Because we live in China. And I will tell you what, there are a lot of Tiger Mothers here. It makes me think so much about Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother…a book by Amy Chua I read way back when (thoughts on that back HERE).
Now, I have to preface what I say with the acknowledgement that of course I’m generalizing. We all know that not all Chinese mothers are one way and Western mothers are another. But there have been a few instances in particular lately that have made me ponder how I mother, and what I want to take and leave from what I have observed here.
Most of my “tiger mother” pondering has come because of the school our kids attend and a few specific experiences we’ve had there. There are a couple other Western kids at the school, but I’d say 95% of the kids are of Asian descent. And it has been fascinating as well as pretty rough sometimes to try to help my American kids maneuver their way through it all.
I have found it so interesting that although the kids have American textbooks and are taught in English in the English Track, their education is very “Chinese.” Obviously not quite as Chinese as the Chinese Track kids who do their “exercises” every morning outside in perfectly straight lines:
…but very Chinese just the same. I don’t know how to explain why. It’s just different.
First of all, the teachers expect a ton from the kids. I know there are a lot of American schools that expect the best. But they push in a different way that I can’t explain. Perhaps the best way to describe it is through an email I received from Grace’s math teacher in response to my email where I was trying to figure out how to help Grace. Grace is a total honors student back in the states and does great in school. But somehow the way they do things here is so tricky to her. Her math and science teachers are Chinese and I love them both. She doesn’t know it yet, but she is going to reference back to them and the excellence they demand over and over in her life. But right now in this little moment of time she is struggling.
Here’s the math teacher email (my thoughts italicized in gray):
Grace is a sweet and nice student even though she is not very good at math [she is an honors student who gets A’s back at home in the States]. I appreciate her study attitude and her hard work. She turns in all her homework assignments on time, pays attention in class, and often asks questions in class. I noticed that she is struggling from her work in her homework and tests. I think that is because her foundation is weak and her methods are not efficient [I’ve heard this said in many different ways…it is often implied that American education is very sub-par…not in a mean way, just totally matter-of-fact]. The good thing is she listens very carefully in class.
The reason why we teach a little harder math is because many of our students are Asians. Students and their parents want us to teach more. Most students in this class performance well. The overall class average of this quarter so far is close to 88%. I believe the solid foundation will help these students to student math well in the future.
The parents, as he said, definitely do want more. I attended my first “Principal’s Tea” last month at our elementary school. We are not going to be here long enough to get super in depth involved with the school, but I want to do all I can to be educated on how they do things here. I sat there amidst those parents loving how in tune and educationally proactive they are, but definitely not fitting in. They wanted to know exactly how their kids rank in school. How they are tested. How they compare to other students. One parent asked if he could be given the materials and homework a week ahead of time so he could keep his first-grader ahead of the rest. Again, I know this happens in the states, but somehow it is heightened here.
And because the parents want more, the kids want more to please those parents of theirs. And you better believe they want good grades because they know they’ll be in double dutch if they don’t do well. (Grace and Elle both have kids in their classes who have burst into tears when they were returned homework or tests with low grades.) And sometimes, because they are so distraught about a poor grade and whatever punishment is waiting at home the teachers will let the lowest scores re-test. And when they grade on a curve, where in the world does that put my poor kids who are trying their darnedest in a foreign land competing against the smartest and the best? It puts them in double dutch themselves. Ha. Is that usage of “double dutch” even a thing? Because I use it all the time and now it suddenly sounds so weird to me.
Anyway, I digress…much like these Chinese students would not do.
But I think that on top of the one-child thing, expecting excellence is just part of the culture (as we learn from Amy Chua).
Because those parents (and I guess some kids) want “more,” the school gives more.
I’ve never seen so much homework in all my life. Even Lucy has hours of homework every day. We have hired a tutor to come help her with her Chinese work, and another one to come help Grace with her math and science, but boy oh boy, these kids are being pushed in different ways than they ever have in the States. Here’s Lucy with her tutor:
I Love that she is working so hard on Chinese.
So what do I take from the abundance of “Tiger Mother” examples surrounding me? I’m trying more than ever to assume strength, just like the Chinese do.
Here’s Amy Chua’s observation in her book:
“I’ve noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children’s self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. [check] In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. [check, click here for an example from me] Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.
Without realizing it, I have really adopted that last sentence as my mantra here: “[Chinese parents] assume strength, not fragility.”
As much as kids need unconditional love (which I give my kids in as heavy doses as possible, especially here…which isn’t necessarily at the top of the list in the “Tiger Mother” mentality), we must assume strength. Kids are like sponges. They believe what their parents believe. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophesy. As parents we set the pace for our kids. These kids need all the love they can get as they maneuver through this unique adventure. But they also need someone who believes in them that they can do it.
And that they can do it well. (Not the competing with their classmates part, but the doing the best they personally can do part.)
