'Tiger Mom' Stirs Parenting Discussion at Ill. Megachurch

( [email protected] ) Jan 31, 2011 12:43 PM EST
The "Tiger Mom" continues to ruffle up some feathers with even churches getting in on the debate of what makes for good parenting.
Clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud (left) addresses parenting at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., Jan. 30, 2011. Willow Creek Community Church via The Christian Post

The "Tiger Mom" continues to ruffle up some feathers with even churches getting in on the debate of what makes for good parenting.

Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., – one of the largest churches in the country – hosted clinical psychologist Dr. Henry Cloud this past weekend to get his response to author Amy Chua's parenting style.

"A lot of it is pretty psycho," Cloud said at the megachurch, particularly appalled, like many others, that Chua rejected a birthday card from her youngest daughter. The Chinese-American mother felt her daughter didn't put enough thought and effort into making the card.

But one thing Cloud is appreciative of is the discussion that Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has started.

Willow Creek's senior pastor, Bill Hybels, noted how it's been years since a parenting story "received this much press."

Ever since The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt of the book earlier this month, the media and the public have been all over it, largely criticizing Chua's uber-strict parenting (she wouldn't accept grades less than an A, no sleepovers or school plays were allowed, and piano practices went on for hours with no breaks until the piece was played properly).

Cloud acknowledged that too many parents have "drunk the kool-aid" of self-esteem parenting, where they focus mainly on simply making their child feel special.

"I'm really concerned about a lot of kids that aren't getting pushed to where they need to perform because that's what life's going to do," he said to applause from the congregation.

What builds confidence and self-esteem, he said, is competence. This includes helping children know how to have relationships, put their skills and gifts into good use, and hold to standards.

"Part of what parenting is about is help meeting the needs of children and slowly helping them understand that life demands things of them and they're not special just because they show up in the world," said Cloud.

A more helpful construct than self-esteem, according to Cloud, is self-image – or the picture we have of ourselves.

He explained, "Parenting gives us a self-image, first of all that you're loved, but secondly that you have gifts, ... abilities and that you are able to perform up to the standards of those, and thirdly that I'm not doing some stuff too well ... I've got some growth to do. That's a healthy self-image as well."

Regarding the "loaded" topic of spanking, Cloud advised against discipline of any kind that is done in anger.

"If you're disciplining in anger, here's what a child learns: I live with a psycho; there's my problem," he said bluntly. "What discipline does is it makes the child have a problem that they need to solve."

Willow Creek has been addressing the issue of family, dating, marriage, love and parenting as part of its family series. The series kicked off at the start of the New Year with Hybels, who has been studying and teaching on the subject of parenting for more than 35 years.