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?