It seems like there’s always a hot debate over how much pushing and high expectations are ok when it comes to raising kids (as evidenced by the comments in the Tiger Mother post a couple days ago…so much great insight I wanted to say “amen” to).
The bottom line for me is that it comes down to knowing your kids. I don’t know if the generalized “Tiger Mother” mentality would believe in that because excellence is required, no questions asked. But I believe that in really knowing your kids you can know what they are truly capable of. That’s certainly easier said than done and I am definitely not a pro at it, but I think it’s the key. First of all, no two kids are alike. I can sure attest to that with the five very different personalities Dave are in the midst of trying to raise. Some of them take school head-on, are aware of every single grade and assignment like it’s lit a fire under them, and others just breeze on through. “Assignment? what assignment?” We call it the “squirrel” mentality in our family (watch the movie “Up” if you don’t know what I mean).
The point is that we need to know our kids well enough to know how much to push. That comes from constant conversations, praying our guts out, caring what they care about, putting ourselves in their shoes, loving them unconditionally…blah blah blah, all that time-consuming and never-ending yet rewarding parenting stuff.
Dave and I expect the best from our kids. We were both raised by parents who expected the best from us. They wanted us to reach our potential. If kids are never pushed and expected to do tough stuff, chances are that the majority of kids won’t. But doing hard things creates confidence. And I believe confidence creates happiness.
I talked about a little experiment Grace and I read about back HERE where a group of kids were tested on their academic abilities. After the test, the administrators labeled one group of the kids as “gifted.” The teachers were told to expect a lot from these particular kids and the kids felt like they were pretty important.
The kids labeled “gifted” excelled dramatically in school. The interesting thing was that in the end, the people running the study let everyone know that the kids labeled as “gifted” hadn’t really tested that way after all. Their names were randomly selected to be part of the study. The difference was that those kids felt exceptional because people believed in them. The kids believed it. The teachers believed it. So it became true.
I think that’s how life is in many ways. If we believe in ourselves, we can make things happen. If we believe in our kids, they rise to the expectations.
Ok, on to the questions:
Is this school your children attend a high-ranked school? Do the Chinese have levels like that, where instruction is more demanding or easier or focused on vocational training (like the German system), or do all parents expect this out of their children?
I don’t think I can generalize “all parents” but I believe it’s totally part of the Asian culture to push like the kids are pushed at this school. It is considered an “International School” but because it is attended by mostly Asian kids who’s parents are paying for “excellence,” they have adapted to require it. And it’s good in so many ways. I really do like this school. The teachers are outstanding. But I’m just glad that we have a little more diversity in our education back in the states.
I’m just curious why you have a tutor for Grace to help her in math and science. If she is already an honors student, she’ll still be one when she gets back home. Why does it really matter if she does poorly for a few months? I ask this because I have learned from my children’s experiences that it does them no favors to be ahead of their peers.
As I was walking with my kids to the metro the other night (we have gone on that thing every single day this week on account of the fact that we can study for mid-terms on the train and we are all getting nervous that our time here is running out) I told them we needed to have a mock debate about Chinese vs. American schools. (Elle and Grace have both been assigned different debate topics in their classes and have enjoyed learning how to take a side they may not agree with and trying to find the good in it.) I told them I wanted to hear them take the side that proclaims Chinese schools are superior to the ones in America. Grace looked at me with that rolling-eye look and told me she could not do that in her most dramatic voice. But I slipped my arm around her and my three girls and I had a pretty great conversation about Chinese vs. American schools from their perspective. (Max and Lu were way ahead of us.)
Is there really a “winner” when it comes to Tiger Mothers vs. Western Mothers? I think the winner is one who takes from both and listens to the hearts of her children.