Are you tired of hearing about this yet? Because I sure am.
A much abridged backstory for those of you living under a rock: Yale Law School professor Amy Chua raised two girls. She recently wrote a controversial memoir about the process called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt, highlighting some of her rather, er, interesting parenting decisions. It raised an uproar. Every news outlet and parenting website on the planet was all aflutter. Was Chua, with her tight-as-a-drum rigid parenting, a monster? Or was she crazy like a fox, on to something?
A column on the Psychology Today website by Oberlin College professor Nancy Darling deplored Chua’s approach but wondered if we could still learn something from her. Lord knows. I don’t even know if I care anymore. I mean, sure I have opinions on parenting methods that appear to border on abuse, but given that I almost never see such parenting in action, I don’t know if I can work up a good head of steam over it or not.
Actually, now that I’m reflecting on this, I’d recommend that you go read Darling’s column and skip reading the WSJ excerpt from Chua’s book. Darling makes some great points, including the fact that good parenting takes time. I tend to feel like most of the things that we need to do in life take time, that there’s usually not always a quick-fix easy solution that’s likely to last very long. For example, for most people, the best way to lose weight is to eat less and move more, not take a pill. The best way to learn how to do something well is to practice it, over and over. I’m sure Chua would tell you that that’s the point she was trying to get across. But as many others have pointed out, the ends don’t always justify the means. Especially not if the means are big-time yelling-screaming-threatening means.
I recently registered my elder son for a YMCA soccer league. He objected, because he’s ever played soccer before and he’s worried that he won’t be any good at it. I tried to tell him that it’s more about learning to be part of a team and having fun, but he still frowned. I realized that he believes that he has to be good at something if he is going to do it at all. So I told him that no one else on the team is going to know much about soccer either and that everyone will all be learning together. It will take time. It will take practice. But that’s how you learn to do something. And the only way to be really good at something is do do just that.
I like to think that I explained this in a calm, reasonable manner. I was trying to validate his feelings without letting him give up on something before he even gets started. That’s how I felt comfortable approaching the situation. I don’t know how effective it will be, that’s true. Maybe if I cajoled and threatened him, he’d be motivated enough (or scared enough) to practice himself into the ground to be the best soccer player in the state. But I’m just not going to do that. Because if that’s what it takes to get my child to be a “success,” then I’m just not interested, thanks.