When I was browsing through the Internet for reviews on Amy Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, opinions towards the author and a recent article written by Shan Juan prompted me to come forward about the issue when parenting gets excessively overstrict on kids. As a blogger, I am not here to criticise any parent who have their strict techniques on bringing up children but my question is this: how far is too far and what sort of detrimental consequences can we expect if hyper-severe parenting goes overboard on a child?

Although I agree with Amy Chua that a wee bit of tough love  injected into parenting do help children to taste a bit of bitterness in life in order to become successful and driven individuals, I am shocked and appalled to spot an excerpt mentioned in this MSNBC article. Here are some things she never allowed her two kids to do:

  • have a playdate
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin

All these mentioned above, are considered shocking and hard to stomach. Therefore I ask these questions and I present my statements:

  • Does choosing not to play a musical instrument like the piano or violin makes a kid imperfect? No, just because a child doesn’t play a musical instrument doesn’t mean that he or she is any less smarter than a child who does.
  • What is so good with forbidding a child from playing a musical instrument other than the piano or violin anyway? If a child chooses to play the cello, the clarinet or even an acoustic guitar, he or she has the right to do so and we have no right to stop him or her. We got Yo-yo Ma who plays the cello very well, so is there anything wrong with him learning the cello from young?
  • Having no playdates, no TV and no computer games?  What is the meaning of this anyway and won’t a bit of R & R with a playdate (neighbour’s kid or a classmate), television and computer games help a child to recharge even if it is for one or two hours? Please don’t make your child a dullard which you will regret later on.
  • No freedom of choosing his or her own extracurricular activities? That is just wrong to forbid a child from choosing his or her own activities will allow him to grow as a person and gain new skills and talents along the way. Who is the one going to school here, the parent or the kid? If your child wants to join the photography, the drama, the culinary or art club in school according to his or her own will, let him or her have that freedom to do that. No child should be made to fulfill his parents’ dreams. It’s his dreams, not yours.
  • Not being number 1 in every subject except gym and drama? Look here, you cannot always be number 1 in every subject and if you push your child to be number 1 in everything, I cannot help but feel sorry for him or her. Are you trying to create a perfectionist kid who cannot take an occasional failure or number 2 like a real good sportsman does? Not getting number 1 in academics is not about bringing family shame or a major bruising to one’s ego, it’s about learning from our past mistakes as a person in order to become better for the future.

Another thing I don’t agree with overstrict parenting is when parents call their kids “garbage”, “stupid”, or useless just because they did not go home with the high grades for the parents to brag about. I also dislike how parents will not love or accept a child unconditionally unless the kid is a straight-A star pupil or a top piano-playing prodigy. This is just wrong at all counts. Sadly, sometimes overstrict parenting can repeat over and over within the same family when those kids become parents themselves. Unless it takes one person to put an end to it and make a change for the sake of a future child, overstrict parenting can sometimes become a cruel and repetitive cycle.

I know that every parent want his or her child to be successful individuals in life, but are all the unrealistic expectations and constant pushing really worth it? Are these children really top circus animals whom they can go bragging about to their colleagues and friends just to mask their insecurities and their past failures in their own childhoods? Children are brought into this world to be unique individuals, not to be pressured to breaking point all in the name of perfection and living their parents’ expectations.

Not all children can grow up to be number 1 and it would not surprise me with the fact that with overstrict parenting, there will always be the dire consequences that will affect some children later on in life. Take your pick: 1.)  brilliant but miserable, depressed and messed up on the inside, 2.) stressed and burnt out because failure to them is not an option and 3.) successful yet bitter, dissatisfied and insecure. What do number 1,  2 and 3 have in common? A bigger possibility that all 3 may end up having to book an appointment with a psychiatrist or worse.

If you think I am joking, I am not because I have heard the occasional tragic stories of smart, brilliant kids who end up losing their minds and spending their days in and out of mental wards, taking anti-depressants, self-harming themselves in secret or killing themselves all no thanks to overstrict parenting that take a toll on them. Therefore, is worth pushing a child to the point of his or her mental health being damaged? Lastly, I want to say that there is more to life than obsessing over As and perfection alone. And not forgetting this: not all Asian parents are like Amy Chua.

Anyway, what says you about this issue? Feel free to have your say.