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.

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(Photo: Flickr/kevindooley)

6 replies on “Panda Dad Vs. Tiger Mom”

  1. 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.

    Mothers are the ultimate multi-taskers; fathers can only focus on one thing at a time. So I don’t agree with him about the men having the big picture view. I think their view is whatever’s right in front of them at that moment. That’s explains Monica Lewinsky and a lot of other stuff.

  2. Actually I think this is a case of primary care giver vs parent who works. I’m a stay at home dad. My son is happily playing right now, while I have a load of clothes in the laundry, dishes washing, and I’m watching my dog to make sure he doesn’t get too excited trying to play with my son ALL while replying to this article. If you are a stay at home parent you are forced to be a big multi-tasker if you aren’t one already.

    So in the same vein as Tiger vs Panda…. there is a LOT that is very individual and the more we try to place people and groups of people in boxes or try to say what is best for everyone the more we fail to provide what is best for our children and ourselves.

  3. I guess it’s possible for a man to multi-task at home as a mother does, not that I don’t believe you, Mark. But most men I know cannot for an extended period of time.

    We both work, but my husband has more demanding hours. As a result, ALL the day to day child care needs fall on me: doctor visits, school preparation and activities, household daily chores. He does the trash and the bills. And if he is left alone with the kids for a few hours on the weekend, I come home to them watching t.v. and him in the other room on the computer with a big fat mess in the kitchen. He’s a sweetheart and tries hard (and works VERY hard) but I know his limitations and try my hardest not to get mad at him. I think he’s more the norm. And on the days he’s home early enough weeknights, I make him take the kids up for bath/bedtime ritual while I relax downstairs and have a little bit of ‘me’ time!!

  4. I agree that men cannot multi-task. It doesn’t mean they are any less than women, but definitely different. My husband is a wonderful father. My girls are lucky. He supports them, play with them, is affectionate and is a great dad. When he is alone with them, I come home and they are happy, smiling, sometimes cuddling watching TV together, but nothing else in the house is done. Once I asked why the kitchen was a mess and he asked, “When was I supposed to clean it? I’m watching the girls.” It’s not because he is lazy or figured I would do it, but he honestly didn’t think he could properly care for them AND clean the kitchen. Men are not multi-taskers.

  5. That’s explains Monica Lewinsky

    Oh, I don’t think so, Debbie. The Monica Lewinsky phenomenon has nothing to do with multitasking. It has to do with how the male brain is distributed. Let’s just say it is not all contained in the cranium.

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