After receiving my wondrous Kindle from Mum for my birthday I promptly downloaded the current NY Times Best Seller List. I was STARVED for reading.
First up was Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother, a memoir By Amy Chua recounting her parenting style as she raised her two VERY successful Chinese/American daughters.
Chua is an amazing, engaging writer. This book has no action, romance, mystery or thrills but it does have drama, heroines and a villain (as Chua often portrays herself). For me this was a ‘can’t put it down’ kinda book. I was hooked as I think many readers would be, by her honesty and passion and seemingly unfaltering self-belief in herself as a mother. I mean, we all doubt ourselves as mothers at some point? right? I know I do. Ethan often puts me at crossroads where I simply don’t know how to proceed.
What this book unanimously did for me, was affirm that I’m not the only mother in the world who expects a ‘little’ bit more from her child. OK, a lot more. I have a talented son; he is crazy smart, an exceptional swimmer (he just made his first squad at 6.5yrs!), won Player of the Year in Soccer last year and is now proving to be a natural at Rugby, playing loosehead prop. This is all great stuff, however he is a little boy; what he does without prompting is play DS, PSP, Wii, Moshi Monsters or laze around watching shark documentaries. That’s all good too, but when it’s time to do some homework or training, he better turn it on.
The softly, softly positive affirmation approach to participation in sports or any pursuit holds no appeal for me either as an athlete myself or as a parent. If my kids is messing around and not listening to you at practice, then by all means yell at him. Better yet make him do 20 press-ups in front of his team I WON’T CARE! That’s how I was trained as a young gymnast, mistakes led to reps. Hundreds of repetitions. It didn’t make me cry (every day), it made me hungrier to do better next time. It made me work hard and it made me succeed. Little boys are lazy, they NEED to be pushed and they thrive on it. Making them work that bit harder, run that bit further, read that little bit more doesn’t make them hate you, or feel weak. Quite the opposite, it’s how they develop self-respect.
Achieving something they didn’t think they could do teaches kids not to accept the limits others impose on them. Kids are rubber, they bounce back from defeat, and they are also elastic, they can be stretched without being wrapped in cotton-wool and told how fabulous they are in their mediocrity.
Obviosuly this approach won’t appeal to all, some children won’t respond to being told their ‘best’ isn’t good enough. What this book will challenge parents to do (I hope) is wonder if a child’s ‘best’ really is THEIR best, or are you both just settling for an easy compromise?