Friday, January 06, 2012

What Can We Learn from Tiger Mothers?

I saw a documentary on the BBC last night about "tiger mothers", Chinese women who push their children to succeed.

I have strongly objected to a lot that I have read about "tiger mothers". They are portrayed as being very harsh with their children, not allowing the children to play or to have lives of their own.

However, I felt some sympathy with the mothers in the documentary.

Many people in the West lack discipline. I have found this when teaching personal courses for adults in London. I would tell my students, "Do this exercise every day for one week". They would come back a week later and say, "I did it for three days".

This is not just about Black people - I saw this a lot with my white students.

I was fired from one job, teaching ex-offenders, because my boss disagreed that when a student struggled with something, I said they should do it again. Keep at it until you learn how to do it. He said, let them do something else that's easier. This was teaching them to give up - something "tiger mothers" do not do.

It is important to learn the value of persistence. When you achieve something that was difficult, this greatly increases your sense of self-worth.

One of the parents in the film said that she expected her children to do well. It never entered her mind that they wouldn't. My father was very much the same. He would say, "There is nothing the school can throw at you that you can't handle".

I had experiences of my parents, particularly my mother, not caring about my feelings and my needs, not caring about my dreams and ambitions, and forcing hers on me. That is wrong, it's very undermining. We need to be living out our own dreams, not our parents'.

Also, you don't have to be a doctor, dentist or accountant to do well financially. People do well in all walks of life. There are artists and musicians who are multi-millionaires - just look at Sir Elton John as one example.

Although Elton John had phenomenal success at an early age, he also experienced conflicts with his father, who never went to see him perform. Elton had huge self-esteem issues which created major problems for him. Click here to read more.

One of my serious concerns about the "tiger mothers" is that they are pressuring their children to perform academically at the expense of other areas, which I fear creates an imbalance.

Still, Black parents can learn some things from the "tiger mothers". We need to learn to have that confidence that our children can do well, academically and in every area. Then life can't throw anything at them that they can't handle.

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