A new parenting book has caused quite a stir. The book is The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (a professor of law at Yale Law School ).
In this book, Amy reveals how she adopted a strict Chinese parenting style with her two kids; in which she DID NOT ALLOW HER KIDS DO THE FOLLOWING:
- Attend sleepovers;
- Have a play-date;
- Take part in a school play;
- Watch TV;
- Play computer games;
- Achieve any grade less than an A;
- Play any other musical instrument apart from the violin or piano.
I guess it's safe to say that her parenting style was very strict. For example, on her birthday, her daughter (Lulu - aged four) handed her a 'surprise', which turned out to be a card. Amy looked at this 'card' which was a paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front and 'Happy Birthday, Mummy! Love, Lulu' scrawled in crayon above another happy face.
Amy then gave the card back to Lulu saying 'I don't want this, I want a better one – one that you've put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can't go in there.' She then grabbed the card again, flipped it over, pulled out a pen and scrawled - 'Happy Birthday Lulu Whoopee!' - added a big sour face. … then 'I reject this!!!'
Amy confirms that this is the way she was also brought up - and it worked for her!
As I said earlier, the book has drawn varying reactions from readers and book reviewers - ranging from 'Too much!' to 'Just right!' to 'Push Harder!'
While some commentators claim that they had an epiphany after reading the book (as in - 'Oh! that explains why Chinese children are such high achievers'); others claim that her style is too autocratic and might stifle creativity.
However, a lot of what she talks about is similar to the general Nigerian style of parenting - a great emphasis on academic success, minimal emphasis on creativity/ extra-curricular activities and little or no emphasis on nurturing individuality.
So, this book got me thinking about how I was raised by my parents AND how I am now raising my children:
Parenting Styles - My Parents:
With regards to parenting styles, I like to imagine parenting as equivalent to leadership (which largely involves exerting control and giving direction to your followers/ subordinates).
With regards to how much discipline and control parents dish out to their kids; I see parents as falling between a 1 and 10 on the 'Parenting dial'.
At No.1 is the Passive Parent who rarely disciplines his/her child, does not set any expectations for the child and allows the child do whatever s/he wants. This kind of parent rarely reprimands and is more likely to place more emphasis on nurturing the child's self esteem.
On the other hand, at No.10 is the Autocratic Parent who is quick to discipline, dictates expectations to the child, attempts to control the child's choice of activities, friends, clothes etc. This kind of parent is also more likely to reprimand slight failings and will not place much emphasis on nurturing a child's self esteem.
I would rate my parents as an 8.
This is because I often felt very much misunderstood. I also felt that sometimes, the punishment meted out by my parents exceeded whatever offence I had committed. To be honest, I often felt that their reaction was heightened by other issues they were facing (i.e. financial pressures, family squabbles etc) rather than whatever mischief I had perpetrated. *smile*
What I did not particularly like was that they took a 'one size fits all' approach to parenting i.e. if A did this, B must do this....If A misbehaved like this, we assume B might also misbehave...........*sigh*
However, I totally accept that this was generally the parenting style of that time. While their style has shaped me into a disciplined and organised person; it has also placed some distance between us - as we never could communicate with each other freely.
Parenting Styles - Mine:
I am definitely no saint and I know I have - and will - make parenting mistakes BUT I always try to make sure I do not let other issues (financial worries, office tensions, deadlines etc) push me into overeacting to the kids' occasional mischief.
In relation to the 'parenting dial' - If I am honest, I would say hubby and I are a 6 - uncompromising when it comes to school work, strict when it comes to behaviour; but relaxed when it comes to pursuing whatever extra-curricular activity the child likes. Again, while each child has a chore - sweeping, washing dishes or tidying up; they can also 'earn' pocket money by doing extra housework or excelling at school.
Yes, its lovely to have all your children turn into lawyers, doctors and engineers BUT what would this world be without Authors like Malcolm Gladwell or Chinua Achebe; Sportsmen like Muhammad Ali or Tiger Woods; Visionaries like Bill Gates, Steven Spielberg, Fela, Steve Jobs or Mother Theresa, ..................?
I would like to conclude by recalling a confrontation between a demanding mother (aged 60 yrs) and an exasperated daughter (aged 36 yrs):
Mom: 'Your behaviour is not Christian-like'
Daughter: 'What do you mean?'
Mum: (steadily raising her voice) 'Hmmph......Ephesians 6! Ephesians 6!!
Daughter: (quizzically) 'Ephesians 6? What part?'
Mum: (shouting and wagging her finger) 'Ephesians 6 - Honour your father and mother so that it may be well with you and your days on Earth may be long!'
Daughter: (smiling) 'Mmmmm.....you always quote the passages that suit you!'
Mum: (frowning) 'How?'
Daughter: 'Read further...after that statement its continues to say - 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children...instead bring them up in the way of the Lord.'
Mum: (sighing and walking away) 'You no be beta person at all!'
I would now love to hear from you:
- If you are already a parent: How would you describe your parenting style?
- If you are not a parent yet: What kind of parenting style would you ideally prefer to adopt in future?
- From all (parents/ non parents): How would you describe your parents' parenting style? What did you like/ not like?
Indeed, how far should one push his/her child?