Recently, a Chinese American mother of two (not to mention fancy law professor and author of two other books on globalization and free market democracy) has caused major controversy with her new Memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. In this book she details her strict philosophy with her daughters: no sleep overs, no play dates, no other grades but As, no second place. Oh, and many hours practicing either the violin or the piano, and woe to them if they made a mistake.
The debate so far as it goes, is if she is right means that the rest of us (westerners) are too soft on our kids. Or if she is wrong, then social services should be called for child abuse. Here is a list of articles you can read to get an idea of the issue without actually having to read the book:
Now, my only interest in this is that I have been wondering lately if I’m too soft with my kids. The worst is, I think I might be. There are a couple of parts in the Wall street journal article (written by the Tiger Mom herself) that, when I read them, felt like I threw a ball up in the air, didn’t pay enough attention to it and ended up being hit in the face when it came back down.
For example, when she talks about the “Little white donkey incident” where she makes her youngest daughter spend a day practicing a piano piece she just can’t get right, ignoring her daughter’s screams, tears, not letting her go to the bathroom, eat dinner, etc., she says:
“But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.”
This, of course, hits home. Because that is exactly what I let my daughters do in the same situation. I let them give up. Oh I fought it, as evidenced in these posts. But in the end, it became too miserable and I capitulated.
As I write this, I am breaking all the Tiger Mom’s rules. My daughter is just finishing up her 12th birthday right now. She had two friends sleep over. They stayed up until 1A.M. watching movies, eating junk food and talking. They woke up and ate more junk food and watched more TV. Yesterday morning I helped my daughter correct her reading evaluation. It wasn’t perfect. I nagged her about her grammar, but didn’t press the case.
I break my own rule about no TV during the week almost every day, mainly because I’m tired and can’t get myself to do anything else. I don’t check my daughter’s homework. I let them play video games and watch TV in order to get my own work done.
However, I try not to praise them when they don’t deserve it. I do try to tell them that nothing is easy at the beginning, that they have to practice at it.
My problem is the follow through.
As I write this, I realize that this is my big failing. My parenting style reflects my own personal defects: avoiding confrontation, giving up when it gets hard, wanting my children to be happy with me instead of pushing my point and doing what is good for them.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be a Tiger Mom. There are many things I don’t believe enough in to push with my children, the number one thing being school grades. The Tiger Mom wants her daughters to be successful within a deeply flawed structure, one that doesn’t value anything but one kind of learning. She is grooming her children to climb to the top of the financial and class pyramid, a hike I don’t necessarily wish for my own.
What I do want for them is to find something they love, something they are passionate about, and know how to work hard enough to be good at it. I want them to have the self-esteem to know that if they put in the hours, they can do anything, an end-goal, I think, that could use a little more of the Tiger Mom…
So where do I stand? To be honest, I think a little more roar is due and a little less pussyfooting around. Now let’s see if I can keep it up.