The recent release of Tiger Mother, which claims that North American parenting methods are too soft on children and don’t do enough to teach valuable life lessons of responsibility and consequence have received much criticism. In the book, the author explores how differently children are parented in cultures around the world. The premise is that today, children are being parented without consequence and aren’t held up to very high expectations which in turn turns them into under achievers. The author goes on to explain that if parents would expect more from their children, in terms of education and personal success – children would actually achieve more.
Today, it seems like parenting is a mix of expectation and freedom. At some point or another every parent has to wonder, are we too soft on our kids? There have been many research studies that have revolved around this very subject which seem to suggest that parents should consider being harsher on children.
One study showed that double parent working households tend to be the most lax on children. Sociologists believe that this is very much in part because guilt plays a large part in parenting. Since these parents tend to spend a lot of time away from their children, they tend to try and level the playing field by allowing the kids more privileges with fewer responsibilities. Additionally, these parents tend to attribute behavioral problems on the fact that their child doesn’t have the luxury of a stay at home parent, so instead of making children responsible for their actions – parents take part of the blame.
Another study however from the New York Times suggested that children who grow up with two parents that work actually are not being slighted in the least. In fact, it shows that over the last decade, dual working parents are actually spending more quality time with their children than every before.
Another recent study from Duke University suggests that “children who display poor self-control (a critical element in parental discipline) as early as three could have a triple the chance of developing problems with the law and addiction.” And, with bullying and other types of violence among teens at all time highs, it seems that kids today left to their own recognizance are not learning how to respect others or themselves at home.
Are we really too soft on our children? Could it be true that today’s parent is not doing enough to instill responsibility in children, to show them how to respect others and themselves? Could we be selling our own children short by not expecting them to live to higher standards?
In a poll conducted by parenting magazine, around 65% of all parents admit that they want their children to have an ‘edge’ in life. Whether it be enrolling them in schools they cannot afford, or driving long distances to keep them in high-end sports programs – parents were willing to pay the price. Yet only 26% of the parents polled agreed that children should also have responsibilities around the home, and be held to certain expectations. Instead, these parents believe that pushing their children to get the best grades possible, and participating in their extra curricular activities is means enough for children to earn an allowance and certain freedoms.
It seems that the edge we are trying to give our children does nothing to teach them about the responsibilities of life. Earning a living, being forced to take care of certain tasks – even menial ones, and having a consequence for ill behavior are almost non-existent in today’s parenting. Even with young children, parents tend to strategize their discipline and employ a parenting karma which seems to leave everything up for discussion and debate. This seems to fuzzy the line between parent and child, and definitely diminishes the lessons taught to children.
An interesting study out of the University of Georgia, showed that parents also become complacent with their children’s performance in school and intellectually. Many parents are pleased to receive C‘s from their students. Once a parent becomes complacent, a kid will be less likely to push himself or herself to achieve more. This seems to indicate that perhaps we are selling our children short by undermining their own capabilities.
One of the most defining generational gaps in parenting comes with the issue of spanking. 20 years ago, it was not only appropriate but also expected of parents to physically discipline their children. Children were spanked openly in the home and in school systems by administration. Today, parents are afraid to spank their children – worrying that the occasional slap on the behind will question their parenting methods or cause psychological harm to their children. Instead, parents are told to take a time out, and are chastised if they act aggressively toward their children when it comes to discipline. This time out and cooling off period – collectively with the idea of constantly discussing problems and taking the softest approach to problem solve behavior issues often doesn’t give parents authority or enable children to truly experience consequences. This is not to suggest that spanking should be the go to form of discipline – but seems to be a good indicator of the type of parenting that today’s parent is involved in.
If the Tiger Mother is right, then we really might be too soft on our children. It is important for parents to remind themselves that the job of a parent is not to befriend their children. A day will come when your child can in fact be your friend. But when it comes to the fundamental lessons of life, and of things such as passion and success – children need to learn these lessons early in life from people they love. No parent wants to be the ‘bad guy,’ but the truth is that real world can be a lot harsher than mom and dad were should your child land there and fail.