I think by now everyone heard about Amy Chua – an author of a new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. What brought her all the notoriety is the article in Wall Street Journal titled Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior. My interest in the topic, however, was piqued by a big spread in Time magazine on the topic of “tough parenting”. I subscribe to Time, but you can read it online. I struggle sometimes with how much my bright but very “laissez-faire” daughter should be “pushed” to master things she finds difficult. To be honest, coming from a different country myself, I find a lot of truth in what Amy has to say about “permissive American parenting” – allowing hours of TV watching, computer and video games, “hanging out” and preoccupation with the lives of celebrities. And I also find issues with the “self-esteem movement” when American children rate the first in the world in self-esteem while failing quite far behind in math, science and reading scores. I don’t like the idea of never-ending praise, giving awards and prizes to everyone and even obligatory birthday party favors. I cringe to see my daughter lapping it all up with glee, and I am guilty as charged since I use prizes sometimes to get her to do something more difficult (like actually putting her head underwater for 10 seconds in the swimming lesson). I see it backfiring in a big way lately when we play a game and she asks for a prize in the end or she is pouting because I brought flowers to my parents for their wedding anniversary, and she wants a present too. I am starting to think that sometimes tough love is necessary. Don’t we try to keep our growing children to stay babies for way longer than we should? Here is an interesting point from one of the contributors to Time article, Research demonstrates that children who are protected from grappling with difficult tasks don't develop what psychologists call 'mastery experiences. Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they've learned that they're capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.
What do you think about pushing your children to master the tasks they balk at? What are your strategies? What do you think about “waiting while they are ready?” I am curious to hear your thoughts.