From Tiger to Shepherd: A Biblical Examination of Tiger Parenting and Peaceful Parenting

Author: Tan Ling

In a society shaped by many different approaches to parenting, the discussion about effective parenting is always evolving.One parenting philosophy that has received much attention is "tiger parenting," which is characterized by strict discipline, high expectations, and authoritarian control.This parenting style, derived from Amy Chua's best-selling book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" (Penguin Group, 2011), has sparked debate and conversation about its merits and drawbacks.

Amy Chua, a second-generation Chinese-American, adopted the "Tiger Parenting" passed down from her parents, where she believed in strict discipline and academic excellence.Her book delves into the world of Tiger Parenting, revealing practices such as intense violin practice, advanced academic pursuits, and the emphasis on a formal Ivy League education.Chua's daughter was the product of this method, and her remarkable success convinced many parents of the effectiveness of this parenting method.

Tiger parenting is based on an authoritarian culture where parents have authority and children follow instructions.High expectations are rooted in the honor and pride associated with family reputation in Chinese culture.However, while this style may produce academically successful individuals, it also raises concerns about the potential emotional toll on children.A lack of emotional warmth and empathy, combined with punishment and humiliation, can lead to anxiety, stress, and a constant fear of not living up to expectations.

Iris Chen, a pastor’s daughter and fellow parent from California, recently challenged tiger parenting in her book, Untigering: Peaceful Parenting for the Deconstructing Tiger Parent (Untigering Press 2021).In her book, she claims that tiger parenting relies heavily on control and strict achievement-oriented strategies and "lacks emotional warmth and empathy, but punishment, shaming, or withdrawal of affection are all readily available tools." Counselor and mental health professionals will agree that using punishment, shame, and emotional withdrawal as disciplinary tools can be potentially harmful.

The currently popular “peaceful parenting” transition is an alternative to strict tiger parenting.Developed by clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham, this approach emphasizes mutual respect, understanding and open communication between parents and children.It promotes an environment where emotional well-being takes precedence over rigorous academic performance.Peaceful parenting strikes a balance between nurturing a child’s personality and guiding their growth and development.

While the standards of Christian parenting should ultimately be found in the Bible, Christian parents can find some biblical principles in peaceful parenting.Like peaceful parenting, biblical principles promote understanding, empathy, and emotional support.The examples of Jesus as the Good Shepherd in Psalm 23 and John 10 model a relationship-centered care and compassion.As Jesus said in John 10:14: "I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep, and my sheep know me." This emphasis on deep "knowledge" rather than "expectations" is not the same as tiger parenting The approach is in stark contrast to its performance-focused nature.

In order for parents to begin to deeply understand and accept their children, parents first need to understand themselves. Peaceful Parenting also encourages parents to acknowledge and resolve past trauma that may have impacted parenting choices.The legacy of past experiences can shape a person's parenting style, perpetuating generational patterns that require evaluation and potential transformation.When parents recognize the impact of trauma and allow the Holy Spirit to renew old ways of thinking and behaving, they may find freedom from anxiety-driven motivations and be able to adopt a truly more peaceful approach to their children.

Four key strategies from the Peaceful Parenting movement can help parents become more effective and compassionate, including:1) Prioritize win-win solutions. 2) Respect your child’s boundaries. 3) Be open to listening. 4) Cultivate emotional connections. Let’s explore each from a biblical perspective.

1) Prioritize win-win solutions
When it comes to parenting, it's important to remember that discipline and correction are necessary, but must be done with love.Prioritizing win-win solutions means finding ways to resolve problems and conflicts with your children while promoting their spiritual, emotional, and moral growth.The key verse on this concept comes from Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (New International Version).This verse reminds us of the importance of educating our children in the right way, but it also means that we should educate them in a way that makes them willing to embrace these values ​​as they grow older.

Here are some practical parenting tips based on this strategy for creating win-win solutions:

Lead by example: Your children are watching your actions and learning from them.Be a role model for the behavior you want to see in them.Strive to live a life that embodies the values ​​you are trying to instill.

