Do I Want to be a Tiger Mom?

Like many others, I have been reading snippets about Amy Chua, the currently famous "Tiger Mom". First I read David Brooks of the New York Times in his column and then an article by Annie Murphy Paul in Time Magazine followed by an article by Bill Powell about his "Tiger Daughter". Interesting reading. I admit I have not read her book, and probably won't (but you never know).

As a mother of three (ages 17, 14, and 11) in America, I have always wanted my children to do better than myself. I think that is probably the goal of most of parents. From the ages of my children you can see we have had to deal with the "everyone gets a trophy just for participating" and the "you get an A because all the components of the assignment were there". On the other hand, one child did not get into "AL" (gifted & talented, accelerated learner, advanced learner, there are many names for this program) because he didn't test well. Another child got in, but hated it because it just meant extra homework and missing regular class time. The third child got in, but so have over half of her classmates.

Our children have gotten many mixed messages about the importance of doing their best. The older they get the more it appears that there is no real reward (at least not in their world) for working the hardest. Case in point, a couple of years ago an unnamed high school student had a summer English assignment that involved reading and annotating a book. Learning to annotate was a hard assignment for him, but he did it.  The first day of class another student sat down beside him and asked to borrow a highlighter. He had not read the book, so proceeded to skim and randomly highlight passages in the book.  The one who did the assignment during the summer got a C.  The last minute highlighter got an A. The previously hard working student decided it wasn't worth any extra effort from that time on.

I now have children who do their homework, and generally get decent grades. Occasionally one of them will have a teacher that inspires them to go above and beyond, but only occasionally.

I have no intention of judging Amy Chua and her parenting methods. But I do see her dedication to her girls.  She's the one who spent time reviewing their work, working on drills, keeping them practicing, and pushing them to their best. It didn't originate from their teachers or the world around them.

I look at my own parenting style. I have always considered myself an involved parent (and compared to many I am). However, I am not nearly so dedicated as advocated by Amy Chua. Early on I read John Rosemond's "Ending the Homework Hassle" and adopted a modified (perhaps that was the problem) approach to that philosophy.  I'm not so sure I did the right thing.

What do I learn from this issue presented and more importantly what will I do about it? Perhaps there is still time to do more than just ask if my children have homework, check their grades online, and admonish them at report card time that they may not be living up to their potential. Maybe it's time to bring out the flashcards, look at their homework, and review their projects. Perhaps I cut down on their free time, and mine. Perhaps I need to lead more by example - if I want them to push themselves I should start by pushing myself.

The great thing about America? Examples abound of people turning the course of their lives around. It's never too late to change and grow.

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