So I’m reading The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and enjoying shouting at the book as I read. This is not a review of that book, as I haven’t finished it yet. However, reading that book, a memoir by Amy Chua about her attempts to be a “Chinese mother” to her children, makes me think about my own parenting.
My wife and I are not exactly what Chua describes Western parents to be. We don’t pay our kids for getting good grades, we don’t (or at least we believe we don’t) praise in unwarranted ways, and we have very strict expectations when it comes to discipline and politeness.
On the other hand, I think that anyone Chua would describe as a Chinese mother (and she does admit that just about any culture and mix of X and Y chromosomes can produce a parent she would class this way) would think us very lax. We allow our kids to seek their own futures. Dana is in her second year in an International Baccalaureate program. She’s also a cheerleader who plays the flute and has never brought home a high school report card showing anything lower than an A. Eric is a Triple-A hockey goalie who also gets great report cards and who has only once ever forgotten to do his homework. He reads and is thinking about becoming a sports medicine doctor.
I think Connor wants to be a super-hero, but he’s only three, so we’ll see how that develops.
We expect a lot of the kids, but our highest expectations come in the area of behaviour. We expect them to treat others with consideration and respect. Last year, when Eric told us that a younger boy in his class was being bullied, we sat him down and told him, “Not on your watch, he isn’t.” We gave him suggestions as to how he could use his own status in the class to get the bully to think about his behaviour, and that’s exactly what he did. The next time the bully said something unpleasant to the smaller boy, Eric told him not to do that because it was mean, and told the victim not to listen to him. A few days later, Eric reported the bully actually sticking up for the other kid. I had never been more proud of Eric.
We don’t always agree with their decisions. Cheerleading, really? But while we try to guide, we want them to make their own mistakes, and for us the values of courtesy, respect, empathy, and truthfulness are much more important than the prestige of the career they will eventually choose. (And I have to admit to a glow of pride when her English teacher told us she was the peppiest and most positive one on the squad.)
I’m willing to learn more as I continue to read Chua’s book, but for now, I like my parenting style better. I don’t force music lessons on my kids, and I don’t threaten them when they screw up. Instead, I try to be a good example, and to have close relationships with them.
Let’s see how that goes.