I Make My Kid Do Homework In the Summer

February 2, 2016 — 36 Comments

tiger mom

By the time he was seven, my kid would tell his little friends “I do homework in the summer because when I grow up, my mom wants me to be able to compete in a global economy.”

I’m THAT mom, the one who questions her kid as to why he got that one A, when all the rest of his grades were A pluses.

 

I grew up in one of the worst housing projects in NYC. I’ve been able to forge ahead partly because of my intelligence and sense of humor, but undeniably because of my project girl survival skills.

My kid is soft. Thank God, he’s a soft suburban kid who never has to worry about gunshots in the playground. He lacks survival instincts because he doesn’t NEED them.

What if life takes a giant dump on him?

I can’t give him street smarts by dropping him off in my old neighborhood, like a Hunger Games arena, and see if he’s still alive at the end of the day.

I have no way to prepare him for emotional trauma or tremendous adversity.  But ONE THING I can give him – I can teach him to EXCEL at everything he does, particularly academics.

To help him establish himself in a career, I can prepare him to KNOCK OUT ALL THE COMPETITION.

I want him to be THE BEST.

Not just HIS best. THE best.

 

 

I taught him to read early, so he entered kindergarten already reading.  Around that age, I introduced him to numbers. By first grade, I was quizzing him on his time tables while we drove places.

Like most children, my kid initially balked at homework. But I reinforced in him the notion that homework is a priority. At 12, he’s internalized this voice to the point where he does his weekend homework on Friday – so he can enjoy the rest of the weekend.

I make my kid do homework in the summer. I buy him workbooks in math and language arts for the grade he’s entering, and he has to spend a half hour a day on each of them.

There is a documented loss of academic skills in children over the summer. Knowing that, why would I want such an easily preventable thing to happen? Yes, I KNOW summers are for lazy days of barbecues and swimming. I’m not forcing my kid to kneel on rice. It’s an hour a day, people.

 

I’m not a full throttle Tiger Mom, as in the woman who coined the phrase in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy Chua’s memoir of raising her two daughters chronicled daily hours of forced music practice, severe restrictions on extracurriculars, bans on social activities like sleepovers, and punishment and shaming if her children failed to achieve her high expectations.

My parenting style is somewhere in the gray area, between “tiger” and “dolphin,” albeit much closer to tiger. I’m a single working mom with sole custody of my son. Dolphin parenting advocates disciplining your child with “creativity and fun.” Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Furthermore, films of dolphins show them ramming baby porpoises to death. Probably because they snapped after trying to “have fun” disciplining their children.

The public loves to rip Amy Chua apart. I think it’s her combative, holier-than-thou attitude, and offensively pretentious tone she assumes in her book. She’s the Asian Ann Coulter, and it’s stylish Left liberalism to hate her. Her exaggerated version of Tiger Mom is more is an example of narcissistic personality disorder. I would never make my son practice his instrument relentlessly for hours, without bathroom or food breaks.

BUT. I did insist he LEARN an instrument, when in fact, he strongly resisted it. Playing an instrument has been shown to have real impact on cognitive abilities.

I also totally dig music, came from a family of musicians, and most importantly, need someone to jam with.

 

I was raised dirt poor; the kind of poor where I feared feeling my feet pressing the inside of my shoes. We couldn’t afford new shoes.
I’m better off than that, but not the kind of success I want for my child.

It’s simple Parenting 101. I want him to have a better life than the one I currently provide for him. He’s already having a better childhood, one that includes love, safety, security, encouragement, attention, real family time and memory-making adventures.

But achieving a higher standard of living than the generation that came before is nowhere NEAR the slam dunk it once was. So, I’m looking to hone his competitive edge.

Yes, he’s smart. Natural talent and innate intelligence, past a certain point, won’t take you far enough without a strong work ethic. At some point the ability to persevere is more important.

 

In America, the idea seems to be that we live in a land of opportunity and if you just follow your dreams everything will turn out wonderful in the end.

Not really.

The world is a hard place. Democracy is a sham and equality of opportunity is a myth. However, if you work hard to distinguish yourself among the pack, you have a better chance of clawing your way into the privileged class of people who can afford to not be enslaved by a soul crushing daily grind to make ends meet.

