Happy New Year. I have been away from my blogging lately to adjust to some personal family developments. As an educator and soon-to-be parent of a toddler, I was intrigued to read about the “Tiger Mom’s” perspective on parenting. Just yesterday a friend said, “so, I really want to know what you think about this Tiger mom.” So, here are my two cents. This is only my opinion, so take it or leave it.
Parenting is hard work. Children are people with their own thoughts, unique behaviors, interests, desires, and personalities. If you have multiple children, you know that as soon as you get one figured out, another comes along and is completely different. What you thought you learned from the first one just doesn’t apply and it is back to square one. However, this is also one of the joys of parenting. You get to know your child as an individual. I work with preschoolers, and I have always tried to really listen to the children and get to know them as people. This may sound obvious, but really…your child is a little person and he/she deserves to be treated as such, with respect for his/her voice and unique ideas. Children are not an extension of their parents…they are individuals.
That said, I think the Tiger Mom is a bit over the top. I agree that children need to learn to follow through with an activity that they start and that children do not run the show. However, parents need to be attuned to the ways children learn. They do not learn best by being forced into activities and situations of which they are fearful or anxious. They do not learn most effectively by having information drilled into them by force, or by taking away pleasurable experiences to focus on them. I am not sure the Tiger Mom really understands the idea of establishing an environment that creates interest in a wide variety of topics and skills. Children do learn when they feel safe, confident, and supported. They also need time to experiment and explore. By the way, it is never okay to scream degrading names at your child as a form of “motivation”.
On the other side of the coin, her assessment of the American parent wasn’t far off in some ways. There are too many children in American homes today who are the stars of their family life. The children call all the shots, complain when they don’t get their way, and the parents bend to their every whim. This is not helping the children become responsible, empathetic, mature adults and no one in the home is happy when the child is unhappy.
There is a middle ground. We do need to make some changes in American homes. Children need to learn respect for authority (a whole other issue), responsibility for helping out at home, and self-motivation. Parents need to consider setting boundaries and rules that are non-negotiable. There need to be consequences for disobedient and disrespectful behavior. However, playdates and sleepovers are fun activities for children that also help them develop socially and emotionally throughout their development. Learning a piece of music for a piano recital should be expected, but if it isn’t perfect, who cares? A reasonable amount of pressure should motivate a child to follow through on a task, but overbearing parental control can negatively effect a child for life.
Remember that your child is looking to you for guidance, direction, and LOVE. You can show your love for your child by instituting clear boundaries that provide room for children to make mistakes in a safe and loving environment and also to be successful at many different things. Children are learning about the world around them every day. They need to know that parents are authorities, but they are also there to help their children become successful adults. I would rather raise a son who grew up to be a happy, caring, and responsible employee, husband and father one day than a worldclass pianist….unless he wanted all of the above!