I made the mistake a couple weeks ago of delving into Grace’s emotions…pandering to how confused she is and reaching my heart out to her to help. I was this mother:
Of course we want to protect our kids from many things and I love that picture, but when kids grow older, some shielding and protecting hinders growth. My coddling only made Grace feel weak. It made her complain more. It made her think I agreed with her that she couldn’t do it. When we try to protect our kids from everything around them they can’t grow. They can’t gain confidence.
So I changed my attitude and told her that sure it’s tough, but I have no doubt that she can do it, she brightened right up. And guess what?
She believed me. There is much truth in one of my favorite quotes from my Dad, “whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.”
Dave and I have endless talks on how much to push and how much to praise our kids. (Lots more about that back HERE and HERE.)
And at the end of our discussions our bottom line is always the same: give them the tools they need, then let them bloom. Let them make mistakes. Praise them for specific things they do well. Let them learn from things they don’t. SO much easier said than done, but over and over again we have come to the realization that this is the answer.
I love a comment “Ruth H.” made a long time ago on one of those posts:
“I have a very distinct memory from my childhood, of my father. I remember him taking me into our empty chapel late one weekday afternoon [to practice for the upcoming primary program]. As the sun streamed in through the windows, he walked me up to the podium, and showed me how the microphone worked. I can recall him explaining how my voice would sound muffled or too loud, depending on how I used the microphone. Then, I remember him sitting in different places in the chapel, as I said my part for the primary program over and over again, until my father was reassured that even the older people who sat on the very back bench with their hearing aids would be able to hear and understand me.
“That experience has stayed with me all these years. As a child, I thought it slightly embarrassing that I was the only child who had to do that…as an adult, I am so grateful for my father’s concern and wisdom. He understood that it did no good to have expectations of his child, if he didn’t provide clear instructions about what those expectations were and how I could fulfill them. He expected me to speak clearly and confidently, so he showed me how and patiently practiced with me until I could. I have realized that not every child is blessed with that kind of parenting, but I’m so grateful that I was.”
How I hope Dave and I can be like so many of the “Tiger Mother” parents I’m surrounded by here, and expect strength. But that we can balance out those expectations like Ruth’s wise Dad and teach them how to gain those strengths in a loving way.
As I look around in this world these kids are growing up in, I know they will need both the strength and the training as to how to get that way…to be strong and stand up for what’s right.
That’s my musing on Tiger Motherhood this month. We’ll see what next month brings.
*** Post edit note: thank you for all the feedback…love it. I feel like I kind of led people to believe that Dave and I are agreeing with the Chinese mentality here that we want our kids to conform. But really, we’re just trying to help them “assume strength” to learn as much as they can while they’re here. From their teachers, from other students, from how they do things here. Yes, they have a ton of homework and they are on a steep learning curve which has positives and negatives, but we hope they can take advantage of learning from being pushed in a different way for these short months. I have a whole lot more to say about that, but that’s a post for another day.
This is some GREAT stuff!! I've been feeling like this too. I realized at the beginning of the year that I am way too much of a hover parent and that my ten year old couldn't even dress himself for church without my help. I love what you said about assuming strength. We are experiencing a tiny bit of the Chinese mentality here too. My son is in a Chinese immersion program at school. This is his 5th year. The Chinese teachers are very strict and I like that. This years teacher has taken that to a new level and shames the children when they make mistakes. She has the child stand up and makes the class tell them how they are wasting their time, etc. She also told them all on the first day that they were stupid compared to her last class she taught. I was very worried about this and my son said "Oh mom she's from China and that's how they do things there so don't worry about it." Boy isn't life a grand adventure!! Thank you so much for sharing all of your experiences!
Thanks for being such an uplifting corner of the internet. It's quite a talent you have to express your own experiences and perspective and, at the same time, encourage others to examine and draw meaning from their own. And thank you for keeping your blog going while you are abroad. I'm sure it's less than convenient!
I teach sixth grade here in Mesa, and you couldn't have said it any better about "western schools." Yes, I push my students, and I want them to do well, but it is extremely difficult to push them, when, at home and often times by the principal, they are being told that we give too much homework (30 min to one hour), or that they are "good at everything." Something I'm really trying to instill in my students (and I've had several of them for two years now) is independence, and figuring things out on their own (with the appropriate tools, of course).
I taught in a different state before Mesa, and I can honestly say that my one Asian student had VERY different study habits than the rest of my class. His mother was extremely concerned about school, and actually worried that I wasn't giving enough homework. It was very interesting to see their attitude towards school, compared to those of us who are of the "western school" mindset.
I feel like you wrote this post for me and it couldn't have come at a better time. Tomorrow I'm meeting with my daughter's 5th grade teacher to discuss the (what I consider) unrealistic expectations and amount of work required in her class. I've struggled as I've watched my daughter spend so much time on her work and be so frustrated with it and I'm afraid I have been turning into a helicopter parent. After reading your post, I have a new perspective and realize that, like you, I don't want my daughter to think she isn't capable or strong. I think I will be going into our meeting tomorrow with a little different approach than I had originally planned. Thank you.
