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.
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?”
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.