8 Oct

As parents we continually walk a very thin line between being too lenient and overprotective and expecting too much from our children. Having read the article in Time magazine (31 January 2011) on “The battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”,  Amy Chua’s highly controversial book on her childrearing practices as well as the critical look at the outcome of child rearing practices on for instance the economy, set me thinking. The question asked in the article is whether the lenient, protective style of Western parents is preparing their children adequately for life. In the latest “Exchange every day” from the Chicago University (ExchangeEveryDay exchangeeveryday@ccie.com) Edward Hallowell is quoted as follows:
“At the opposite extreme of driving children too hard is not expecting enough from them. This is a form of disconnection called indifference. For example, if a child senses that nobody really cares enough to make sure homework gets done, this can lead to sadness, loneliness, and low self-esteem, which can result in self-destructive behavior. 

“As with everything else, balance is key. Being a loving, connected parent doesn’t mean giving kids too much, too soon and always coming to their rescue. We should remind ourselves that children don’t need a lot of fancy toys or clothes. What they do need is your time, interest, love, guidance, and ability to say no.”

Expectations are very important in raising our children. We can have expectations of our children’s behaviour. Having good manners is important. Good manners are like the oil that smooth contact between people. Expectations can also point children to the future. To expect children to do their best, show respect not only to adults but also to all living things as Albert Schweitzer, the doctor-philosopher of Lambarene, said. This is an excellent starting point to develop young people with a sense of self-worth.

If we expect too little and have low expectations of our children we run the risk of developing children with a low self-esteem and an inability to overcome difficulties in their lives. By learning to persevere and overcome problems children not only develop resilience, they also develop a reflective thinking style. To be able to succeed on your own is a powerful incentive for personal development.

I have a serious problem when we over-organize our children’s lives. Playing is an important way to help children develop thinking skills, social skills such as learning about the rules of society and help with learning to take risks. It is also an excellent way to help children make choices and take responsibility for choices. Maybe that is the reason why I have this uncomfortable feeling about Amy Chua’s book. If you over-organize your children’s time they might learn skills like playing “The little White Donkey” on the piano, but long-term skills that come from real playing is much more important. I do have a feeling that Amy Chua can be very glad she has two girls and not two boys. One can speculate that she might probably not have had so much success with boys as with her girls.

Amy Chua does not have everything wrong, though. We all should have high expectations of our children and be involved in helping them to persevere.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zeyneeep/408200425/


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