By Jessica Stillman
Based on the surrounding media furor, nearly every thinking American had an opinion on Yale professor Amy Chua's pot-stirring parenting memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Some cast an anxious glance across the Pacific towards a rising China and thought Chua's extreme style might be just the thing to keep America's kids competitive, while others argued her approach was a recipe for a huge therapy bill and a timid life. But at least one person steered clear of the debate - Westchester, N.Y. based dentist Dr. Edward Zuckerberg, father of Facebook founder and Time person of the year Mark Zuckerberg.
Papa Zuckerberg told a local call-in radio show on Friday that he was unfamiliar with the bestseller, but answered listeners' questions about how he and his wife Karen raised their budding billionaire. And the answer is a far cry from the hefty dose of ridicule and discipline prescribed by Chua. Dr. Zuckerberg said:
Probably the best thing I can say is something that my wife and I have always believed in, rather than impose upon your kids or try and steer their lives in a certain direction, to recognize what their strengths are and support their strengths and support the development of the things they're passionate about.
I think that extremes in any form in parenting are not good. Children need to be well rounded. There's a place for work and a place for play.
Chua's eldest daughter is just 18 so who knows what phenomenal things she may go on to accomplish in her career (though to be on the Zuckerberg success track she'll have to act fast), but the success of Dr. Zuckerberg's son does offer some evidence that extreme parental discipline isn't necessary to produce high-achieving kids. In fact, if you want your kids to reach the highest levels where creativity and daring are key, perhaps it's counter-productive.
As a side note, Dr. Zuckerberg also noted that his youngest daughter, a senior at Claremont McKenna College with a minor in computer science, is on the job hunt. Anyone hiring?
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer interested in green business, tech, management and marketing. She lives in London.