lives along with happy lives. Well, then you'd better prepare them for a more successful career (

And, here's a selfish reason for Bryan Caplan fans: the more money your kids make, the more likely they are to give some back to mommy and daddy.

It's interesting that people will tie themselves into such knots to avoid parting with cherished beliefs. Bryan's argument is that the evidence, the best data we know how to collect, shows that Chua's method isn't "better at raising successful kids career-wise." If his evidence is correct, there is no trade-off because the benefits of "tiger parenting" are an illusion. You can dispute the evidence or its interpretation, of course, but then you actually have to attack the evidence, preferably with more and better evidence of your own. Anecdotes and just-so stories don't cut it. This is a basic tool in what Carl Sagan referred to as the "baloney detection kit," and it's a little depressing that so many people, right on up to ivy-league professors like Amy Chua, are missing it.

Yeah, I think it is funny how even many of Chua's detractors are willing to accept the assertion that her parenting methods produce more successful children at all.

I don't know where the $25,000 figure comes from but Daniel Kahneman says the threshold is actually $75,000.

It comes from thin air, as does the $75,000 figure. Copious evidence suggests that happiness is log-linear in wealth.

Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility, anyone?

A friend had a daughter and decided that the main risk to daughters in their teens is unsuitable swains and broken hearts. So he bought her a field and a pony. Worked a treat.

I don't necessarily agree that Chua's methods necessarily lead to greater economic success but rather that they may decrease the variance in economic outcomes among children raised with her methods. I can't imagine someone raised in this style would ever found a Microsoft of Facebook because Chua would make it impossible for them to drop out of school and eat ramen for two years.

Funny, I love raman yet I feel that they have a detrimental effect on the mind of would-be entrepreneurs.

Personally I feel that Chua's methods are okay when it comes to disciplining wild kids who are absolutely out of line and who need some order in their lives. Otherwise, to put chains upon an already normal lifestyle will only put its owner on a path of (painfully slow) self-destruction.
Chua's methods are TERRIBLE for inducing self-motivation (or at least motivation with a clear goal), a major component of self-made successes. She's breeding soldiers, not thinkers and innovators.

I suspect that Bryan shows that parenting doesn't matter by looking at the people who are doing it wrong.

My problem with Tiger parenting is that they pick no-brainers like violin and piano (and math): Not scalable. As soon as everyone else does that (yes, even math), the no-brainer career path is a mistake.

I suspect that Bryan shows that parenting doesn’t matter by looking at the people who are doing it wrong.

Your suspicions are wrong, as that is not in fact what he did. If you actually read his argument you could form conclusions based on what he actually did, rather than basing them on what you suspect (incorrectly, it turns out) that he did.

He looked at what almost everyone does. Maybe almost everyone is doing it wrong.

More precisely - the presumed variation in parenting presumably exposed by twin adoption studies accounts for almost none of the actual variation in outcomes. From this fact, Caplan concludes that parenting doesn't matter (or rather, the parenting that most people do doesn't matter nearly as much as most people think it does). But this technique can't identify the outliers that actually do matter, nor even show whether such outliers definitely do or don't exist.

For all Caplan knows, Chua's methods MAY actually work, i.e. they may have a significant and lasting effect on children's outcomes. If Chua's methods are not well-represented in the twin studies, the studies would not detect this lasting effect. And for all Chua knows, the effect (if there is one) could be negative rather than positive. Or it could be as illusionary as Caplan thinks it is.

My take-away from Caplan's points is not that you can't make a difference so stop trying so hard, it's that what most people do doesn't make a difference so don't do that - keep trying hard to find something that does make a difference, and do that once you find it.

In short - making conclusions based on the lack of variation in outcomes is not nearly as important as understanding the range and nature of variation in the inputs.

I find both of these parenting "philosophies" lacking in that the key is to tailor your parenting, much as a good teacher would do with his/her teaching, in response to the child.

Some kids learn best through examples/parables while others need literal direction. Some are motivated by encouragement/chastisement while others are more self-driven.

Amy Chua's children are more than likely already predisposed genetically to be academically on the right side of the bell curve. Thus, it's easy for her to preach that kind of parenting since she has no experience with other kinds of kids.

I would suspect that anyone who believes parenting is the key to a child's success is quite certain that children develop those learning methods from the parenting itself. Of course the problem is that everything is heavily correlated, so good luck finding consistent causation. I don't think it exists.

