A Question to the Moms and Dads of Blogosphere ……..

Many of you, who are parents will agree with me that there is so much to being a parent ,that it’s not always possible to do everything correctly. So, there is this little pat you give to yourself for getting something ‘right’. A mental kick for the times when you go wrong! Some days the pats are more than the kicks and those are the good days. And then there are the other kind! the “kick’ days!

lets make that parenthood – but it pretty much says it all!!!
image courtesy angiegoboom.com

But what do you do when you are not sure whether your action was “pat-worthy” or not? Leaves you pretty confused I say!

The one good thing I do as a parent is, I read!  I read books and blogs on parenting. there are some great ones like this one. And I am always astounded by the variety of parenting techniques and philosophies out there. Now, I am somewhat of a listener, an ‘appreciator’ of different perspectives. That leaves me in a unique position. A dilemma all my own. The dilemma of finding that I agree with what appear to be conflicting schools of thought!!!

image courtesy mumsgone2aus.com

A case in point : I read a while ago a blog, that spoke about appreciating the gifts that our children give us. Now, I know I agree with this. I have a six year old and an eight year old. They like to give me things. Little handmade cards on mother’s day or my birthday. A flower that caught their fancy. A craft they made at school. Small little things, that as an adult, I have no practical use of. But, that I cherish because it came from my babies!

And then today, I read something completely conflicting. Here, its relevant to add that I have been reading on and off a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother . The book is by Amy Chua, an American of Chinese origin, about her experience of raising her two  young girls in America,  the Chinese way. There has been a lot of criticism of Amy Chua’s ‘tyrannical’ child rearing methods and though I knew about the book I had never read it. Then at the Jaipur Literature Festival this year, I heard her speak. I found her funny, intelligent, witty and most of all open to cynicism and, willingness to debate her parenting choices and admit her mistakes. I found myself nodding to a lot of the stuff she said, and felt that the critics in the audience were not really listening to what she wanted to say. Just reacting to her “apolitical”  words. That made me buy her book!!! And its been at my bedside since. I must admit though, I don’t agree with everything she says and has done,  but the book does raise very pertinent issues. The chapter I read yesterday happened to be about a birthday card!

image courtesy borders.com.au

Here, the author  talks about an incidence when her daughters – then 7 and 4/5 approximately gifted her ‘surprise’ cards on her birthday. The younger one’s card was nothing more than a simple paper folded into half with the words “happy birthday mom” scribbled over it hurriedly. Something her daughter would have made in not more than 20 seconds (I am paraphrasing here). Amy says, Instead of planting a kiss on the girls face and accepting the card, like her American husband would have done. She rejected it.  She told her daughters, that she cherished everything they gave her, and has a special box where she stores them. And that the  card was not good enough to go in there.

Sounds heartless!!! Doesn’t it?  She went on to explain to them, that she expected something more thoughtful, something that reflected their feelings more personally. She told them how as a child their age she would put in much more thought to make her mom’s day special for her. In other words she rejected mediocrity and lip service and demanded more effort and deeper thought.

Is that such a bad thing? As a parent is it not our duty to work towards making our children more thoughtful, generous and attentive to others? At the same time is ‘this’ (Amy Chua’s method) the way to do it?

Are we doing more damage to a child’s psyche by saying something they did is not good enough? or by letting them constantly do ‘passable’ stuff and get away with it, and not challenging them enough?

image courtesy scsk12.org

As an Indian parents, I know most of us are quite expressive about our desire to see our children excel in academics/ sports/ drama/ art/ music etc. Most of us would have no qualms telling our children when their performance in a test has not been up to the mark. But would any of us do  what Amy Chua did? Would we tell off our children if they did not do enough to appreciate us? When as parents we go through so much trouble to make our kids feel special, is it wrong to  expect them to be thoughtful enough to return the favor. In their own way.

