Last week a Maplewood man calling himself the Panda Dad took on Tiger Mom Amy Chua in his appearance on the Today show. That was after he wrote about his annoyance with the debate in a Wall Street Journal Blog. Alan Paul – aka the Panda Dad – was not happy the debate left out one half of the parenting component. He asked, “Where are the dads?”
I’ve been wondering the exact same thing but not because of the Tiger Mom debate. I’ve been contemplating this question for slightly over a decade now, ever since my first child was born. Where are the dads – particularly when the baby needs a diaper change or the kid has a school Holiday Spectacular in the middle of the afternoon on Tuesday?
Sadly, a bulk of the responsibility still falls on the mother. While I don’t think Paul’s question is the main point of the Eastern vs. Western parenting debate, his distinction in parenting styles is worth considering.
In Paul’s case, he is the stay-at-home parent in the household. His wife puts in long hours at the office while he raises three kids and maintains a freelance writing career. As a man who is primarily responsible for child rearing, Paul notes significant distinctions in male vs. female parenting styles.
Paul acknowledges his distinctions make sweeping generalizations, but it does seem to capture typical gender differences. He states men for the most part care less about mess, can cope with a little more chaos and hold a big picture view while women tend to be more detailed oriented and order driven. Well, he’s nailed my household, and all this time I thought my husband was just a slob.
With these general male tendencies, this Panda Dad takes a more relaxed approach to parenting while still bearing claws when necessary. Controlled chaos sums up Paul’s parenting philosophy. This may sound messier than some moms would like, but when Paul notes this management style introduces a fact of life early on, it makes sense: “Life itself is controlled chaos.”
With the chaos theory informing his parenting style, rather than being overbearing and controlling to produce results in children, this style has the children being more independent and taking on responsibilities at home to keep the house running.
What’s more is Paul has lived in China so he has seen first hand the Chinese model Amy Chua tries so relentlessly to enforce on her children. He’s not a fan. While he can admire some aspects of the system, he emphasizes it squashes innovation and creativity, two things in short supply in China.And many Chinese people are starting to agree, according to Paul.
Overall, Paul says he thinks his and Chua’s goals are probably the same. They both want the best for their children; they just have different ways of going about it. He’s adamant about one point, though. If your goals are like his – to raise independent, competent, confident adults – the domineering Tiger parent approach is not the model to follow. Well, he’s convinced me. I say men can to raise the kids from now on.
I have finally finished Chua’s book (and that’s no easy feat when you’re a parent of any kind), and I still stand by what I’ve said before: She has a point. Her daughter recently was accepted to both Yale and Harvard. Unfortunately, it’s one she takes off the deep end. While the Chinese model has some merits, the model Chua seems to be advocating is the Psychotic Parenting model. That one is a tougher sell.