Lots of brouhaha over parenting this week in the blogosphere. The loudest complaints coming from arguments about “Chinese mothers” vs. American ones. Go find the articles. You’ve read them or heard about them. The basic argument is that we Americans are too permissive and soft as parents and that only Asian parents, who insist on violin lessons, science fairs, and no social life will have successful kids.
The sucky thing about parenting is that you never know if you’re doing it right until you get to the end. And even then, you might not really know. Oh, sure, sometimes you see your kid go off the rails in the teenage years (I’m there, people), and you wonder if it’s your fault. Did you not read to them enough? Did working full time harm them in some way? Should you have insisted on that science camp back in 7th grade? I personally don’t see permissive parenting happening around me. I see a lot of anxiety among parents and kids about doing it right–mostly for the golden ticket into the “right” college. I get it. Getting into the “right” college seems to be the ticket to success.
At least that’s the line we’ve all been fed around here. And yes, some of it is true. But what is the right college? And for that matter, what is success? Being around high achievers, which many of us in education (higher and otherwise) are, makes one define success fairly narrowly. And that’s not really fair. It’s not fair to our kids and it’s anxiety-producing for most of us as parents.
I had to redefine success for myself as I rejected the typical path for a person with a Ph.D., and I’ve had to step back and let my kids define success for themselves. It’s a harder thing than one might think. I, like many parents, had an idea of what my kids would be like. But they haven’t turned out that way. They’ve surprised me. At first, I found that surprise unpleasant, but now, I’m delighted. As a parent, I’ve simply tried to provide the scaffolding and support for the success my kids are starting to define. And yes, that sometimes means lessons and insisting on certain grades. But I’ve learned there’s only so much I can do as a parent. At a certain point, it’s up to my kids, and I just have to wait and see. And yes, the waiting is killing me.
- Parenting: What Chinese-American Mothers do Wrong (and Right) (psychologytoday.com)
- Raising Happy, Imperfect, Children (parenting.blogs.nytimes.com)