Transcript for Erin Clune on Tiger Mothers

Jim Fleming: Mother issues are all over the media nowadays where it seems someone is always poised to offer an opposing viewpoint. Commentator Erin Clune says that for regular moms like her it’s a struggle just to stay on top of the latest self- help trend.

Erin Clune: It can be hard to parent in the age of the `mommy memoire` and the twenty four hour news cycle; there is a lot of conflicting advice out there. For a few years we kept hearing about over parenting and `helicopter` moms; one book called us “a nation of wimps”, mothers who daunted on their kids and over scheduled them after school were ruining their lives. Kids don’t need a nanny camp, the expert said; they need to play alone in the backyard. And moms, you’re too anxious; have a Martini, lighten up, because nothing relaxes a nervous mom like being told to lighten up. But then it wasn’t long before `mommy cocktail hour` was over, at least on CNN.

CNN: There isn’t that option where we let loose with the spanking anymore, so we revert more to the yelling and there is more frustration now and we let that out through the yelling and it’s not a healthy thing. I think yelling is the new spanking.

Erin: Yelling was the new spanking? Time to put the nanny camps back on and point them to ourselves! It turned out we weren’t just raising our kids to be wimps, we were also screaming at them. But, wait, did anyone tell this woman?

Woman: What Amy Chua doesn’t believe in is play dates, sleepovers, she even threat to burn her daughter’s stuffed animals if she didn’t play the piano perfectly!

Erin: Have `tiger mothers` learnt nothing from cable news? Well, probably not; they don’t let their kids watch TV. But Amy Chua wrote a book on yelling; she says in her memoire she yelled at one of her daughters for writing a bad speech, she lost her voice screaming at the other one for not practicing the piano, she even yelled once because she wanted her kid to relax! Maybe `tiger mothers` have to yell to keep their overachievers on track, but where does that leave the rest of us? If we aren’t tiger mothers, are we just bad mothers? When cable news didn’t give me the answers, I did some research of my own. I took my kids to an indoor expo, a stadium full of carnival games and free product giveaways; it was exactly the kind of setting that usually makes me wanna yell and I asked some other moms what do they think about all the yelling.

Mom 1: As a mother of three grown children I used to yell at mine all the time, not that I wanted to.

Mom 2:  I am not a yeller, I am not gonna yell, but I do believe in spanking though.

Erin: So, you’re spanking, no yelling?

Mom 2: Yes.

Erin: And how do you put a teenager over your lap and spank them?

Mom 2: You’ll see, that, that’s when you do grounding.

Erin: Maybe you’ll start yelling then.

Mom 2: Yeah, maybe.

Erin: And there was this mother that was working as a clown.

Mom 3: Oh, everybody gets frustrated; I’ve known the most patient of parents and they’re like: “what are you doing?”, but I don’t think is as much volume as it is at costume. 

Erin: Well, all right, then thank you!

Mom3: Ok, you’re welcome.

Erin: Is good to have a clown’s perspective!

Mom 3: [laugh]

Erin: I also met a mom who brought her bulldog, who was dressed in a Packers jersey.

Mom 4: I think anger is a problem, frustration.

Erin: Do you ever yell at your dog?

Mom 4: I raise my voice.

Erin: Who do you yell at more, your dog or your kids?

Mom 4: Probably my kids because I have four of them.

Erin: On my way out of the expo I interviewed one of the volunteers; surely she had the patience of a saint.

Volunteer: Do I yell? Yes! She’s right there, she can attest to that, I do!

Erin: Does your mom yell?

Volunteer: Uhm, sometimes.

Erin: That’s not too bad.

Volunteer’s mom: She’s being nice, I’m standing right here!

Erin: [laugh]

Volunteer’s mom: It’s called `fear`. [laugh]

Erin: [laugh]. It’s called `fear`. Well, the truth is that we, moms, probably do need to talk more and more seriously about yelling, but then recent studies have shown that nearly half of moms still spank their kids, so is yelling really the new spanking? Spanking the new yelling? Or tiger mothers just a new scarier kind of helicopter parent? Stay tuned, moms, I am sure the advice mails will sort this out, but while you’re waiting, try to lighten up!

Jim Fleming: Erin Clune is a writer, radio producer and, of course, a mom. She spoke to the other moms in Madison, Wisconsin.


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