A lot of money does NOT equal a LOT of  happiness – but SOME money equals SOME happiness. No matter what your values are, being financially comfortable gives you the freedom to do things that struggling financially simply does not.

The problem with all the critiques of the tiger mom parenting style is that they feel Tiger Mom-ing only yields a socially constructed notion of material success. These critics fail to acknowledge “success” by a more accurate definition: growing up to be adults with power of self-determination. This is what money gives you. So deriding the single-minded focus towards “material success” as if it’s inherently wrong is just fashionable new age ethos.

When I came home with phenomenal grades, my mother ONLY looked at the one 97, demanding, “Why is this not 100?” I do not do that. I first congratulate my son on his A pluses. THEN I point to the one A, and demand,”Why isn’t this an A plus?”

That's what I call Fucking A

That’s what I call Fucking A

 

Unlike Amy Chua I never make my kid feel bad when he doesn’t 100% succeed, because learning to fail is just as important as learning to succeed. I do not want to raise a worker bee who is unable to fix situations that go wrong.

 

 

American parents use the emotional well-being of the child as an excuse for their own laziness in enforcing any sort of discipline and work ethic.

They assume fragility in our children, instead of strength.

My kid is loaded up like a pack mule on the days he has band practice. He has to carry his backpack, laptop, lunch bag and saxophone. Initially, he wanted me to walk him to the bus stop and carry his sax, because that’s what ALL the moms do.

Guess what? Who’s going to be at the other end of the ride, helping him drag all that stuff off the bus, and through the hallways? NO ONE.

So I refused. Instead, I helped him figure out the best way to juggle everything. He feels empowered.

 

And I don’t have to put on pants at 7:10 am. It’s s a win-win.

 

What is your parenting style? Are you a tiger, dolphin, kangaroo? Aardvark?
What do you think of the Tiger Mom style? 
Talk to me. I’m listening. 

 

Join me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter so I can have friends without leaving the house.

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36 responses to I Make My Kid Do Homework In the Summer

  1. 

    See, this is why I love you. Self esteem in children is not something we hand out like candy. It is something they earn.

    At my son’s three year Dr appt, the doctor (new since we just moved) was a bit shocked that I had taught him all his letters and colors… before he was two. “Here is a list of milestones they should aim for by age. If you push them too fast they can get frustrated.” Um excuse me, lady who is about to be fired, your list is crap. I will not train my child into mediocrity. He learns things at HIS pace not the expected one.
    LD and my son, and others like them will be capable and well educated leaders during our aging years. After watching a brief moment of the Iowa crap yesterday and then switching to Deliverance and deciding that the movie had a more gentle ass fucking then our country is about to get, we need educated and intelligent leaders. Now to just get more people on the band wagon…

  2. 

    I see a bright future for your child, if more parents thought like this we wouldn’t be turning out some many dumbasses who think failing and getting a pat on the butt is the acceptable!

  3. 

    Great post and a good discussion of an important issue. I think summer homework makes a ton of sense. How else will they keep their momentum heading into the next school year? Plus, 30 minutes a day never killed anyone. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this important topic.

  4. 

    Love this! I think parenting, like anything else is about balance. Push them to strive for excellence and success, but also allow for mistakes and getting messy. I also made my kids do homework in the summer when they were young and I had that kind of control. haha. I didn’t really push for straight As, not my thing, but definitely was a huge victory if it happened. I think we all, as parents, do the best we can with what we have and what we know. Unless abuse or neglect is involved, I will never tell another mom how to parent her kids. Mine are college age now and the only thing I know for sure is that time goes by in a blink so love ’em and squeeze ’em! tight

  5. 

    My daughter has just started school, so I’m not much of anything yet when it comes to academics. But I don’t want to question why that A wasn’t an A plus. Because sometimes failure is necessary and if they’re striving for perfection all of the time, it might stifle their ability to take risks and learn

  6. 