Communicate with Love: Discipline your children with love, compassion, and empathy.The purpose of correcting them is to guide them to make better choices, not to punish them.

Encourage independence: As children grow, give them opportunities to make decisions within safe boundaries.This promotes independence and helps them learn from their own choices.

Involve them in problem solving: When conflicts arise, involve your children in finding solutions.This teaches them valuable problem-solving skills and shows them that their opinions are valued.

2) Respect children’s boundaries
Respecting children's boundaries is vital to their emotional well-being and the development of trust between parent and child.Just as God respects our free will, parents must respect their children's boundaries and allow them to grow and express themselves within safe boundaries.The key verse for respecting boundaries comes from Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not offend your children, but bring them up in the teaching and instruction of the Lord.” (New International Version) This verse emphasizes Learn the importance of guiding your children while avoiding behaviors that cause them to become resentful or bitter.Here are some practical parenting tips for respecting your children’s boundaries:

Set Clear Expectations: Establish clear rules and boundaries within your family, but respect your child's age and developmental stage.Communicate consequences and rewards clearly.

Empower choice: Give your child the opportunity to make choices within the boundaries of involvement you have set for chores, activities, and daily routines.This empowers them and helps them develop a sense of responsibility.

Teaching consent: Teach your children the importance of consent in all aspects of life, including physical boundaries, privacy and personal space.For example, as children get older, parents can practice asking for permission when picking up their children's toys or entering their rooms.This will help them understand the concept of respect in relationships.

3) Listen with an open mind
Effective communication is at the heart of any strong relationship, and parenting is no different.Openly listening to your children is crucial to understanding their thoughts, feelings, and concerns, which ultimately leads to a deeper connection between parent and child.
The key verse about listening comes from James 1:19: “Dear brothers and sisters, notice this: Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry” (New International Version ).
This verse shows the importance of listening carefully before reacting.Here are some practical parenting tips for open listening:

Create a safe space: Make sure your child feels safe sharing their thoughts and emotions with you without fear of judgment or punishment.

Live in the moment: When your child wants to talk, be fully present in the moment.Put aside distractions and focus on their words.

Ask open-ended questions: Encourage conversation by asking open-ended questions instead of simple “yes” or “no” questions.Asking your child "how" they felt about an activity or "what they liked" about the day often leads to a better, more in-depth conversation than simply asking, "Did you have a good day?"Asking open-ended questions allows children to express themselves more fully.

Validate feelings: Even if you disagree with your child, acknowledge their feelings and let them know you understand their perspective.

4) Cultivate emotional connections
Cultivating an emotional connection with your children is a great way to build strong, loving, and peaceful relationships.Love, trust, and emotional support are important components of effective parenting, and the description of love in 13 Corinthians 4:7-XNUMX provides a beautiful and practical picture: “Love is patient, and has Kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not revile others, it does not seek personal gain, is not easily angered, does not remember sin. Love does not rejoice in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always Persevere” (NIV).

Here are some practical parenting tips for cultivating emotional connection:

express love: Regularly express love and affection to your child through physical touch, kind words, and quality time together.

encourage:Give encouragement and praise when your child achieves a goal or displays a positive behavior.This boosts their self-esteem and confidence.

Celebrate the difference:Embrace and celebrate each child’s unique qualities and abilities.This will help them feel valued and accepted for who they are.

Have a great time:Allocate time to spend with your children and participate in activities they enjoy.These moments create lasting memories and strengthen the parent-child bond.

Prioritizing win-win solutions, respecting children's boundaries, listening with an open mind, and cultivating emotional connections are not just clinical concepts in the peaceful parenting movement.Each of these strategies is also reflected in scripture about parenting and relationships.The ultimate goal is to strike a balance between challenging your child's growth and encouraging their heart and spirit.Perhaps the best part of Peaceful Parenting is that it provides parents with the opportunity to guide their children toward a self-identity that is defined not just by academic achievement but also by meaningful relationships and a deep sense of self-worth.