I feel so overwhelmed with my three little kids when I think about what the future holds for them in this world of ours and I wish I could just print out, highlight, and hang up around my house all of your great posts…while I don't see us living overseas at any point, although I suppose it is possible with my husband's job, you just have such great insight. as always, thank you for sharing
Love this post and how deliberate you are with your role as a mother. I feel like I should bookmark these posts somewhere on the internet, in the cloud somewhere, so i can look back to them in 10, 20 years when I'm (hopefully) a mother myself.
This is a great post and I so agree with everything you said. I know that what I am about to say is not really what you are talking about…but some of the comments made me think of it so I will go ahead and say it. What bothers me somehow about this "tiger mother" mentality is not that our kids can't do hard work, or tons of homework…it is that it is seen by some as the only way to help our kids succeed. Pushing them so hard academically that we forget everything else. We forget to give them time for their own passions. We eliminate the hours they should be out in nature, reading good books, playing games and adventuring as families, family time (not homework time as a family). You can't tell me there is time for both if it starts from the beginning. The five year olds (and sometimes the preschoolers) in our city go to school from 8am to 4pm (with a measly little recess on a concrete slab) …and then get sent home with two hours of homework (or more?!) all mixed in with after school programs, sporting activities, piano, dance, art and you name it lessons. They are pushed so hard to be excellent at everything starting from the beginning so where do parents fit in all the other things that help create whole human beings? I get that as children get older they can be expected to do harder and harder things…but why is it always academics that get pushed? Why do we send our kids out the door for eight hours every single day and then have them come home with so much stuff to do (still school!) that family life is pushed into non-existence? What about hard things physically (biking, hiking, or athletic pursuits)? What about hard things like a real job, or being a good neighbor by serving in your own little neighborhood and being polite? What about hard things like getting along with your own siblings and parents and creating great communication skills in that area? I just think measuring our kids potential by how fantastic they are in school is selling them cheap. I know you know that, I sometimes just get cranky about how much time school sucks out of family life…and I really don't think it has to be that way. I know plenty of brilliant, happy, engaged, successful people who do hard things, but never went to "school" in the way most of us define it. It isn't that I don't think my kids can do the work…it is that I want them to have time to do other things that I think are more important.
That probably all comes out wrong! But thank you for posting so often. I have loved following your adventures in China. Such good stuff!
I agree with you 100%! Kids need MORE time for all of the things you've listed: community and family time, outdoors, free play to develop into whole and happy people. These areas of life are equally valid. I hate seeing art, music, recess, free time to read and play and interact with peers being eliminated because they are just as important.
Shawni, I'm sure you will delete this comment but I have to say it. "…because we live in China…" I know you've wanted to say that for a long time – but you don't. You are visiting China for 4 months. You cannot expect your children, no matter how well they do in the bubble of Gilbert AZ, to be able to jump in keep up with the Chinese students by any stretch of the imagination.
You uprooted them from their lives against their will (no matter how you deny it) and plopped them into a totally new world – and you expect them to push themselves even harder than you normally make them – I just don't get it.
Unless the math is in Chinese….Grace should still be doing ok. Maybe she'll get C's instead of A's – which may be what she'd be getting in AZ if the school was up to par.
I don't mind the "deliberate parenting" schtick – although I think you have pushed it WAY too far – you need to let your kids just "be". I'm sure they are mentally exhausted.
"Unless the math is in Chinese….Grace should still be doing ok."
The math content is years ahead. I've had Chinese exchange students come to my school and sleep through math and physics and aced exams. What I had literally taken 6 months to learn in 10th grade, they learnt in 3 months in 8th. This may not be the case for Shawni's family at this particular school, but definitely for the majority of schools.
Just wanted to say Thank you!
Fantastic post. I really needed to hear this today. I really think you did the right thing to bring your kids to China right now and right at this time. I just look at Lucy and see how she is just old enough to appreciate where she is (and be able to handle it!) and Max is of course in his last year before he leaves the nest. What a blessed four months this will be and I know that your older kids will be thanking you forever for bringing them here when they get the benefit of a little perspective. Thank you for being willing to share in everything. It is extremely valuable and interesting to read.
Those kids may be studying from 8 am to 2 am. They are fighting to get into the college of their choice. They are fighting not to do manual labor, degrading, dirty or dangerous jobs. In the US we admire people who sweat doing an honest living. These kids aren't learning to think or problem solve or how to work. Most teens have a part time job, 20 hours a week in addition to 35 hours of school, and 14 hours worth of homework. The kids they meet are never going to earn money until they are done with college with few exceptions. Almost none will work during high school. Their parents will pay for them and provide lodging until their late twenties to early thirties. Maybe their wives will move in with them. When these parents are elderly they will rely on their kids to support them. The poverty rate among elderly in northern Asia is astounding. So it's in the parents best interest that their child get a high paying job. So instead of saving for retirement they put college level tuition into their children's education from age 5 on up. They have few children to manage it. They spend almost no time with them. I don't envy. Who cares who got an 86 or a 99 on a test? Both scores mean the student can do the work and produce in society. Do you know the suicide rate among this age of students from Korea, Japan and China? All cause of a grade? And what does this say about people with learning differences or different talents and their value? What is Lucy noticing? How does it effect her? Everyone wants their kid to show their best skills on a test. But this is way more extreme. I don't envy. The math there and the math here is different. She does have a different foundation. With the common core they are trying to do the math here more like over there. Finland does best on standardized testing and puts far less effort into things.