    lol I feel better about my morning with my step son…thanks for that…he is 13 and I’ve only known him for two years…I already raised three sons to adulthood and they are doing fine… last ones about to finish high school with honors… the 13 year old well…he’s had the do what you want as long as it doesn’t involve me too much…parenting style, I don’t know what animal it correlates to. Otherwise known as, the How to create an entitled spoiled brat, that thinks girls are for cleaning and serving you brownies and sh*t. I gave my boys homework too…they learned to play music and learned to write and think.
    So walking into this situation unknowingly expecting that all the hours of pre moving in conversations about stuff like child rearing and money had been done in good faith…I find that my having any reasonable expectations that a 13 year old should be able to bathe himself with soap, every single time is too much pressure on the poor boy. Asking if he has homework is too stressful. Making him do simple things like clean his room and not stay up until 3 am playing violent video games on a school night or wanting him to eat things that are green or any fruit at all or is not fast food…is just too much work! Its just the way teenagers are…he’ll grow out of it…and what do you expect me to do? is what I am met with and it makes me want to like…not bake brownies I can tell you that. So, I was a tiger mom and it worked well…I am now room mate to a 13 year old tyrant who is offended if you offer him things he doesn’t want/like, is offended that he has to chew with his mouth closed and is terribly offended when you don’t give him candy on demand…. and all doctors say this is no disorder that he is totally fine. Lord, help me.

  7. 

    I was raised the way you’re raising your son. I did homework in the summer, too. My dad would also make me practice my handwriting (probably the reason I still get compliments on it to this day – at age 36 – even though I think it looks horrible). I went into kindergarten knowing I was going to college. My parents always wanted to know about that one non-perfect grade. As a kid, it felt normal to me, and I went through school with one goal – be the best I could possibly be. There was no other option.

    It hasn’t automatically meant I’ve had some sort of better life (God knows there are few guarantees of that EVER) but I can work just about anyone under the table. That’s a rare thing today, and when you combine that with a need to always be better than I was yesterday (something else my parents instilled in me), even when I’m not the smartest in the room, I’m the one people can and will go to, depend on, promote, and otherwise, need. Sometimes, you get shit on for that (that’s another lesson for another day…hopefully he won’t have to learn it for many years) but sometimes you move ahead when the lazy asses of the world are stuck in one spot.

    And, because of this kind of childhood, I learned early on I could do almost anything I put my mind to so when it was time to quit the corporate world and do my own thing, as scary as it was, I knew I’d figure it out. I know what I’m capable of because my parents made sure I did. Yeah, it was harder, and they were definitely stricter than my friends’ parents, but they taught me discipline and gave me structure – something I definitely believe kids need more of.

    So while I’m not exactly raising my own boys this way (I’m a lighter, slightly more laid back version of my own parents) – because for me this kind of childhood had it’s own set of issues that I had to deal with and figure out late in life – I *can* attest to the results of it.

    No criticism here. I lived it, survived it, and thrived because of it.

    (Oh! And as for carrying stuff for our kids, let him know there’s at least one other mother who isn’t carrying jack for her kids. I’m already carrying my own crap. In this family, we all tote our own load and do our fair share, and yes, that means you carry your own damn stuff.) 😀

  8. 

    Very smart. Love the image!

  9. 

    My kids are night and day, so my style is hard to define. I try so hard, but it’s difficult for me to push since I was always so self-motivated. I got straight As when I was a kid and a pat on the back. Not much else. Still, I did it because I wanted it. My kids don’t seem to have that inner drive. I talk it up. I’m hoping it will really sink in by the time high school hits when all the grades really count! I hope, Samara, because without the grades, getting into college is impossible. It’s impossible even with grades! By the way, I think THAT would make a good story: put a soft kid in the inner city to survive, a sort of modern day Hunger Games. Has that one been done? It probably has.

  10. 

    I think there’s place for creativity and fun – after homework is done.

  11. 

    Grades stress me out more than my kids, I think. Actually, I know my son stresses a good deal over them.

    I am a firm believe in assessing your kid’s potential and insisting that they work hard to reach that potential. I gave Livy hell because she got all A’s except for a B in math last semester. ONE POINT from an A! And she could totally have an A in math, with minimal effort. My son? I know he’s capable of A’s and B’s. I don’t see straight A’s happening with him. He works his ass off to get the grades he gets. So as long as he’s pulling in those kinds of grades I’m happy. But it’s stressful as hell in high school. I see the average GPA’s for the colleges in our state and it’s a little intimidating. Plus the clubs he needs to be involved in, the sports and the community service. There’s so much more pressure to get into college than when I was his age.

    The bottom line is that hard work will get your further in the real world than natural intellect. This is what I keep telling my daughter.