I thought that part of Bryan's analysis included income effects, but perhaps I am mistaken.

I know that other studies have shown that experience doesn't always correlate with income or "professional success". There was a study that showed students who were accepted to Harvard but chose not to go were just as successful as those who matriculated.

Also, more recent studies have shown US$75,000 to be the point at which income no longer correlates with happiness (although varies quite a bit by geography in the US).

Raising an amiable dolt in a successful society might result in greater happiness for that individual. But how successful will that society be if everyone follows that path?

A society made up of individuals who have been raised to value excellence and hard work is going to be much more successful than a society made up of slackers who "want a life" (i.e., more time to watch TV). It will be hard for that amiable dolt to maintain his happiness in an unsuccessful society while the hard worker in a successful society should find it much easier.

A "tragedy of the commons" situation. Society can handle a few slackers. It cannot handle all slackers. Parents have a duty not only to their children but also to society to raise children that are not leaches but contributors.

I agree. In my country in which the average parenting style is possibly the least strict worldwide, "slacker-dom" is starting to become a serious social problem.

So a "leach" watches TV whereas a "contributor" posts comments on blogs at 9am ?

Well, i'm not in your timezone. I thought my very short post made that clear.

Again, the implicit assumption that parenting matters. Bryan's evidence shows that it does not.

You can accept or reject his data and conclusions (myself, I'm not so sure), but don't ignore them.

"Again, the implicit assumption that parenting matters. Bryan’s evidence shows that it does not."

To my mind, that's not exactly what is going on here.

First Bryan rules out all obviously bad parenting (locking kids in the closet). Then, presumably because all the other data kinda sucks, he resorts to twin studies because they don't suck as much. He makes some assumptions about twin studies I can't get into because I barely understand them. Then he concludes that genetics matter more than parenting, but not that parenting doesn't matter.

What I'm not clear on is how he categorizes parenting styles so that you aren't just measuring pluses and minuses that average to cancel eachother out. For one thing, a lot of parenting is correcting for the poor parenting of the peer group.

Eh, that's bullshit. You know Zuckerberg's parents gave him a really hard time because he put programming over school. If Chua was his mother she would have beat the shit out of him, he would have stayed and Harvard, and he would have spent 40 years in pretty boring mediocore corporate programming work. Instead he was able to spend his time how he wanted, and it was worth billions.

Not making kids work doesn't mean they are going to watch TV. For the ones that do I don't think its going to make much of a difference.

I've mentioned this to my parents and the very reasonable and convincing answer was:

"Consider the probability. Of all the Harvard dropouts, people who start businesses, etc., how many of them end up more successful (measured in terms of income) than someone who follows a steady corporate career? Can you guarantee that you'll be that person?"

The payoff may be large, but only if you consider yourself the lucky one or two who make it big; the losers are never featured on magazines and TV. For someone who is moderately conservative (in life, not politics), it's better to choose an average payoff with better odds than going for broke.

Harvard dropouts that don't make it can always do the corporate thing later in life. If suck failed he wouldn't end up at walmart his whole life. He would still end up making six figures at mid age. So he makes 150k instead of 250k if he stayed on the straight and narrow. At the end of the day it's all the same unsatisfying upper middle class mediocrity.

Right... I personally know Harvard *graduates* who have been chugging along on 50k jobs years after graduation. Heck, if you go into the sciences or education you can be assured of a low salary. That's just a difference in sector of employment.

More important are the failures you never hear about. What's that statistic about 90% of all new businesses failing within 10 years? Sure, you may be able to transition into a corporate career later, but that's years of earnings you've had to forgo. You've probably taken on debt to start a business. Also, your peers who started the corporate grind years earlier are now much further along than you.

Entrepreneurship can be rewarding to a select few, but it's undoubtedly very high risk. I'd only recommend it to 2 groups of people: those who are personally wealthy and can withstand a few failures and those who are so down on their luck that they have nothing much to lose. But hey, that's my own admittedly cautious view on life and career.

At the end of the day, it matters whether you are a risk-taking personality or not.

A famous Czech psychologist Plzák divided men into three rough categories: bureaucrat, technician and player, with some finesses within, and overlaps.

If you're born a player, or a mix of a technician and a player, you just can't help but start some business.

