Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Are You Friends With The Tiger Mama?

The answer: no. But, she has everyone talking though. Time had a huge piece on her in this last issue, and in our local paper there has been much editorial/commentary.

There are a few, and only a few, concepts of hers that I actually believe in.

1. I like to praise my sons for effort and hard work. My oldest is very motivated with his scripture memory. Every night we lay in bed and work on his verses. He's driven and tries to learn at least three a night. His dad asked him if he thought he'd be able to say them all (roughly 10) at Awana's. "Yeah, because I am so good at it." Well, I am glad he has such a healthy self-image, but I really have been telling him that he's doing so well with his verses because he's working hard at it and putting in the time to learn them. AND, he's the one driving this passion. I'm supporting it.

It does bother me that we, our society, tend to praise and give awards for being mediocre. I want awards, grades, praise to mean something and be the result of excellence. So, I get this approach to parenting, but the Tiger Mom is going far. I love all my son's efforts too, and I never belittle their attempts at trying a new skill or hobby. I think there is a reason why Asian girls ages 14 and 15 have such high suicide rates. That is not something I want to foster as a parent.

2. That our job as parents isn't to shield our children from all hardship or situations that are tough. Our job is to give them problem-solving skills and creative thinking so they know how to help themselves in less-than-ideal situations.

But, I'm not willing to say that the Chinese way is the more superior way. I just don't buy the test scores. I'm actually quite tired of all the test scores and how politicized it has made education.

I think we all know that tests do not give the full picture, right?

I had a brief teaching stint at a university and loved all my students from China. They worked hard. Were conscientious. Always wanted to do assignments right, and would try and try again until they got it.

However, they struggled to give their opinions. Form opinions. Think creatively. They were eager to learn, and often commented on how different this style of teaching/learning was. They loved it though. They liked the freedom they experienced in my classroom. As long as you could support your literary critique, it was valid.

They struggled with class discussion, jumping in and asserting their opinions. These Chinese students marveled at their American counterparts who were so comfortable in this setting.

I think we, China and the US, are two distinct cultures who value very different things, and I for one am glad to be raising my children in this one.


Jen Rouse said...

I can't imagine being a "Tiger Mother." I think I'm plenty strict already and really ought to work on being more fun. Last time we had a babysitter the girls told her that I made them "work like maids all the time!" (OK, so I'm actually a little proud of that. Nothing wrong with hard work!) But some of the other things I've read about this book--the personal criticism and extreme anger directed toward children--seem crazy to me. I would be very interested to actually read it for myself though.

Rebekah said...

Let's make it our next book pick!

Heather said...

I haven't read the book, but from what I've heard about it I have to say no, but I do expect a lot from my boys. I am strict and I have high expectations, but I don't talk down to them. I do my best to give positive reinforcement as a little praise goes so much further than anything else.

Rebekah said...

Heather...agree, agree, agree!

Jessica said...

I haven't read the book - or Time's article - either. Sounds like a very interesting read. Completely agree that our society has adapted a new and exciting tendency to make the mediocre something to celebrate. I guess I could see some mothers leaning toward (what I'm assuming is) the Tiger Mama in a kind of reaction to the current dumbing-down state of affairs we seem to be celebrating. I admit I haven't given much thought to the other side - I'm really only aware of the quiet panic I feel watching society surge toward spawning mediocrity and me wondering how the new generation I'm helping to raise is going to weather "shooting for the horizon." It was very interesting to read your experience teaching at the university! I'll keep that in mind when I read the article/book. :) Thanks for sharing!