    I make my kids do school work during the summer too. I’m not as consistent as you are, but it’s necessary. I’m worried because Aidan’s high school is on a 4×4 system. So he had Algebra in the fall and won’t take another math until some time next year. How in the hell does that work? And I’m really asking you since you’re an expert in these things.

    Also, I’m all for the Hunger Games style toughening up. I told my husband that we need to drop our kids off in downtown and see if they can use their wits to figure out how to get home. We didn’t do it, but I worry about how soft they are…

    Also, I loved this. ❤

  12. 

    Good mama! For real.

    And gasp, I Jody noticed: why am I not in your “community?” *sigh

  13. 

    Your comment about society’s fragile kids is spot on, and so is your comment about parents who are too lazy to push them. These people smother their offspring in clouds of over-potection, treat teachers as the enemy and try to be “friends” with their kids, creating these weird child-adults who can’t think for themselves, can’t interact with others and who can’t at all cope when things go wrong.

    Great post. You always tell it like it is.

  14. 

    I have not read Amy Chua but I know she is blasted in the West. Asians parents are strictest probably even stricter than parents in the Gulf coz there the standards are too different for boys and girls.

    Parenting needs discipline and it starts from the parents themselves.

    And yes academics is the best gift that can be given to a child.

    Tomorrow a person may loose all his family, wealth , house but what he will not loose is his ability to work and excel and knowledge ofcourse

  15. 

    I am NOT that mom, but I respect that you are, and I LOVE your candor and writing style. I do encourage my boys to read, practice numbers, etc. (they’re only three), but I’ve found in our case, the more I push, the more they resist and lose interest. They both love reading, and it’s never been something I forced, just a part of our routine. I know it’s probably different for every kid based on his personality and age.

    Anyway, wanted to say great read, and I’m really happy I recently discovered your blog!

  16. 

    I’m glad he’s so keen and capable to extend his academic abilities, and that he’s jointly invested with you in giving himself the best possible opportunities in future 🙂 Bravo LD 🙂

  17. 

    I think I’m probably more like a sea otter. I do the complete opposite: work hard, play hard. I let her screw off all summer so she doesn’t burn out. Luckily, she’s in a killer school with high expectations, so I feel like—where I’m failing as a hardass—they are stepping in and challenging her brain more. Education is the best gift we can give them… good job, tiger! ❤

  18. 

    Since you ask, I’ve learned that we parent in reaction to how we were raised ourselves. That said, I firmly believe that everyone parents to the best of their abilities, doing what they believe is best for their kid. I was parented in a pretty standard way for the mid 60’s with spankings. My mother was barely able to be a parent because of her mental illness. With my own kid, if I parented him the way I was raised, he’d be a fucking mess. If I parented him the way you parent your kid, he’d be a fucking mess. But that’s because he doesn’t respond to either of those styles of parenting. He has a host of “invisible disabilities” that weren’t known until he was 2 and some, not until he was much older.

    I discovered a philosophy that produces a kid who is respectful, responsible, capable, and all of the good things we want, without using shame or blame. (Shame was a hot button for me). The biggie for PD is it looks at underlying behavior of misbehaviors and focuses on finding solutions. With my kid’s issues, I was always looking for what was causing the misbehaviors because his brain was chronically dysregulated. A kid who is dysregulated can not control certain things about their behavior, and until they are in control, they can’t do what you want them to do. One of the biggest things he’s had to learn about is how to help his brain and body be regulated. My kid will likely never get straight A’s (at least not without his special ed IEP). But he sure as hell knows how to figure out how to solve problems he comes across throughout his life. If I only acknowledged his brilliance and success potential by standards set in our school system, I’d believe I have one dumb kid. Thankfully, because of being forced to parent a kid who is so very different from me (I was a whiz in school, despite a shitting home life), I’ve discovered that he is, in fact, an extremely brilliant boy, and he will be extremely successful in life, partly because he will be able to handle whatever is thrown at him. And I fully expect him to be financially successful as well. He will have the tools for success, and more importantly, he will know he’s capable and worthy of it.

  19. 

    As we all imitate bacteria, on the surface of the agar jelly of life, it’s tricky to know how to educate anyone.

    Setting aside all the potential joys of existence. Seems to me that being able to feed yourself in the wilderness might be useful

  20. 