This is basically ceding the argument to Chua. "You can change your kids if you really, really want to." Caplan's point is that you basically can't.

I have not read Selfish Reasons, but based on some of the articles and podcasts I have encountered about it, isn't the entire point of it to prove as false a premise such as "Amy Chua’s method is better in raising successful kids career-wise, at the expense of emotional attachment, family warmth, etc?" I think Caplan would like say that the trade-off is non-existent. You're mostly just incurring cost without creating benefit.

If this premise were true, then yes, this would make a lot of sense.

This commentator clearly does not understand the core of Bryan Caplan's argument, which is strong genetic determinism.

Look Caplan relies a lot on the work of people like Sacerdote. But Sacerdote says in his own review ("Nature and nurture effects on children's outcomes") that the adoption literature and similar studies don't pick up the observe effect of narrow interventions like Catholic schools which seem to be much more effective. Yet parents make such choices. It suggests that the fineness of the statistical data don't allow us to judge more parent specific interventions. And as Caplan himself admits, there's simply no study of Asian parenting. In fact Asian parenting with adoption of non Asian children (racially) is virtually a non starter since such numbers are small and not subject to easy study). So maybe there aren't studies that show parenting matters a lot but then again the existing studies are too crude to show there's no effect of many interventions.

That is my point as well. From everything I read it seems like the studies currently out there are just too generic and even if we had unlimited access to people's lives it would be incredibly difficult to measure the influence of X or Y in a certain outcome (even worse when the variable is something like income.

So, the bottom line is, have more kids and put them up for adoption.

Kids and young adults who commit suicide are most likely among the unhappiest. Psychologists for decades have looked into the parenting style that leads to youth suicide. The generalization they have come up with is that such kids are forced to go without structure. Yet, we have a society that loves to wrap youth suicide around the necks of the Amy Chua's.

Call me crazy, but I want more daughter to live *virtuous* lives.

I want MY daughter to live a virtuous life. Everyone else's not so much. What fun would that be?

Classic prisoner's dilemma

I meant "my" not "more". sheesh. editing.

+1 to Tom and Urso.

$25,000?? I could have sworn I saw something on Freakonomics that said it was $60/65k...will Google...

From the Guardian--
Children with university-educated parents spend twice as much time doing homework as their classmates from less well educated families, a report said today.

"spend twice as much time doing homework": what a stupid measure of taking homework seriously.

Maybe Amy Chua’s method is better in raising successful kids in china and Japan were there seems to be less variation in IQ and other natural talents than in the USA. Yao Ming being an exception.

What basis are you using to measure "natural talents"? I believe that the parenting method being used in East Asian countries is better at bringing up the aggregate IQ by instilling discipling and competitive pressure in the middle of the bell curve. A more nurturing Western system of parenting expands the variance while lowering the median. Extreme slackers and hugely successful entrepreneurs are more likely to emerge from this system, but a random student will fail at competing with a random East Asian student in reasonably comparable measures of achievement such as standardized testing.

The other thing you have going on in China is a long history of educational achievement being the surest ticket out of a life of poverty. The way for a peasant with no assets and no personal connections to find economic success was to study hard and pass the civil service examination. This has been part of the Chinese cultural myth for so long, that their culture has organized itself around this belief of education and hard study being the key to success, except nowadays instead of the civil service exam, students study hard from childhood to do well at the gaokao and thus attend the top universities where they'll hopefully get a job from one of the top companies.

And BTW let's be honest we often push our kids to raise our own status. Saying my son is in Harvard feels good and it does not matter much if it leads to more income.

It wouldn't feel good to me. I'd feel like a failure.

You went to Yale?

So, is Caplan's argument that parenting style does not matter? If so, then Amy Chua is not any way hurting her kids. So, if she enjoys structuring their lives in the belief that she is helping them advance in the world, than that is a perfectly fine thing to do. It is just a neutral mutation, hobby. So maybe the for people who are that way inclined the best approach is Amy Chua's: according to Caplan it won't hurt, but it might conceivably help (and be seen to help when one day someone finds an omitted variable in those studies Caplan is pushing.

What do the high suicide rates in South Korea say about tiger parenting? Or maybe the better question is what they say about tiger parenting in a society like South Korea where most of the parents are tiger parents (presumably)...