If my child ever "burst into tears" because of a "lower" grade, I would consider myself a failure as a parent. There are so many more important things.
Having experienced a number of different educational systems myself, I can conclude the following:
Schools in America may not be the toughest. However, they provide an encouraging environment for kids to blossom in. This is quite unique. IMHO much more important than creating a tough and unforgiving environment that leads to academic excellence across the board.
You and Dave come across as very loving parents. I am sure whatever you decide for your kids will turn them into smart, healthy and well-adjusted adults.
I love the idea of believing in our children and expecting them to be excellent. I want my children to be excellent in what they love and excellent where they have talents, but I think those areas are different for everyone, not that that should be an excuse not to work hard. I always think of a friend growing up who struggled so much with spelling and English classes, but could build such beautiful things out of any medium with his hands,
Children, especially teens, need to have some quiet time, some "me" time. Time to relax, to think, to just "be". Working hard is necessary, excelling in all their subjects and being number one in 4 or 5 sports – not so much. They are going to be grown up with so many responsibilities weighing down on them, please give them what little bit of their childhood they have left to just let them be carefree kids. It may be too late to do this for Max and Elle -but the others are still very young. Let them enjoy without pressure while they still can.
I have to say your comments are quite rude and a bit laughable. Yes, let's raise carefree children who will then turn into carefree adults. Let's not push them to work hard. Let's not have high expectations for our children. Yes, that's the way. Oh please!
I grew up attending International schools in South Korea and Taiwan. You better believe I have the same expectations for my children in the US public school system as was placed on me by my teachers and parents. You have to prepare them for the real world. You have to teach them to have high expectations for themselves too. They will want to do better because they know you know they can do better. Why wait until the real world to teach them this? Their bosses will expect they do the best. This shouldn't be taught on the job.
Shawni, from one Tiger Mom to another: you go girl!
Well hopefully your kids will not end up with high blood pressure and heart attacks before college due to the merciless pushing. And maybe they won't be crying themselves to sleep because they got a B- instead of an A++ on that homework.
As the product of tiger parenting, I feel I can speak on this subject with some degree of authority. My parents worked hard to give me the best education money can buy, for which I am very grateful. I earned a string of academic accolades, earned a scholarship to a great university, and after my Bachelors of Science Degree I went on to earn my Masters of Science degree. I am professionally successful and serve as a mentor and leader to many of my colleagues.
For myself and many of my former peers from my highly-competitive girls' college prep school (other products of tiger parenting), it looks pretty good on paper. What we don't usually talk about are all the eating disorders from girls striving for a modicum of control in a high-pressure environment. Or the suicide attempts. Or the lack of solidarity among girls who were all battling for the coveted valedictorian title. You can't easily see my ridiculously low self-esteem (some tiger parents motivate through shame) or the distance between my parents and me (because even as an adult, I feel the need to be ACHIEVING something spectacular to have any value in their eyes).
I appreciate the benefits of being educated in an environment where I was EXPECTED to excel, no questions asked. But I want more for my kids. I want them to know that even though they are certainly capable of getting all As, they just may get a B once in a while because they were up all night studying, or had a big fight with a friend right before the test, or they were just having an "off" day. I want my kids to know it is ok to have "off" days, because I certainly do and it doesn't affect my productivity in the world. I want them to learn about coping with the disappointment of getting the occasional B. Coping with disappointment graciously is an important real-world skill, in my estimation.
I want my kids to know they have value because God made them exactly the way God wants them to be, and that's wonderful. I don't want them to turn into adults like me… sleeping four hours a night because I want to be the perfect mom with the perfect body and the spotless house and the perfect relationship with my husband and a perfect relationship with God and the 26 projects I took on at my oldest kid's school. Because the by-product of tiger parenting in some cases (like mine) is that you can't find your worth in who you ARE, but what you are PRODUCING.
I don't think its the real world. It's a bubble world. Bosses expect obedience. Bosses expect to you to socialize with coworkers. So it's late night eating and drinking. It's cause there is no life outside school/work. People are stunted when it comes to interacting with others. People expect to move up based on age in a company. Not ability. You don't disagree with someone older. If they are older they are right. That is korea.
