Monday, July 11, 2011

Tiger Mom

For book group this month we read Amy Chua's "Tiger Mother".   I read it out loud to Gavin on the way down to Arizona while he was driving.  The kids had their own movie or Itouch to keep them busy, but Dalton ended up listening to most of the book.  He couldn't believe his ears.  This Mom was strict...crazy strict.

I started reading the book thinking that I was going to A) hate this lady, B) think that her parenting sucked and C) think that my parenting was better.  At the end I thought none of those things.  Both Gavin and I were shocked at how strict she was.  She definitely has some control issues.  However, we were also seriously impressed with her dedication to her children and their studies/music.

I think that one flaw that I did find with her method was that she would resort to bullying to motivate her kids to do what she wanted them to do.  Reading articles that have been written by her daughters since the book was published, you would think that they turned out healthy enough.  I mean, by most standards they are the pinnacle of success.  They are accomplished musicians, they have had great schooling, and will continue to.  They have amazing confidence in themselves.  But there is a part of me that wonders just how confident they are.  To have your mother demean you is a seriously impactful and damaging thing.  Even if the "means seem to justify" the tactics that this mother used, I am not sure it is worth the long term psychological damage.

That being said, I can not judge.  I have had melt downs over things like Shelby wanting to wear her flip flops in the dead of winter, or wanting Dalton to clean out the cat litter for his chores in a neater way.  I am no where near perfect.

What really stuck with me after reading this book was how much more I could be giving my kids by expecting just a little bit more from them.  What if the TV/Ipad/Itouch/computer/DS didn't get turned off but just got limited to one hour a day?  What would they do with that time?  What could they do?  Dalton used to love going to Spanish classes, but we stopped.  Why?  Why aren't I still having him take a foreign language?  And what about his musical instrument?  Why am I satisfied with 15 minutes of practice every few days?  Will he ever get better at that rate?

My children have just as much potential as any child, so why am I not letting that potential be realized?  Is it fear, because dedication takes work, and work is not fun, and who wants to have whining kids or kids who don't like you?  I can blame it on the fatigue of raising three small kids, but Moms and Dads are doing it every day.  I need to just suck it up, come up with a plan, and stick to it.

Our conversation at book group was great.  When isn't it?  I was surprised that the majority of the mothers felt like me.  They secretly wished that they could unlock a little more of the Tiger Mother inside themselves.  They wanted their kids' potential to be realized.  It was heartening to know that we were all going to go for it- baby steps.  We would all try to see if we could channel a little Tiger Mother within, knowing that if other moms were doing it, we could do it too.  No being mean.  No verbal abuse.  But discipline and expectations with the stuff that counts.  I think that is a pretty loving thing to do.

Here's a Slate article about it:

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