By Kendall Harshberger
Senior Ivy Yan is what some would call a super student. On top of maintaining her grade point average while juggling several AP classes, she’s involved in the school’s orchestra and debate team, and after school she tutors other students and teaches piano. Yan said her schedule can get busy sometimes, but that it has paid off.
“My afters chool schedule really depends on the day, but since I’m pretty involved at school, I usually have some activity or another after school,” she said.
“A typical week last semester would be Brain Game on Monday, orchestra practice (from) 6 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, debate and then tutoring downtown on Wednesday, orchestra practice after school on Thursday and then teaching piano at home on Friday. I do my homework after I get home usually.”
Yan recently received proof of her high school success in the mail, in the form of a college acceptance letter from Harvard College. Yan said many factors contribute to her success in school, but one of the largest of those would be her parents. She said while her parents understand that she is human and don’t go to extremes, they are demanding.
“My parents taught me the importance of education at a very early age. Because of my parents’ methods, I now demand excellence from myself,” she said.
Yan’s upbringing is not unheard of.
The debate over different parenting methods has spread like wildfire all over America, and the spark that ignited the flame was Amy Chua’s now famous memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
In this memoir, Chua relays parenting methods she used to make her children successful and what both she and her children have learned from their experiences so far.
Many parents in America have been outraged upon reading this book for several reasons, some of which include calling her daughters “trash” and throwing a poorly drawn birthday card made by one of her daughters away, saying that she “deserved better.” Many are not only beginning to question their own parenting methods, but the effect on the children as well. In Yan’s case, she said if her parents had not done what they’d done up to this point, she would not be nearly as driven.
“I’m glad they expected so much of me. I think it made me more responsible and gave me a good work ethic, which I will benefit from for my whole life. So yes, I’m really glad that they’re the way they are,” she said.
An example of Yan’s parents’ not going to extremes is when she gets what would be an unsatisfactory grade. Her parents don’t usually punish her unless they could clearly see no effort was made to change the grade.
“When it happens and I did try my best, they’re fine as long as I ask for help on my mistakes and try my best to improve on them,” she said.
And while some stricter parents may force activities upon their children, Yan said she mainly chooses her extracurricular activities for herself, “except for the stereotypical Asian math classes on Saturdays,” she said.
Even with all of her activities that keep her busy, Yan said she does not agree with Chua’s belief that one can only enjoy activities he excels at.
“In my opinion, someone who can only enjoy something they excel at runs the risk of overprotecting his or her ego,” she said. “I think my ability to laugh at myself is one of the character traits that has made it a lot easier to address my flaws and just be a happier person in general.”
Yan said although her parents were not extremely strict, she did have some restrictions.
“I’ve never really been able to go to sleepovers. I’ve (gone) to some if I know the person really well, but for the most part, I can’t go” she said. “I think my parents were just worried about the dangers associated with it.”
Despite some of these restrictions, Yan said she never had an issue with her parents’ methods.
“I never really had to adjust to it because it was all I’d known,” she said. “You don’t grow up with something and question it when you’ve seen all the benefits that have come with it.”
“The overall goal of discipline for any parent is to teach, with the ultimate goal being to raise responsible adults; however, we all have different ways of going about that task,” she said.
Schmidt said a study conducted by Diana Baumrind, the psychologist who first developed the three types of parents, concluded that parenting styles come from many different factors, including the parents’ goal for the child, views about the proper roles of parents (possibly coming from memories from childhood), parent personality and child temperament.
Baumrind developed three basic types of parents: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian parents are more characterized by orderly environments and their efforts to shape their children, while authoritative parents work toward a relationship while having clear limits and discipline. Permissive parents make few demands and the discipline is lax to none.
Furthermore, Schmidt said teenagers who have very strict parents may have lower self-esteem and be less socially and academically skilled.
She said, “Children of authoritarian parents may be more fearful and generally are unable to make their own decisions. The expectations for their behavior are quite high, and children do not often know how to behave or what to do when they are given a new situation. They may know the rules, but not the consequences if they break the
rules or the rules may change. There are no set guidelines or boundaries.”
Yan said she would place her parents in two of these categories, both authoritarian and authoritative.
“I would put my parents in the authoritative in a large majority of situations but more authoritarian on matters they believe their experience justifies, which tend to be morals,” she said. “So importance of education, of course, and how to treat others, et cetera. My parents’ methods have actually taught me to be more self-sufficient, I’d say,” she said.
Wendy Yang, Yan’s mother, reiterated this, saying that Yan’s success depended mostly on herself.
“From a young age, I helped her understand age zero to age 18 is the period in her life for learning and that she needed to learn as many skills as possible in order to survive after 18 years old on her own,” she said via email. “The more skills she has, the more she can help people in the future.”
Mrs. Yang said she has always raised Yan to believe that her hard work will lead to success. To encourage this, Mrs. Yang has put some restrictions on her daughter.