But that is Chis's point. If Caplan's right, Chua's methods don't hurt and might matter if Caplan's studies are wrong.
Furthermore, they might not affect success but they affect the way parents feel about how their children should behave IN THE SHORT RUN (which Caplan believes is relevant). Seems like he can't fault Chua on his own terms except to argue that he finds her behavior offensive.

Actually, what Bryan is saying by imposing that work on themselves, they'd have a much better return with half the effort spread over twice the kids. This is almost trivially true! Which means that it should be shouted from the rooftops!

Chua's methods, even if successful, aren't good for society. She's teaching them to beat the ivy admissions system, not actually be productive citizens. So it's all just zero sum competition for credentials to unlock fairly boring but well payed careers in value transference industries.

And yet we pay a load of money to support the educational credentialing system while providing almost zero support to parents during the gestational and first 6 years of life where the heavy lifting of parenting is done and the majority of effects take place...not that we should muck that up too.

Well, I see nothing wrong with gaming the system. If you want to channel more "productive" behaviour, incentivize the right career paths. Personally I think higher pay is needed in science and education as opposed to encouraging rent-seeking financial "engineering".

Okay, here goes.

By analogy: What Bryan is saying to Amy Chua is like going to Arnold Schwarzenegger and telling him, hey Arnold, your twin Danny Devito is just as good at marathons as you are!

Check the video at the bottom. I'd almost say it's a hoax, except noone would make up how jacked up the medical system and psychology field is portrayed.

I think Danny Devito would be more like the complete deadbeat parents who fight all the time and create a horrible environment for their kids.

The isolated twin studies, if I understand them correctly, had a wide range of parenting. But once the children were in a fairly stable home, there was very little variation based on parenting especially after age 30. Chua's style may work for getting into Harvard, but kids including myself find themselves often going in drastically different directions after college. Where they finally end up depend more on genetics.

Basically, Caplan's saying this. Love your kids like you naturally would anyway, but don't try to go crazy being perfectionistic worrying about every last thing. The more hands-off style of 1950's parents works just as well.

i'm truly disturbed by the fact that most comments ignore the well being of the kids in the present, for some speculative future in which they may apply to harvard, or be a doctor, or whatever. all you know that exists for sure while parenting is the present. making it suck, or very unpleasant, for some speculative future benefit is pretty lunatic, for pretty obvious reasons (you don't really need caplan's evidence for this). put another way, does the sacrifice for better prospects ever stop? should chua's kids be miserable forever in the hopes of even better prospects however defined at age 60? you've got to cash in your chips at some point, and can't assume you'll be around to do so later.

The thing is that by the kids' own admission, they are not miserable. Reports of the mother's harsh tactics are vastly overblown. If you have kids of your own, you'll know that they want to be lazy and play all day. "Work" is not fun for anyone. However, the lesson that sometimes we have to do what we don't want to do is necessary.

I don't know how many of the commenters here have actually read Chua's book, but even within the book she concedes that "Tiger parenting" doesn't always work.

It provoked a major family crisis with her younger daughter (who rebelled and refused to play violin after a while), it didn't work for her own father (who became estranged from his parents), and it wasn't necessary for her husband, also a successful Yale professor, to achieve a high degree of professional success commensurate with her own. Chua effectively admits that she realized she took things too far, and would do things differently if she had the chance.

More to the point, even using the limited anecdotal sample of her own two kids, its not yet possible for Chua to measure her own success, since her own children are still teenagers, and their ultimate "outcome" isn't known yet. Unlike some of the Asian societies, we don't live in a society where nearly all future economic and social success is determined by the results of high-school level standardized testing.

I would tend to think (again without empirical evidence) that being the children of two Yale law professors, each from strong academic backgrounds and with strong family academic histories, Chua's kids probably have both the brains/drive ("nature") and environment ("nurture") to do well academically and in later life, without the need for what she termed "Tiger" parenting.

Its almost a certainty that neither one would have become quite so accomplished a musician without the externally imposed discipline of "Tiger" parenting, but that's somewhat of a secondary question. If your goal is to create a child musical "prodigy", well. . .to achieve that level of proficiency with a musical instrument requires many many years of hard work. You pretty much HAVE to be a "Tiger" parent there, just because its highly unnatural for the vast majority of small children to want to practice a musical instrument for hours on end to the exclusion of everything else to obtain high-level mastery of an instrument. I think if you look at the young performers, most of them come from these disciplinarian parenting styles. As one example, Paganini, who was as child prodigy violinist, and who went on to become the most accomplished violin soloist in Europe, was physically beaten by his father as a child if he didn't practice adequately!

