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Parenting Balance is the Key

How to raise one's child has been a hot topic on talk shows and on the web in recent weeks. Are parents tough enough on their kids? Balance is the key to being a good parent. Last weekend I cleaned out my storage area, and in the process, I found the collection of journals, photographs and ephemera that serve as documentation of my life. As I browsed through the various accolades I received, I juxtaposed those with my journal entries, with the emotions I felt as I earned awards and participated in countless activities. Even though I am proud of my accomplishments, my successes came at an emotional cost; much of which I documented in my journals late at night, after grueling days trying to fit all of my work in. Like my parents, I grew up Midwestern, and with it came the storied, home-grown work ethic that is engrained when you come up farming and fearing the fire and brimstone. Lately though, Midwesterners, like the rest of my fellow Americans, have gone from a stereotype of hard working and inventive to one that suggests we're lazy and complacent. In response to this stereotype, author Amy Chua wrote the current New York Times bestseller "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." The book is Chua's story of how she was raised by her demanding, success oriented immigrant Chinese parents — and how she then chose to raise her children in the same strict way. To support her arguments, she refers to the fact that now China, more than the U.S., receives recognition for its educated and hard working citizens. Chua feels vindicated that the Chinese have thus created a cultural powerhouse, rivaling the U.S.'s financial, industrial and academic dominance because they are raised in a demanding and strict environment. Chua suggests that if the U.S. is to stop falling behind other countries, we should embrace the intolerance for failure that she experienced as a child. That intolerance is what will lead future generations of Americans to achieve even greater standards. But will parenting with an iron fist really return our country to academic and innovative greatness? Like many controversial ideas, this one is about extremes. The Tiger Parent ignores the balance of healthy relationships for one of dominance. They believe we are not meant to be people working together. Instead, the Tiger Parent teaches us that we are in constant competition with each other. For those of us who have been raised this way, the result is an out-of-whack understanding of how relationships work, and a constant feeling of inadequacy that can only be satiated through even greater accomplishments. Now, as a parent, I look at my daughter and try to find a balance between success and self-acceptance. I want her to understand success is only worthwhile when you can share in it with others. Maybe that sort of middle-of-the-road parenting won't become a New York Times bestseller or land me on Oprah, but I believe it will succeed in developing a happy, strong and confident young woman. For me, that would be the greatest success of all. Andrew Miller hosts the blog Elephants on Bicycles