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Tiger Moms and the Parenting Debate | Child Development | giggle Blogs
January 31, 2011

Tiger Moms and the Parenting Debate

The debate on parenting and educational best practices has been brought to a fevered pitch with Amy Chua’s views in Tiger Mother and documentary film hits Race to Nowhere and Waiting for Superman filling parent discussions. The problem is that the proposed solutions in these various media couldn’t be more diametrically opposed. Race to Nowhere condemns the “dark side of America’s achievement culture” calling for no more homework while Amy Chua claims America does not have an achievement culture at all but a lax and loose culture that indulges kids and enables them to waste time. A strict demanding Chinese style Tiger Mom is her solution. Waiting for Superman confirms the mess in our public schools and then seems to side with Amy Chua by elevating KIPS and SEEDS charter schools as solutions, which expect a lot more from every student and insist on more classroom time, more one-on-one tutoring and more homework to achieve results. With all the mixed messages, what are parents to think?

I personally believe the current debate does not help us make sense of what direction we parents should take. Amy Chua’s ideas about high expectations and assuming that a child is strong – - not fragile – - cannot be easily dismissed. Nor can the high test scores of Eastern cultures (See NYTimes article) . Yet neither can we dismiss the western or American advances in the cognitive sciences that highlights the diversity and complexity of each human mind. It indicates that minds really are all different, each possessing a different profile of strengths and able to contribute to the world in diverse ways. And it is not just about our academic profile; it is about creativity, emotional intelligence, social intelligence and practical intelligence as well as qualities like happiness, joy, compassion and wisdom. Our world is swimming in an immense diversity of professions, roles and responsibilities; yet our schools and cultures narrow intelligence and assessments down to reading, writing and arithmetic. (see Ken Robinson’s TedTalk)

The key to parenting best practices is to tune into your child’s unique mind and profile of strengths and help them become who they truly are. Assume their mind and profile is a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Our job as parents and educators is to bring out those brilliant gifts by finding great ways to engage that mind in meaningful ways — with activities, projects, and education that challenge and cultivate that richness. We can have faith that are kids are wired to live life well. They want to master their world and win hard fought skills, knowledge and character traits. Yet, we adults in their lives do have a major role to play in helping them to pursue their dreams, to see that they can be, do and have anything, if they put their mind and concentrated effort towards it.

Contrary to some child-centered beliefs, it does not happen by letting children do whatever they want. Amy Chua is right about the fact that watching TV the amount of hours the average American child watches is not going to help. How do we parents provide the right experiences and right expectations to satisfy our universal desire to have our children thrive in a changing unpredictable world.

We need the debate to shift to ideas for how we identify what our children are interested in, what is their unique mind like and how do we provide the kind of opportunities that will strengthen their unique profile. In other words: How do we best provide an individual-centered education? Even parents of infants and toddlers have a huge role as the first and most important teacher. Most of the posts in this blog give concrete examples of how to get down on the floor with your child, enter and see the world through their eyes, observe what they are interested in and developmentally able to do, respond with appropriate exchanges and invitations to extend the play and exploration. It is never too early to get to know your child and cultivate their budding abilities.

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  1. [...] via Tiger Moms and the Parenting Debate | Child Development | giggle Blogs. [...]

  2. Mr. Burton,

    The discussion you propose is where everyone that is involved in the Tiger Mother debate should be.

    Instead, a majority of the total supports her or says they enjoyed her memoir while the very vocal and vulgar minority condemns her for being a loving, demanding Tough Love parent.

    I was a teacher in public education for thirty years. Most credentialed teachers in the US have had the same training that I had, which continued for those thirty years.

    I started teaching in 1975 and left in 2005. To earn my teaching credential, I had to study how children learn and how the brain works in so many different ways when it comes to learning.

    We know that each child has different learning modalities, strengths and weaknesses. I cannot remember all the jargon that describes these modalities. However, what I learned was applied to the lessons I taught. It is challenging to teach a lesson that reaches as many of the children in a classroom as varied as they all are.

    Even when a teacher takes into account all of the different learning modalities that a child may have, if a child comes from a home where the parents haven’t done his or her job raising a child, then the teacher may not be able to teach that child regardless of how effective the lesson may be. Children that do not read, study or do homework outside of school will not learn at a pace that will keep up with those children that were raised in homes practicing Tough Love.

    The role of the parent is different from that of a teacher. Parents take a wild child at birth and raise him or her to fit into society in a constructive way. Parents support education by providing an educational atmosphere at home, which studies show the average American parent is not doing. This means the parent is responsible to make sure the child comes home to an environment that is not dominated by the different types of media.

    We also cannot expect parents to go through all the training that a teacher must have to earn a teaching credential.

    Studies also show that the best parenting method fits within the definition of Tough Love. On a Tough Love scale of one to ten with Amy Chua being an eight or nine, it is obvious that there is a lot of room for parents to raise a disciplined child that spends more time reading, doing homework and studying than watching TV, social networking on Facebook, playing video games or writing endless text messages.

    The challenge in America is to convince parents to be parents instead of friends and providers of fun and follow your dream lifestyles—especially since most of a Child’s dreams are unrealistic. Not everyone can be the next Bill Gates, a famous athlete earning millions a year, a super model, etc. Yet, that is what most children dream.

  3. Amy Chua’s approach assumed that forcing a child to practice violin, even if hated by the child, would lead to mastery and then later the consequences of mastery would cause the child to love the violin. Perhaps the main adjustment to this approach is what Don suggests: help the child find their own domain to master. But from a classic work (The Vanishing Adolescent) we know it takes years for children to find a passion about something. In the meantime I think we should let the child explore many domains. I also agree that we should insist children do not waste time, nor should we hurry the child (see David Elkind’s book, The Hurried Child).

    Then there is the broader question about achievement. Why should a child younger than 10 be excellent at anything like a sport or musical instrument? How about excellent at listening to your friends or coming up with good ideas to maintain play or understanding what it means not to betray a friend or how to anticipate what upsets your younger brother or making a story interesting by given details and finding the suspense or helping other people know what information you need to understand something complex.

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