If thoughtfulness is a trait we want our children to develop. What do we do to develop it? A lot of us, including me, try to teach this by example. Hoping that when they see us being thoughtful, they will be encouraged to be the same. And a lot of time this does indeed happen! But not always! Many mothers with teenaged or middle-aged children discover this the hard way. Forgotten birthdays, anniversaries or other important dates, leave them feeling hurt and piqued. One often hears mothers of sons complain about their lack of demonstrativeness.

teaching children to show affection. picture courtesy parentingwithunderstanding.com

The fact is as children become adults, we expect them to become more responsible, expressive and show us their care and gratitude in tangible ways. The other fact is that while they were kids we didn’t teach and train them to do this. If we have never held them responsible for being thoughtful or generous to us as kids, how do we expect them to develop those qualities when they grow up? On the other hand, can something like thoughtfulness be demanded? If our children give us perfectly made up cards on our special days and “breakfasts in bed” does that ensure they will be thoughtful grown ups?

I can’t make up my mind. So, I am taking a poll!

Here is my question.

How many of you would do what Amy Chua did? and Why? or Why not?

If you knew that your daughter or son is perfectly capable of making  beautifully embellished cards, with pretty verses.  But has just scribbled something on paper as a last-minute after thought for you. What would you do?

  1. Would you feel bad but not say anything
  2. Not feel bad and of course not say anything (it’s the thought that matters after all)
  3. Speak about  it   to them, right then or later

There are no right or wrong answers and I am just trying to get a feel of what other parent think. So feel free to choose any option or write something all your own! I will be grateful! Thank-you!!!!

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17 Comments Add yours

  1. For me it would depend on who the card was for. If it was for me, I would feel really weird about bringing it up and probably not say anything (right or wrong). If it was for somebody else,though, I would start to probe a little and ask them questions and let them hopefully come to the right conclusions on their own (i.e. Did you spend a lot of time on this? Do you think this is your best? If you really care about someone, do you think they are worth giving your best effort?, etc.)

    I have four boys, the oldest being 13 and the youngest being a set of twins at 10. I’ve found the “asking questions to teach” approach pretty effective. It helps them think out things on their own, and I think as they do that more and more, it will start to come more naturally. Plus it’s also given us some really good discussions and I’ve seen several instances where the light bulb turns on inside their minds and I know I’ve reached them. From my experience, that’s been a lot more helpful than just telling them, especially with boys because they just really have a hard time listening sometimes. But if I actively engage their minds, they’re actually doing the work all on their own. Granted, I do have to challenge them on their answers from time to time when they try to avoid a question or begin to make excuses.

    1. Dear habitual ponderer,

      Asking questions!!! That’s a great idea! Very do-able. I saw your comment and just had to check out your blog. Read your piece about expecting more from teenagers. Loved it!!!! Glad you stopped by. Thanks

      1. Hello!

        It’s great to hear you got something out of it. Parenthood is such an incredible journey. I don’t think we’ll ever get everything figured out and there’s always new things and new challenges coming our way. It’s really a great adventure and not for the faint of heart.

        I’m really new to this whole world of blogging so I really appreciate you stopping by. Thanks for replying. I’m sure I’ll be seeing more of you in the future 🙂

      2. oh! you are new too. good1 we newbies should watch out for each other. will keep a lookout for you:) you write well, keep on !

  2. awakeshawn says:

    Asking questions is very good. Also, telling them they should feel proud of themselves. But, the best advice I have learned is PRAISE THEIR EFFORT. Like I can tell you worked really hard on this card for me. Or, I can tell you used many different colors. I love how you used a cow on this card, or whatever the case may be. So sweet that this happens in your house. My girls love to make me cards as well.

    1. My daughter loves making cards and crafts all the time! my son not so much! praising their effort has been the motto till now……thanks for stopping by

  3. fiztrainer says:

