Are today’s parents toothless tigers?
We’ve had free-range parenting, helicopter parenting, attachment parenting and now we have ``tiger mums’‘.
In case you missed the shitstorm, Yale University Professor Amy Chua has penned a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she says that the recipe for successful child raising involves:
- Never going to sleepovers or playdates.
- Never watching television, playing computer games or choosing their own extracurricular activities.
- Never not being the number one student in every subject except gym or drama, and never playing any instrument other than the piano or violin.
Naturally parents around the world went nuts. It seems inhumane, cruel, and designed to create an army of overachieving academics who fail dismally in the murky soup of real life.
But Professor Chua does have a point.
She says one of the major issues with `Western’-style parenting (if there is such a thing) is that parents are far too concerned about their kids’ self esteem.
As an aside here, I recognise that each generation has a propensity to criticise the one that comes after it for the very things it was itself criticised for.
And yet - there does seem to be an inordinate number of tweens, teens and 20-somethings suffering from FIG JAM syndrome.
They haven’t had their mettle tested, and yet they seem to consider themselves the very pinnacle of beauty, intellect and wit.
Self confidence is a glorious thing, and a great asset. But when it’s built on imaginary foundations, you’re in trouble.
So this false building up of self esteem, by endless praise and by removing serious competition from schools, is setting children up for a fall.
And these days each of us has a chance to see the manifestation thanks to social media.
Facebook particularly is all about a vainglorious celebration of self, pouting self portraits accompanied by the adoration of others - `OMG! Soooo hot!’.
No one wants a generation of cripplingly shy self doubters.
But self doubt has a place.
It’s self doubt that stops me donning a midriff-baring top and thus exposing the wider world to the shifting morass of my abdomen. Be thankful.
Yesterday I made a cracker of a mistake. Generally I’m filled with self doubt, which makes me double and triple check everything that I do. But I was feeling strangely confident doing a relatively new task.
So of course, I cocked it up - because I thought I was better than I actually was. Lesson learned.
Professor Chua sounds frightful. In a Wall Street Journal article she described the various ways she threatened her daughter - telling her she’d get no Christmas or Hannukah presents and no birthday parties for years, and calling her lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic - for not playing a piano piece perfectly.
She is an abusive parent.
But it is also a form of abuse to convince your child that they are something they are not.
Parents and teachers should be nurturing, should encourage talent, should help a child develop self confidence.
They should never mislead a child, give them a false perception of themselves.
These children, when they go to high school, to university, or into the workplace, have that facade sheered away in an instant.
These are the new employees who come in with a sense of entitlement that alienates colleagues immediately. These are the students who, when they fail, will cast around looking for someone to blame.
In the real world, there are winners and losers, and children will be best served if they can learn and thrive in both situations.
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