And the government agrees in South Korea with you Jill. They are stopping sat school. They are stopping learning ahead. They are stopping hagwons into the later hours. At least officially stopping those things. People spend more on education than housing. Which can be $10,000 per meter in a city like Seoul. The bullying from the pressure of class rank, which they are also trying to do away with. They are promising to make to the English portion of the nation college exam easier so parents spend less on english education. The bullying is to make it more difficult for the competiton to focus and excel. The high suicide rate especially around exam time is something they want to reduce. The suicide rate among all ages is one of the highest in the developed world. The complete lack of problem solving. It's all who you went to school with or other associations like same faith group. Look at the ferry disaster. Captain and crew who were part of tha religion lead by the owner got off the boat and were the lions share of the employees. They had the passengers put life jackets somehow thinking it was the coast guard who rescues people and should be able to do so in freezing water fully submerged to all levels of the ferry no matter the incline. And the public is mad at the coast guard. Who was pulling people off by helicopter and off the sloopd deck and out of the water? The coast guard. It makes no sense. The captain was to afraid to make a mistake. If they went to deck and fell into the water they might end up in the cold water or float away. Lack of problem solving also in the concert tragedy where dozens of middle aged people climbed onto a chest high ventilation grate and plunged to their death. And they blame the welding? The engineer and welder did the math correctly. Dozens of fully grown adults standing on a surface several feet high was no where in the realm of posibility. It would have been level with the sidewalk. It seems the ability to chose the correct multiple choice answer on a test causes lacking in other areas of human intelligence. Everyone can't be good at everything.
Oh, Jill. Thank you so much. I feel so sorry for ajoachim's kids. Not ok to get a B+? Really? Of course we encourage our kids to excel, but as you said, they WILL have off days. Shame on all these "stage" Moms who are pushing their children to ridiculous limits. I don't think Shawni and Dave do that. But as evidenced above some do.
One question I have is this: 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?
Interesting post–gave me food for thought today.
In the german system, attending a school that is focused on vocational training is just one of many possibilities… there are other schools as well 🙂
The president of Korea would actually like to copy the German vocational school model and encourage more students to learn a trade instead of everyone trying to get a degree and work in an office.
I loved your perspective, comments, and experiences you share. What a great experience for your family.
So interesting to read about how different cultures treat education! My husband is a fifth grade teacher and I used to teach first grade (a long time ago before children). This should be required reading for the many Americans who want to have the same test scores as the Chinese. We are always being told that our test scores are low when compared to other countries but this is why. I am not sure we want to have our test scores that high if it comes at the cost of having well rounded kids…doing sports, spending time with family, church activities, etc. But if we do want to have high test scores then things will need to be more like the Chinese. Schools can't be expected to churn out these high test scores without the tiger moms behind them 😉 Sometimes I think people neglect to see this and it puts U.S. teachers in a bad light for not achieving as much as Asian countries.
Thanks for the thought provoking post. I like how you think about mothering and consider the opinions of others.
Thank you for sharing. I love what you have to say about strength. I have found that kids do need to have high expectations. I noticed this with my son at school. He's only in first grade but we will work on things at home that are ahead of what they are learning at school and he totally gets it and does a good job. Then this one time they learned a specifc "new" math concept at school that he already knew. When he brought his homework home he told me that it was hard and that he might not be able to do it because the teacher said it was hard and that it was okay if they didn't understand it at once. He thought looking at it that it was hard and he couldn't do it. But then when I told him it was easy and he already knew how to do it, he got an excited look on his face and suddenly knew what to do and finished. Wow – the power of suggestion! I wish they had more demanding schools. I used to teach 8th grade English. I demanded a lot and some teachers and students hated me for it, but many told me that even though it was the hardest year they ever had that they enjoyed it and were proud at learning so much. Hard work is much more rewarding than just doing an okay job. My husband had a similar experience in that he did well in school and was always told he was smart, A student, but then when he went to college he realized he didn't actually have a firm grasp on some subjects and was actually quite average. He had to struggle and work so much harder when he had to compete on a higher level in college. He wishes people had not placated him in high school and that they had told him he was not awesome because he would have worked harder and been more prepared. Some great articles that have made me think on the subject are
http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304213904579095303368899132 and http://online.wsj.com/articles/naomi-schaefer-riley-math-camp-in-a-barn-intensive-instruction-no-nonsense-discipline-1405724859
I meant parents, not teachers for the amount of work given
I loved this post. Thank you. And I'm laughing a little because I just did something very similar to Ruth H.'s experience two weeks ago when my 3 year old Sunbeam gave his first talk in Primary. 🙂
Historically, the US was number one in math (and other subjects) 50-60 years ago, and at other times in its history. In math, all kids were expected to learn the math facts very early and learn to be very fast (write the answers to 100 math facts in 45 seconds or at least 1 minute).
When one knows the math facts so they become automatic recall, it is easier to learn math concepts and do higher math.For example, it is easier to follow what the teacher is doing in algebra if you know the math facts, because each algebra problem may have several computations. If a teacher multiplies (6x)(7) on one part of an equation and writes down 42x, some students without absolute recall will wonder where the 42 came from, and think that algebra is hard.