“I help her to discipline herself, such as by instituting time limits for Facebook chat. In our family, TV is not allowed during school days unless the special events are broadcasted,” she said via email, “though now that Yan’s a senior we’ve loosened up considerably.”
Mrs. Yang said she chose to raise Yan in this way because she wanted her daughter to have a good attitude toward life and let her work toward achieving her own dreams.
“My parents did the same thing for me,” Mrs. Yang said as an additional reason.
A Method to the Madness
While none can argue with Yan’s success, part of the parenting controversy is that there are several different types of parenting methods, and each have their own separate benefits.
In contrast to Yan’s more demanding parents, junior Scott Jackoway said his parents are “the opposite of strict.” He said while his parents do care about his grades, they don’t place many restrictions on him.
“After school, if I’d have no theater practice, I’d go home and avoid doing my homework as long as possible with whatever’s handy,” he said. “Usually Facebook. And then after dinner I do homework.”
Jackoway said his average time spent on homework per night is about an hour, and that his parents don’t rigorously control his time spent on homework.
“They don’t monitor my homework very much at all, just because I think they trust me to get it done and keep my grades up,” he said. “It’s like, they don’t have to be really disappointed in me when I don’t do well because I’m really disappointed in me when I don’t do well.”
Jackoway said his parents are also understanding of different situations when it comes to his grades.
“I mean, they’re not strict in that they’re not the type of parents to think anything but an A is unacceptable,” he said. “For example, I’m in AP U.S. History, and I have a pretty solid B to B minus in there, and they understand that because they get it’s a hard class.”
Jackoway said his parents’ loose methods apply not only to his grades but also the kind of career he’d like to get involved in. Jackoway, who has the role of Rudolph in the spring production of “Hello, Dolly!,” wants to be an actor when he grows up. Jackoway said his parents are very supportive of this decision.
“I’m very lucky to have such supportive parents. You know, you always hear these horror stories of theater kids whose parents want them to get a ‘real job’ but my parents aren’t like that at all. They’re supportive full-on; they come to all my shows, they pay for me to do summer programs, they’re so great about it,” he said.
Schmidt said teens with less strict parents like Jackoway’s can sometimes display immature behavior.
“These kids are less responsible and independent, may be more aggressive and tend to have poorer academic performance,” she said. “They often feel as though no one cares about them, so they are spending their time trying to make sure that they are known by someone.”
However, Schmidt said these results are usually in the case of very permissive parents, and Jackoway said his parents aren’t to that level. Jackoway placed his parents mainly under the authoritative category, except for the fact that they do not exert the high level of control that Schmidt described as regular for authoritative parents.
“My parents challenge me to be a good, rational person on my own right, and not because they said so,” he said.
Jackoway’s mom Claire Jackoway said she has always tried to foster a good relationship with Scott through frequent communication.
“I think the main job as a parent is teaching the child to be independent,” she said. “So, we always tried to explain to Scott why rules were in place so that he would know the reasoning behind it and apply it to other decisions he makes in life by himself.”
Mrs. Jackoway said she has always placed an emphasis on Scott following his dreams.
“It’s really important to me for people to pursue their passion,” she said.
When it comes to discipline, Mrs. Jackoway said she hasn’t had to worry about disciplining Scott recently.
“He doesn’t do anything that we’d need to discipline him for, really. But when he was younger we would do the time-outs,” she said.
Scott said he thinks his parents’ lax methods have strengthened their relationship.
“We get along really well together,” he said. “We have almost no conflicts.”
Looking Toward the Future
As high school progresses and the looming future of college and career choices comes closer and closer, different parents have different strategies when it comes to preparing. Yan, for example, said her family spends most of their time talking about college right now.
“One source of tension with my mom right now is that she talks too much about college and not about anything else in my life,” she said. “I’m really excited to see what my mom’s like when we’re not worrying about what college I’m going to go to.”
Yan said she feels well prepared for college, especially for the emotional side of leaving home.
“I’ve actually had a lot of practice with being away from my parents because the past few summers I’ve been away from home for two months at a time,” she said. “My mom still insists that I call her every day at college, though I think she may be coming to realize that probably won’t happen.”
Scott said he’s not nervous about leaving home either, as he’s ready to leave Indiana.
“I’m just so ready to get out of state. I’m really looking forward to that. As for missing my parents, it will for sure be a different experience,” he said. “I can’t really say how much I’ll miss them until it happens, but I’m sure I will.”
Both Scott and Yan said their parents will have influence on them even after the college and career choices are over with, when they begin to raise children.
Yan said she thinks she will raise her children with the same methods as her parents. As for Jackoway, though, he said it depends on the child.
“If the kid is really well behaved and doesn’t need much discipline, then yeah, it’s okay to be more chill. But if they need to be disciplined, the parent should be more strict. Ultimately, though, I’d like to raise my children like my parents,” he said.
Yan said she will be demanding toward her children, though not to the extent that it will hurt their relationship.
“Parents should always be demanding and expect a lot from their children, but still understand that they’re human and do have human needs,” she said. “They shouldn’t let that get in the way of their parent-child relationship.”