    “I don’t make my kid kneel on rice.” Ha!!! I’m with you on a lot of points. The world is competitive. And I do think it is our job to make sure they are ready and can succeed. We do homework in the summer too. I’m not as intense as you are, I don’t think, but I get it.

  21. 

    I love this post. I do. My daughters are 4 and 10 mos, so I’m not currently in the homework phase of life for them yet, but they will have summer work books, as well. We are doing the 1000 books before kindergarten challenge with the 4 year old, but we’re doing it with no repeats. (The rules say you can count a single book numerous times – as many times as you read it. Hell no, my child will have actually read/had read to her, 1000 different books.) I’m not a tiger mom, now, per se, I’m more of a….horse mom? I don’t know, that’s the animal image that popped into my head. It’s a challenge, to try to prepare your child for the reality that can await their future, without subjecting them to the hardships that crafted you into the person you are today. I want my girls to grow up blessed, with charmed lives, feeling that the world is their oyster. I also want them to be able to kick the shit out of someone if they need to defend themselves. I don’t know how (or if) it’s possible to give them both things, so, I would rather they be blessed, even if it makes them “soft”. Then, I’ll be the tiger mom in the background, waiting to kick the ass they weren’t prepared to. – S.L.

  22. 

    At the risk of slipping into psycho-babble, I believe high expectations of our offspring are fine, as long as it is in the context of a loving, emotionally nurturing relationship. Having worked in adult mental health services for over three decades, I’ve witnessed many people who have been screwed up by parents who consistently emitted the message ‘you will only be acceptable to me & others if you achieve excellence in everything’ (or a similarly impossible imperative). After saying that, it is clear from what you say that your parenting approach is rather more balanced than that.

    Interesting post that gets parents wondering as to whether they’ve pitched their parenting at an optimal level on the demand-nurture continuum.

  23. 

    Hm. I am a B student. Strong B, not weak and pushing A. Most of my school friends never studied. They were so controlled and pushed and what not that they went crazy and would rebel in the wrong time of their life. In the moment they supposed to start to go to college. They were burn out from all the must and have to and do this and that. My parents did teach me to do what I love and then do it that good to be best in it. Now I have a job and am still suprised that they pay me for that.I hated math, always did.
    They didn’t push me to be good in math. I now have a career and can ignore math every single day.
    Also I think traveling other continents and cultures educate the most.
    I learned to read in a school. Didn’t miss anything. 🙂 Since then I still read a book per week.For us giving a good example works – like do I read? Do I visit a museum? Do I take my kid abroad to learn language, culture and to handle new situations…
    I wonder, if your son don’t want to visit a college one day, would you give him a freedom do decide so?

  24. 

    I was blessed with incredibly smart kids – the first was exceptionally bright and I never had to worry about her grades. She handled all of her college applications herself and even made trips alone to the other side of the country to see potential colleges that were offering her scholarships. She got a full ride at Boston U and then was accepted to Harvard, where she got her law degree. She set the bar very high for her younger sibs. However, I knew that all my kids had those kinds of brains – they just didn’t always use them. So, I expected great things of the younger kids – I did get all up in their shit when they didn’t do well, because I knew it wasn’t related to ability – just motivation. However, I didn’t praise my kids enough when they did do well – since I knew they could, and since I expected them to do well, I often let accomplishments slide without acknowledgement. It was a mistake on my part. However, even with my fuckups, my kids all turned out to be productive members of society – they just may need therapy at some point.

  25. 

    Laughed so hard, I spewed beer on my screen. I just don’t understand why…a sax?

  26. 

    Really? When you write “I want him to be THE BEST. Not just HIS best. THE best.” – don’t you think, it is too much of YOUR expectations you put on HIS shoulders. You can be the best, but you can’t push another person to do the same. Neither your husband, sister or your kid. I Saw too many of those “broken men” at the psychoanalytic chair 20 years later. Well done mum!

  27. 

    Just a quick note of solidarity. A few years ago my son was fussing about summer homework so I gave him a basic lesson in globalization, explaining that Chinese and Indian kids were most likely going to own his ass when he grew up, etc. He looked terrified by the time I was done and asked, “Do other mothers know this??” It’s nice to see that at least one does.

    • 

      Thanks for the vote of solidarity!

      Chinese and Indian families have a whole different approach to education. They make it the top priority.

      I parent like that. Unapologetically.
      Thanks for reading, and commenting!

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