Historically, when all kids were reading well, they learned to read and spell with pure phonics.I know five kids that have overcome severe dyslexia by learning to read with phonics, not sight words. Many phonics programs are not pure phonics, unfortunately.
When kids know the math facts ( and learn to read and spell with phonics), they excel in school.
The US had an efficient system that produced educated kids that had time to play, explore and be with family and friends.
I only mention this, so that US moms don't feel guilty if their child isn't studying every hour of the day. Emotional intelligence is important, too.
I love how the Dad prepared his daughter for the Primary Program
I love how you are encouraging Grace!
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You need to read 'the smartest kids in the world and how they got that way' by Amanda Ripley. You will find it fascinating…..
as a non-parent kindergarten (and former 3rd grade) teacher, i find this post so fascinating. i find the characteristics about "western" parents to be more common here in the midwest than those of a "tiger" parent (of course, there are always exceptions to the rule).
it is always an exciting challenge to create a classroom culture that values challenges and mistakes and turns them into learning and growing opportunities. it can be quite a task for some students to face a challenge or mistake head on and learn how to deal with it and learn from it. very often, the kids either shut down or get upset. it is rare to have a student come in and instinctively face a hurdle head on. it is something that has to be deliberately taught in the classroom. it seems to me that this is a direct result of our cultural values – as a culture, we never want seem to "put down" kids by telling them they have areas to improve on and are not always first place. but that is not the reality of life. i believe it really hurts kids in the long run to have that inflated sense of self because it does not encourage hard work and determination. if you think you are naturally great at everything, what's the incentive to put in effort? it is a fine line to walk, though, because you want to encourage and inspire the spirit, rather than tear it down.
i think the "western" mentality has presented our kids with a challenge similar to what you were saying – they don't know their own strength. resiliency and grit are just not commonplace. however, it is the BEST when a child who struggled with those things grows to a point where they can face a challenge head on with confidence, learn from it, and grow from it.
I just wanted to say thanks for opening the comments section. Your post was thought-provoking, and the comments are just as worthwhile. Really enjoying this discussion. 🙂
I'm sorry that people feel like it's okay to be an online bully in your comments section. You are truly one of the sweetest families and you and Dave are some of the best parents I "know". I grew up with high expectations, but much love as well which made it okay when I didn't meet those expectations.
She mentioned that she sees the tiger mother philosophy even though her kids are in a foreign school and not a typical Chinese school. The downside to fabulous grades and perfect achievers is they spend much of their adult lives in extended adolescence. That american kids aren't lazy. The pressures are there. The are not exclusive to academics. It's real world job ethics and being responsible for their expenses and being perfected in many different activities. I believe the Tiger Mom also pointed to the LDS moms as also insisting on perfection. That perfection makes happiness. She was also sounding a little down that her honors kids were labeled bad at various subjects. It was meant to set aside her worries that her kids academic abilities in this one environment are not telling on their whole school career. If you were to put a newly arrived immigrant child into an American school their parents would push toward perfection. But the change in environment, new kinds of classes, new language expectation would take them down for a time. It's a huge transition. Also these kids have been in schools where the better acheivers attend. They likely take more classes outside of school. And I mean more classes like math and language. Not a kids cooking class or phtography.
Cheryl – no comment here is bullying. Grow some thicker skin and quit antagonizing Shawni. She may see this like most sane people see it – as an adult discussion – until a groupie like you comes in and says "oh Shawni, you are so great and they are so mean…" Get over yourself.
Madam Queen it's called kindness, try it sometime.
Disagreeing with Shawni does not constitute bullying. Shawni LIKES discussion – read her addendum to this post. She does not need her fan club to defend her from negative comments. It just encourages her to disable comments. She did it once before – I like to read the comments – as does Shawni. They don't all have to say how wonderful she and her family are.
Goodness. There is no problem with disagreeing with someone. Truly, there isn't. But, a person can do it without being snarky, sarcastic or rude. People might be open to having a honest discussion with you or others if you would use kind language and without coming across with judgement. There is always a better way to disagree without being disagreeable.
Shawni–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. We lived for several years near Washington, D.C. and my children attended amazing schools with very high performing students. Later we moved out west and my children were over a year ahead of their peers. I tried hard to keep them challenged and find accelerated classes for them, but my younger children were just bored. Teachers and administrators told me to homeschool, but I didn't feel like that was best for my children at the time. I learned, however, that getting too far ahead isn't always in the kids best interest.
I have zero issues with this question because it is phrased in a respectful way, I'm interested to hear the answer as well.
Good question about the tutor, Elaine. But be careful – Shawni has no problem answering questions – but her groupies (see above) take any questioning or – gasp! – disagreeing with Shawni as bullying. I'm curious as to the answer as well – but am putting on my armor for the barrage of passive aggressive jabs from "admirers".
There again, be kind. Try not using sarcasm, or being snarky. I am certain that people, including myself, would like to have an intelligent conversation with you if you would use kind and unobtrusive language.
