Mona Charen has a thoughtful reaction to the debate caused by Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?, which details the strict discipline used by Chinese mothers to produce children who excel academically and on favored activities, such as violin and piano. As Charen details the piece provoked a huge response:

follow-up piece in the Journal sampled some of the 4,000 comments (a record) the piece had elicited on the paper’s website. (It reportedly received more than 100,000 responses on Facebook.)

Some of the comments about Chua’s piece were negative, even vehemently so. But others, a surprising number, were admiring and even envious. That even an exaggerated and half-tongue-in-cheek account of a rigid, demanding, insensitive approach to parenthood elicited positive comments reflects, perhaps, our awareness of how soft and indulgent we’ve become.

It’s really no surprise that it elicited so much of a response. Anyone who has done time on or other parenting websites knows that there is often lots of heated debate about the best way to raise a child. And I think much of this debate is healthy.

When I read Chua’s piece I was fascinated. Was I impressed with her hardline tactics? Was I repulsed? I’d have to say I was neither-or perhaps a bit of both.

There’s certainly something to be said for recognizing that, as a parent, part of your job is to keep your children’s long term interest in mind. Kids may not like an activity at first, but will once they get better at it. It may be easier to let your kids watch TV and just eat junk, but clearly that’s not in their long term interest.

Yet I don’t think this is a concept that most American parents fail to grasp. Certainly there are some parents who consistently take the easy way out and fail their kids in the process, but I think many, if not most, parents understand their important role in teaching concepts like delayed gratification. There are plenty of stories and statistics that suggest that too many American parents are too lenient on their kids, but also legitimate concerns about the over-scheduled child who is being shuffled between too many structured activities by parents desperate to give them a leg up in life.

I don’t believe that the only way to teach the benefits of hard work and commitment is to threaten your children, at least not to the extent that Chua suggests. There has to be a balance between wanting to help your children achieve and also wanting them to enjoy childhood.