WARNING: This blog contains rants and criticisms that some may find offensive and politically incorrect. If you choose to read on, consider yourself warned….
Hello dear friends! Today we are going to talk about the latest fad parenting book to hit the stands. I wrote about it yesterday, in fact. Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, which the Times Magazine says “…aspires to become a battle plan for a new age of re-empowered, captain-of-the-ship motherhood.” Hurrah! Finally, no more oohing and aahing over that crap your kid brings home from Arts and Crafts. Now you can just tell them it’s crap and toss it in the trash, insisting they do better! It’s not brutal, it’s love.
Screaming and threatening and disallowing any kind of social interaction as you force your child to sit for hours at a piano until they GET. IT. RIGHT. is, in my opinion, borderline psychotic behavior. Yes, Ms. Chua has two girls who are very accomplished musicians to show for it, so I guess if your goal is trophy children, then have at it! (I’m going to put in a large disclaimer here. I haven’t yet read “Tiger Mother”, so I am basing all this on the excerpt from which I quoted yesterday, and from the Times review. I refuse to pay money for the book, which means I’ll be on the waiting list at the library for at least the next 6 months…)
Antithesis to “Tiger Mother” would be something like Pam Leo’s book “Connection Parenting”, which is all about meeting needs and doing things in a non-coercive manner. In theory I back this up, but sadly this method sometimes results in wimpy parents who whine to their children, pleading with them to do things like say they’re sorry after dumping glue in someone’s hair.
Then there is “Parenting with Love & Logic” by Foster Cline and “Setting Limits with your Strong Willed Child” by Robert MacKenzie. “NurtureShock” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merriman will tell you why most of your instincts about children are wrong. The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and PLEASE STOP!
Here’s the problem as I see it. Amy Chua’s method may work for Amy Chua. That doesn’t mean it will work for all parents, and that we should all force our kids to stay home and learn piano instead of playing with friends or (gasp!) actually wanting to be in a play. Conversely, Pam Leo’s method may be perfect for Pam Leo. Does that mean we should all nurse our kids till they’re 4, never say no and always put their needs first? Chua and Leo both have people who say their method is The One, and they both also have detractors.
But how can this be? Well in case you haven’t noticed, every kid is different. Every family dynamic is different. There is no one size fits all style of parenting. Parents who rush out to buy the latest parenting book are parenting by fad. Now it’s ok to be strict? Great! No more computer or TV for you, buddy! But then, what if next year some other parent writes a book about how their kid became a millionaire before the age of 20 because they spent their formative years doing nothing but playing World of Warcraft and learning computer programming? Get the computer out of the closet! Forget violin! Learn programming and pay for our retirement!
Instead, how about putting all those books aside, and taking a look at your kids. You’ve had them for a while now (and if you haven’t, stop reading this and go get some sleep), so you should probably know a little bit about their personalities. If you’ve got more than one child, I’m betting their personalities are not exactly the same. In my case, for instance, all I had to do when Maya was a baby was look stern and use my ‘strict’ voice and she would immediately burst into tears out of remorse. Ben on the other hand thought any kind of discipline – strict voice or even a swat on the butt – was cause for uncontrollable laughter. Guess what? We had to do things a little differently with each of them. Fad parenting is never going to work, really, because it tries to be one size fits all, and one size never does. (It’s similar in that way to our compulsory educational system.)
We unschool. Unless you’ve never been on this blog before, you know that this means my kids do what they want during the day, as much as possible. Does that mean I never tell them to get off their butts and put the dishes in the sink? No. (Although I usually don’t say “Get off your butts and put your dishes in the sink.” It’s more like, “Hey, dishes in the sink please.” And then they do it.) Does it mean that they never have to stop what they are doing so that we can get to a doctor or dentist appointment? No. Does it mean I never lose my temper? If only.
Fad parenting plays to the idea that there is a ‘perfect’ way to raise your kids so that they will be successful and make you look good. Get a clue. No parenting style is perfect. No parent is either. Do what works for you and your family. The rest is just garbage.