Kate's Blog

Follow me if you will as I try to navigate through the ups and downs of my world.

I'm writing this blog to help me make sense of all that has happened - from my diagnosis with non-Hodgkins lymphoma while pregnant with my third child in May 2008
, through to my reflections on chaotic family life as I try to pick up the pieces of my life again.

The kids are so small, and I'm working hard to keep us all safe and to stay in remission.

Stay with me - it won't be all doom and gloom I promise!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tiger Mother? I'm Growling like a Kitten

Thanks everyone for your lovely and supportive comments after my last post. I haven't got the results yet - and I'm guessing no news is good news. As I said, it was a routine scan - but my reactions really surprised me. Clearly something inside me wasn't feeling routine.

Now, I'm grappling with a new and different issue. Have you heard about the 'tiger mother'? You must have done. It's the name given to pushy parenting, or maybe more accurately to parenting in a more traditional way. So it's making your kids practice their reading, maths and musical instruments everyday whether they want to or not. It's about not praising your children for every move they make, instead one might ask them to try harder before you praise.

Some time ago I read 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother' by Amy Chua. It caused a big controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. I thought it was quite funny and I thought that much of it was written tongue in cheek. The controversy I thought came, largely, from a collective sense of humour failure.

However, undeniably Amy Chua presents herself as a pushy mother. Very different from me and my parenting style. But after I read it I thought I'd try an experiment.

Both Ed and Martha play the cello and violin respectively. I encourage them to practice but if I'm honest the time seems to fly between lessons, and sometimes - what with everything else - the practice can fall by the wayside. We pay for these lessons, the kids enjoy playing and I want them to stick at it. But I'm guilty of letting the practice slide sometimes.

So, I decided that for a while I'd make them practice for 15 minutes a day. And I decided that I'd be just a tad more critical. I wouldn't just say, 'That's lovely, Ed', if it actually wasn't. Instead I resolved to ask him to do it again and do it better. Just a bit, a teensy bit of Chua style parenting! The kids were quite surprised. And a little bit outraged it has to be said.

But..... their music has improved and they are enjoying playing so much more. With the practice - properly focused and a just a little bit demanding - has come a leap ahead in terms of achievement. They're doing better, they play better and they're having fun.

Interesting, really. I guess it's certainly so - that if I'm half-hearted about something, even accidentally half-hearted, that doesn't help them to succeed.

Right - on with the Latin then.

Only joking.....


Tracey said...

That Chua woman is a bit over the top. She would have tied your children to their instruments, denying them food, water, or rest until their playing was perfect. Bah!

And, she pushes hers as an "Asian" parenting style. An unfortunate result is that anytime I meet an accomplished Asian woman (all of our doctors are Asian women for example) I have to resist the urge to ask, "Did your mother abuse you into playing the violin and going to medical school?"

Since I started homeschooling, I see the value in rote memorization and repetitive practice. But, there is value in the other kinds of learning as well. The more holistic approach.

She sites the overwhelming number of successful Asian doctors and violinists. But I wonder, the question that no one seems to want to ask, is the Asian brain just better at that sort of learning? The more meticulous things that are better learned that way. Over the centuries they developed a completely different type of written language than did the brains in the west. Maybe we are just different.

Meanwhile, I am forcing Jonah to learn his addition facts with flashcards, because they just need to be in his head, and they are not.

My, this comment is going on.

So far my children are not involved in anything that requires "practice," but when Jonah finds something that he is not good at, and wants to never do it again, I tell him, "You aren't going to be good at everything, but if you don't practice, you aren't going to be at anything." He just doesn't seem to care if he is good at 5+7=12.

And enough on that. :)

Rebecca S. said...

I could definitely be described as a tiger mother, but with a sense of humour (which has prevented my children from the mutiny I am sure they have been tempted to hold from time to time). My mother calls it 'hands on parenting.' I try to back off but it just isn't in my nature when they are young. I did back off when my violinist son was 13, though.
Great post, Kate.

Vince said...

Isn't this a question of degree. And there is also a recognition of the facts of life.
The first, the degree, there is little point in expecting little Caspar to practice until you've laid psychopathic tracks with his never being capable of drawing affection to himself. Or worst, having the affection come for winning and only for winning. The second, is just a numbers game. If this method was so successful, why then are we not awash in Chinese musicians. Or knee deep in English tennis players THAT ARE RANKED given the investment below the Kings Lynn-Gloucester line in emotion and raw cash terms.