Not My Parenting Style

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011 • 6 Comments on Not My Parenting Style

I don’t have a parenting style. I pretty much let the kid do his own thing unless it is a) dangerous or b) extremely loud.  (I have an aversion to loud noise. This is not a good thing when one has a child.)  I try to avoid letting the child get into situations that are fraught with mortal danger and I try to avoid giving him toys that beep and scream and play screechy music. Can I claim that as a parenting style?  No?  Hmm.

Let’s see.  I also believe in giving unconditional love, whether in the form of hugs or tummy tickles or leaving the house 15 minutes later than I intended to hold him up to the light switch for a rousing game of turning the lights on and off.  I don’t have huge goals for my one year old beyond keeping him entertained, clean, well-fed and clothed and making sure he knows he’s safe and loved at all times.  From birth, my main goal was getting him to sleep through the night in his own bed. He always slept in his crib and by the third month, he slept through the night. Now he sleeps 12+ hours every night. (Go ahead, hate me. I don’t care).

I didn’t do some of the things other parents do or some of the things that were recommended to me.  I’m no pushover and I’m probably more of a disciplinarian than Jay is, but the kid is going to be told “Yes” a lot more than he’s told “No” in his life. Probably. I believe in positive motivation in the form of encouraging dreams and supporting goals. So, this article by Amy Chua leaves me cold. Growing up, my best friend was Chinese and I know that some of what Ms. Chua says about “Chinese Mothers” is true, but I sincerely hope my friend didn’t have this kind of mother.  One who would call her daughter “garbage” as a form of motivation.  Seriously?

Among the things Ms. Chua’s daughters were not allowed to do were:

• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin

Is that parenting—or indentured slavery?  (And I’m scratching my head over some of the arbitrary prohibitions. Why only the piano or the violin?)

Obviously, this kind of parenting “style” is extreme and most parents (especially us Western parents) aren’t going to sign up for Chua parenting classes.  But I’m guessing a lot of Western parents will read her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that was released yesterday, in hopes of gleaning some tips on motivating their “lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic” children. (She seriously called her daughter those names.) 

You know what? You can beat a dog every day and he will learn to obey your rules—but you’d better not turn your back on that dog. And you can emotionally abuse (and yes, I consider this kind of “parenting” to be emotional abuse) a child and break her will, but there will be consequences.  Those consequences may come in the form of some dramatic rebellion at 18 or 21 that involves violence, alcohol, drugs, promiscuity or simply doing every single thing that was forbidden throughout childhood.  Or the consequences might be in raising a child who goes on to emotionally abuse her own children in the same way.  Only time will tell.

I don’t think you have to break a human being’s spirit in order to motivate her to be the best person she can be.  And that’s what Ms. Chua is writing about—not possessions, not slaves, not extensions of herself—human beings.  Human beings who will grow up and look back on their childhood with adult eyes and have their own opinions on how they were raised.  I’ll stick with my laid back style of parenting and spend my money on a books that aren’t filled with advice on how to motivate my child through insults, threats and emotional abandonment. Maybe Ms. Chua’s daughters will write their own books one day, hmm?


Posted by Kristina in Baby, Pregnancy and Baby
  • Emerald says:

    I didn’t read the article to which you linked (feeling I’ve gleaned an idea of it by what you quote and describe about it…and also because it sounds like something I wouldn’t want to read at this time), but I hear and appreciate what you’re saying here. 

    “You can beat a dog every day and he will learn to obey your rules—but you’d better not turn your back on that dog. And you can emotionally abuse (and yes, I consider this kind of ‘parenting’ to be emotional abuse) a child and break her will, but there will be consequences.”

    Indeed.  It has occurred to me that such an environment/stimulation may not actually teach a child or individual how to experience him/herself as an autonomous, responsible being but rather to be hyper-vigilant of rules and potential punishments—and it has seemed to me (I admit I speak very personally here) that that is not the same as making choices and experiencing true personal responsibility.  It is a form of feeling fear—of cowering or reacting to perceived potential punishment.  External punishment—which is where the lack of developing an authentic sense of self may be hindered.  The child might have done what the adult thought s/he wanted the child to do.  But the child only (or mainly) learned then how to please or appease that particular person—rather than who the special and unique personal essence that child/individual is.

    I loved your description of playing with turning the lights on and off.  smile  Thanks for this post, and I loved even more the description of your parenting “style.”  It is heartwarming and delightful to me to know of it—and to know you.  smile

  • Tim Pratt says:

    My approach to parenting is: if he wants to do it, and it won’t injure, maim, or kill him, or destroy something valuable? Let him do it. And so far I have a very inquisitive, curious, and adventurous three year old. It can be exhausting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Hear, hear to both the original post and Em’s comment.

    You indeed do have a style, Kristina; it’s very similar to my own.  Provided guidance when they need it (and if you respect them and leave it up to them, they will come to you), keep them from harm, and give them the freedom to grow into their own person.  Respect and love and support.

    People who try to force their kids into a mold will often find that when you try to shove a square peg into a round hole, sometimes it jumps back and hits them in the face.  I knew a few such kids growing up, and I know what happened between them and their parents.  I’m fortunate that this was not the case with me.

    Mrs. Chua is the pathetic and cowardly one in the disrespectful and bullying way she treats her children.  I hope her daughters can free themselves from the reins and not be bitter.  I wish I lived in a world where no one would buy her book; where no one thought there was something good to be gained from such a self-important person.

  • Jo says:

    Susie Bright wrote a fantastic post about this book. I’m reeling from it slightly.

  • Kristina says:

    Em, I think you’re spot on in your analysis. The article isn’t worth reading, you get the gist: stereotypical driven Chinese parent berates and humiliates children into excelling in all things, then writes book for stupid Westerners to read and learn from. Ugh.

    Craig, I’m with you. I wish this book would tank. I might pick it up and thumb through it at B&N;to see if it’s really as filled with vitriol as the articles I’ve read suggest, but I won’t be spending my money on it.

    Jo, I just read Susie’s essay about this woman/book. Really an interesting perspective from a sex-educator. Thanks for directing me to it!

    Tim, Officebaby is absolutely precious and I’ve admired your parenting style as described through your various posts. We definitely see eye-to-eye on how to raise healthy kids! (And I agree—utterly exhausting, but so worth it to watch his little face light up when he discovers something new.)

  • Nikki says:

    I skimmed that article – will read later – am off out in a moment – but thought this line interesting:
    ‘They assume strength, not fragility’. I like that. I hate how sometimes I’m just about presuming my son is ON THE POINT OF DEATH – when there’s nothing at all wrong with him. Heh. I’m finding it very hard to discover how to make ‘rules’, when I know in life there are no rules.

    Anyway, I also was thinking about this yesterday: now my son is a toddler, experimenting with emotion and interaction, the books say he needs to be taught to be nice to others. I feel instinctively that children are naturally nice, friendly and caring towards others (once they understand that, say, hitting with a stick hurts) – and just need to not be hmmm screwed up somehow so that they feel they *need* to be nasty to others. Is that daft? I have no idea what I’m doing here, can you tell?!

    Love, Nikki xxx

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