    I read this story about Amy Chua … I don’t agree with all her ways. I think some of her ways could be tempered a bit. I do think that we have watered down our role as parents in a lot of aspects. I remember hearing a woman talking to her friend about a show her 12 year old son watched that she disapproved of, but then added, “Hey, what are you gonna do? They’re gonna watch what they watch.” In my mind, I was like, “What are you gonna DO? You’re the parent … be a parent. That’s what you’re gonna do!” When I had my first child 21 years ago, we believed in disciplining which included a good spanking on the butt when they misbehaved. I know for many today, you’d get raised eyebrows and a slight gasp of disbelief. So, I lean more towards Amy Chua’s “tough love” approach, but not totally (even for me, she’s a bit extreme). I do think we SHOULD be telling our kids when we are offended (like the story of the birthday card). It’s important how we communicate these things, but we need to be communicating them nonetheless … I mean how do we expect them to learn if we’re not constantly teaching them. My youngest daughter was going through this phase where she didn’t want me hugging or kissing her anymore. I was so offended and upset, but I thought I should just allow her to go through her “phase.” I mean, after all, I don’t want her to hug me if she doesn’t want to. But, as I thought about it, I realized, this is not so much something that’s wrong because it hurts my feelings, but because it is a lack of respect. Certain cultures would go ballistic if a child didn’t properly greet their parents. I did finally tell her that her behavior was disrespectful and unacceptable. We spent time talking about why she was doing this and why it was disrespectful. She now makes a tremendous effort to hug me (usually when she wants something from me … LOL … but, I see her making an effort). So, there’s a lot to be said about all this. But, I’ll stop now as I’ve just written a post. (Sorry … YIKES) Great subject and awesome post. 😀

    1. don’t go yikes or apologize! It was gret to hear your views. specially since they are a bit different and come from experience too. I don’t like to molly – coddle my kids too much too. they get an earful when i feel they deserve it! 🙂 I agree sometimes parents use this ‘no push approach’ to take life easy!!! i loved your comment! thanks for visiting 🙂

      1. fiztrainer says:

        I’m so glad. I love getting different people’s views on this stuff. That’s what made this post so interesting. 😀

  4. Kids are smart, and they know when you are being insincere. But rather than reject a shoddily made gift, I would reinforce my child with praise whenever she did a good job. Tiger Mom might be raising kids who are obedient high achievers, but I wonder what kind of relationship they will have with her when they are old enough to walk away from home. You can have expectations, of course, but I have tried to raise my kids with support and kindness. I have helped them pursue their interests, and now I have a Fulbright scholar and a kid who is bound for Stanford next fall. They love learning and writing and scholarship and are both extremely high achievers, and thank goodness, spending time with their family. They achieved their success, not out of fear or a need to please a demanding mother, but to please themselves.

    1. naomi, that is so inspiring. Support and kindness sound perfect! and, yes I too agree that tghough the strict disciplinarian approach may raise super achievers, it may not be able to create the parent – child bond! thanks for sharing your views here. 🙂

      1. It seems to me that too many moms are trying to live vicariously through their children. Tiger Mom’s ego is too wrapped up in her children’s success, and that isn’t healthy or the kids or the mom. Let the mothers work on their own accomplishments instead of placing undue pressure on their children. By supporting, instead of driving your children, they can be encouraged to succeed in what they feel passionate about, and be happier in life with a career they love–and have a healthier relationship with their parents. I don’t care if my kids want to be doctors or artists or teachers, as long as they are happy and can support themselves.

      2. Well said naomi! I agree with you whole heartedly. Happiness is the ultimate achievement. Unfortunately!, societal measures of success are a mirage.

      3. What works for one parent might not work for another, but it sounds like you have a good heart and good instincts. I wish you and your children great happiness and fulfillment. So nice to have met you.

      4. thanks naomi! I like to think that too – that I have a good heart! 🙂 parenting is a difficult journey and one that teaches you something everyday. So, i just try to keep my mind open to new ideas!

  5. Arindam says:

    I would never do what Amy Chua did. I do not thing this kind of lessons we can give to our next generations y being so harsh with them. If they could not make our day special; then I do believe that, there is wrong with us. As a parent we somehow failed to let them realize how to make some one happy or make someone feel special. We somehow failed to teach them that, “we must need to realize what our dear ones love and how could we make them happy”.
    So for me it’s an ongoing process. So rather doing what Amy Chua did, I would would have preferred to accept the gift and in coming days try to help them realize “the importance of our dear ones in our lives and we must try our best giving all our efforts make them happy and make them feel their importance in our lives”. 🙂

    1. lovely arindam 🙂 you’ll make a good dad someday!! I think thats the right way to approach it 🙂

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