My husband is Asian and his work keeps him involved with many Asian teens. I will tell you the pressure put on these kids from their tiger parents is immense. The shaming along with the pressure causes many of these teens to be severely depressed. It really is sad. If money and status is your bottom line, then tiger parenting is the way to go. If raising kind, hardworking, giving, moral kids is your goal then I think a more balanced approach to parenting works better. My husband agrees as the shaming he endured as a child still hurts him today.
Thought provoking..I so struggle with the push/support struggle…how much downtime is good vs wasting time when they could be more productive. Grades aren't everything to me – I want my kids to obviously do their best but I also want them to be kind and serving not just competitive and have that "what's in it for me" attitude. A teacher remarked yesterday that they see less and less self motivation in kids today…vs earlier years of teaching. Why is that- too many distractions? Too much focus on sports and other non academic pursuits? Are their lives too easy so they don't have persistence? Are they not self motivated because as parents we push and oversee they complete their homework vs letting them fail ? I am glad I am not the only one who puzzles over these things but I wish I had more clarity myself to the best approach so I raise productive kids no matter what they end up doing in their future.
Oh I so needed this today! As I cried leaving the school because of how hard my kids struggle, but it's me who is baring the burden, not them… They don't see it, they are in school, having a grand time and don't even realize that they are behind grade level(s), darn dyslexia! But even if they are struggling in one area… I have to remember that they are succeding in another. I really like the tiger mother. Wow!
This is really fascinating to me. I thought research shows homework does not equal better comprehension. I think I read someplace the best schools in the world (Norway? Sweden? Finland?) give very little homework and start working on the basics later. One thing different in the US is lack of drill work. I remember lots of it in school and my kids in parochial school have very little.
Finland. They actually are at the top in test scores. They take recess every 45 minutes. They start formal school a year later too. Not a lot of homework.
shawni – have you read the book "mindset," by c. dweck? outstanding — you're sure to appreciate it —
soaked up every word of your post, as ever — thank you for sharing your heart about such an important, interesting, and thought-provoking subject!
I really enjoyed this post and have equally enjoyed the discussion in the comments. I think there are positives in both the "Western" and "Tiger Mother" philosophies. Like you said, it's important for our children to know that they are loved unconditionally, but also that we believe in them and believe they can accomplish great things. Thanks for your insights (and all the commenters as well).
If you want your child to be successful — we all do! — define success without attaching it to an outcome. Success doesn't mean that your child gets certain grades, scores, or college admissions. There is no "result" that guarantees success, or even happiness for that matter. For me, success is my kids thriving in a learning environment, being challenged but not made miserable, and making choices that help them to achieve their goals. But most of all, success is their self-motivation and self-acccountability absent my pressure. That carries over to the work force more than any grades ever will.
I loved your thoughts in this post. We just moved from a school in California that was about 95% Asian (Not all Chinese, though, and of course Asian cultures differ a lot) to a school in Idaho that is mostly white. There was a definite push from the parents in our CA school for more homework, more achievement, etc, and I have to admit that that I am really enjoying the smaller homework load here in ID. Still, I do feel that my kids aren't being challenged as much. I read "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" too and it was very thought provoking for me. I think that all parents have their own priorities for their kids–whether that is academic success, developing social skills, time for creative play, sports success, etc, etc. For me, I feel like a key is to focus on the things I feel are most important to teach my kids and to kind of stay away from extremes. Also to remember that "There's no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one". (Jill Churchill) Thanks so much for your inspiring blog!
Keep in mind, though – in Shawni's family as in most LDS families…the only one going into the workforce is Max. The girls will most likely go to Welleseley or Boston College, marry a man on the fast track and have 4 or 5 kids. They don't have to be pressured and pushed so they are "ready for the work force". What work force?
Isn't BC a catholic college?
Is being a mother not a chosen career Madam Queen? People like you show no respect for the women who values an education but places even more value in raising her children from home. There is nothing wrong with LDS women who chose to work outside the home but please don't diminish the importance of "just being a mother".
Yes, Molly. Being a mother is a "chosen career". My point was that you don't need all A++ grades to do it. You don't even need C's. So why push the girls so hard to succeed that they suffer from bulemia and anorexia, not to mention stress and depression as has been stated earlier ? Do you need a 4.0 to get a husband and crank out babies? If that is their fate – what they are raised to do from toddler-hood – let up a little on this Tiger Mom BS. They don't need to be geniuses with MBAs from Ivy League schools to stay home with the kids.
Just curious what your life background is? That would shed immense insight into your perspectives and the adamant way you share them.