Now, gone to high school in a community that was 1/3 Asian, having my undergrad from MIT, a doctoral degree, and my post-doctoral work at Harvard, I've had quite a bit of exposure to "Tiger" kids at different levels of the academic ladder. Anecdotally, my experiences there were that while plenty of "Tiger" kids are represented at these top levels of academics, "Tiger" parenting is neither necessary nor sufficient to get there, nor does it necessarily ensure success once there. Plenty of the top kids were NOT raised in the "Tiger" style, and at the undergrad level, some of the ones that were took the first chance they could at not being under the direct influence of overbearing parents to rebel, start drinking, etc.

Actually, there is an instrument which many children like to use for hours, and that is your voice.

I wonder why so many parents force their children into the piano and the violin, and don't motivate them to sing instead.

It is logistically easier to sing than to play the piano. You carry your vocal chords everywhere with you - try this with any other instrument (flute excepted).

It also feels more natural.

And, last but not least, persistent vocal training gives even your speaking voice a subtle, but audible quality.

Excellent observation. I would argue that we should see a tendency Tiger Mother-style parenting (or at least people who say they believe in it and the goals Chua pursues) in cultures, and people from cultures that a) value forestalling reward in the pursuit of other goals but b) aren't well-developed, and c) have access to education and wealth. If this is the case, because c) would tend to change b), then Tiger Mother style style parenting would decrease over time in such cultures. Compare Japanese parenting styles now to a generation ago, and China a generation in the future to today, or America 1940 to 1970.

"If you are confident that your child has the ability to earn..."

Isn't that the whole point? What parent, in this day and age, is foolish enough to make that assumption?

Here's a statistic that is based on one, and only one assumption:

If you agree that Amy Chua's parenting style is more common amongst Asian-Americans. If you agree that Asians, on average, push their kids harder than most other ethnic groups, then here's the statistic that you much look at:

Statistically, how many Asian-Americans are net-takers of the Welfare State? How many are on Welfare, Medicaid, Food Stamps, etc.?

From a "what's good for the country" perspective, Tiger appears to be the way to go.

From a "I'm guessing that the people on Welfare, Medicaid, etc. are less happy than those who are not," Tiger is the way to go.

To gamble that your child may or may not be able to find a job that moves them over the point where money doesn't matter - and that number is currently around $75,000/year, not $25,000/year - is madness in any case.

And here's a novel thought: what if you TELL your kids WHY you are pushing them, and let them know that happiness matters, too.

Money may not be able to buy happiness, on average, but poverty - or even "near poverty" is sure correlated to misery.

The Finnish-Americans and the Swedish-Americans also do have sub-average poverty, while raising their kids in a radically different way. The same applies to their home countries - but not to recent immigrants from the Near East.

It could be (genetic) nature, not just nurture. The old debate again. If the Chinese or Japanese have average IQ of 108, is must affect the average outcome of their efforts.

How to measure happiness? I do believe that cultural and family factors play a big role here in shaping an individual's utility function. It's silly to assume that people (even within the same family) share the same standard for happiness. You can't really talk about "maximization" without proper measurement for happiness. Poverty, on the other hand, can be quantified.

I view the Chua/Caplan debate as just another nurture vs. nature debate. Chua obviously believes that parental style influences the success of kids, which means she believes that nurture is more important than nature. Caplan obviously believes that the outcome of kids is largely due to nature, meaning that the future success of kids is largely genetically pre-determined. Caplan is taking the same position that John Derbyshire took when he argued this same issue with one one of the neo-con "pod" people on National Review's website. Derbyshire argued that parental influence on kids was rather minimal and that the bulk of the outcome was genetically pre-determined. He then cited statistical data from Charles Murray to back up his arguments. His opponent (I forget his name) admitted that Charles data was correct and that it supported Derbyshire's argument, but he rejected the conclusion anyways for personal ideological reasons. This debate occurred about 4 or 5 years ago. Caplan ought to use the same data as Derbyshire did to back up his arguments.

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