She didn't say they should not go to college and earn a degree. Just that they need not be the best in math, music, athletics to attend college and parent. You can have a perfectly satisfying life and career going to a school with average ACT scores and grades. The tests to get into college are meant to measure if you are ready for college level work. You don't have to get a perfect score on any of them. This week in South Korea seniors a few months from graduation and graduated students trying again took the one chance each year to take the college entrance exam. In the U.S. you can take it mutliple times in multiple grades and it is offered many times per year. It doesn't matter where you go to school. As long as the program is accredited all the name of the school says about you is how much you paid for the degree or much debt you likely have built up. There are unique situations to the Asian students they are in school with that make those parents behave the way do. And it has been seen in immigrant families down a few generations here for really no good reason. I don't believe Shawni's kids have cried over a grade. It was said their classmates had. As you can tell the expectations on the parents is also high in China, Grace getting in trouble for not having the book on time isn't acceptable. It's not like you can send them to school without proper materials and supplies there and figure it out a few days into the semester. I am surprised they are able to do so much on the weekends with all the academic work expected of them. To a strangers eyes noticing the video of Lucy reading I wonder if there is a magnifier that would make it easier to see the page. Or a device to help her get about more independently than a family members hand? My son's sight is fine but he has special needs. It's very hard to determine when another person needs a device to handle the circumstances of the moment. Especially when they are young and they don't know to tell you it's needed at that moment. I find myself in this circumstance.
I am a lifetime member of the LDS church and I know MANY women who work outside the home. Many use their degree to one extent or another either part of full time. In face of my 4 sisters, 3 of them work outside of the home. An educated Mother is such an asset to her family and teaching children to excel in whatever they are doing is a good thing and a good life lesson regardless of what they choose to do with their education later.
Fascinating to read. My daughter is in a Chinese Immersion program here in the US. I often wonder what the Chinese teachers think of the schooling system here in the US. I grew up in South Africa in a very structured and disciplined school environment so navigating school education here is a very different experience for me. Lots of good to draw from in all the cultures. Many days I feel like a tiger mother in my expectations and efforts to make sure my daughter is taking advantage of her life and learning opportunities. A few years ago I had the opportunity to travel to Hong Kong and then mainland China for work. It was fascinating for me to see the work environment and the competitive desire still well alive in the work place. So grateful for the incredible experiences life has afforded me in the work force and now as a stay at home mom. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I always find them enlightening.
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Hi Shawni! ….I sooooo enjoyed your well written and articulated post. The book you refer to in your post is by far one of our favorite mother daughter reads. My daughter read the book as part of a cultural class at a University. She thought I would enjoy reading it and we both embarked on our Jungle Journey. As we read she would point out parts of a passage that she felt described my mothering, reminding me of my Tiger Mothering Ways…lol….it sure made us laugh and appreciate each other. This daughter is now a mother herself, she kept the book as a reminder to stay balanced.
As for moving your family internationally…….Welcome to the International Family Club!!!!…We moved our family to a little Island in the middle of the sea for 3 years….literally…Yes, it is heart wrenching to watch our children go through the experience. As one mother shared "It's something not many people would understand unless they have done what you and I have done, moving our families to support our husbands in their work." Thank you for being brave and having the courage to share with the blogger world. Many people (like myself) are encouragement and uplifted by the things you so willing share.
Wow. As a non-mormon, I find some of these comments not only stereotypical and rude, but as a stay at home mom, who values my education and the impact that it has on my role as a mother, I also find them so, so incredibly offensive.
Sarah I agree with you! An educated Mother is such an asset to her family and to society in general. No amount of education is ever wasted nor is putting great effort into it. I always knew I wanted to be a stay at home Mom but I put great effort into learning as much as I could and doing as well academically as I could because that is what I was taught to do. Anything worth doing is worth doing well right?
I agree with you Sarah. Unfortunately it looks like one particular commenter has an ax to grind. I would hope that no one would take her comments seriously as its obvious that she is unhappy and just trying to cause a stir.
Just a little passive aggressive, are we?
I earned my degrees in Microbiology, and I'm a stay at home mom. My knowledge of diseases and disease prevention blesses my loved ones every day. My kids go years without getting ill .
And so do those with a high school education. Please.
Show me one lds mom who works outside the home and I'll show you 10 who stay at home with a minimum of 4 kids. The only degree they are using is their MRS.
I just have to say thank you so much for all the insightful comments. Lots of food for thought. I am trying to put together a post to respond to some of the questions as a Friday Q & A if my internet will stay working for long enough to post it!
As far as these last few questions go about stay at home mothers and education, we had this same discussion with the same questions brought up by you, Madam Queen, last year. My take is that education is much more than learning a vocation. Education helps your mind grow and develop in so many ways. That can only help in the sacred career of raising children which C.S. Lewis refers to as "the one vocation for which all others exist." I don't think any mother committed to raising strong children in our society would ever regret gaining knowledge and expanding her mind, whether or not, by choice or necessity, they work outside of the home.
Madam Queen, I would honestly love to hear more about you and your background as one other commenter requested. I really do think that in your mind you're not trying to be this way, but many of your comments come off as abrasive. It would help to understand some of your background to understand where you are coming from a little better. Are you married? Do you have children? What is your occupation? I think we would all like to know. We all come from such different backgrounds and there's a lot of learning we can do from each other if we can keep things constructive.