Tiger Mom vs. Soccer Mom

 Have you heard about the new book by Chinese author Amy Chua? It’s called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and it’s all about the advantages and benefits of Chinese parenting styles. Simply Google her and you will see a plethora of commentary on parenting styles.

In a nutshell she says that parents need to push their kids harder. They need to set higher expectations for them and failure is not an option. Neither are sleepovers, video games, watching TV or choosing their own extra-curricular activities. It’s kind of a win-at-all-costs parenting style. Which she seems to say makes them more successful than Western parents. The sentiment seems to be that driving and directing children in this uber-focused fashion will lead to more successful adults.

Contrast this with Soccer Moms who listen to their children’s thoughts and feelings and let them make choices. These can be the parents who want every child to be a winner. Who insist on creating awards so that each child receives one. Soccer Moms are noted for putting their children’s interests ahead of their own – according to popular media.

It has me thinking…am I a Soccer Mom or a Tiger Mom?

I think children need discipline. I think they need parameters and boundaries and most of all expectations. And they need love. As a Mom I should be their soft spot. The place they will always be loved; the place they can always turn. It’s not my job to criticize them or to berate them -there will be plenty of others who will fill that role in their lives. But being the soft spot is not without its responsibility. As a parent I need to call them out when they aren’t living up to their potential, when they are making decisions that go against the values our family holds. Because I love them I can tell them they crossed a line. I can tell them (and I often do) that getting a B isn’t good enough. I would not say that if I believed a B was the highest grade they are capable of getting. I know they can do better and so I expect better. Does that make me a Tiger Mom?

I don’t believe in rewarding mediocrity. If you put forth little effort you shouldn’t be surprised when you don’t get outstanding results. I think giving a trophy to every player just for showing up is a mistake. It sets the bar too low. I don’t want my children to just show up. I want them to give it their best effort.  I want them to work hard to get better, using the natural talent they have with practice, drive and determination. I don’t care if they are the star player or the top student in their class. I do care if they gave 100% effort, pushed themselves, practiced hard and were mentally engaged. I care that they used all the resources at their disposal to improve their performance.

I also know each of my children is different. They have the same parents, but they all have different expectations put upon them. And they need different expectations. My oldest had to be pushed to break the rules a little. To not be so concerned about doing exactly as he was told. {Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t encourage him to do anything illegal or immoral, just to step out of his box a bit.}  My youngest has to be reeled in on a nearly daily basis. They are different people with unique personalities, talents, skills and interests. To treat them all the same expecting the exact same thing of each of them makes me think of the depictions of communism I saw as a child. Everyone equal, no concern for the individual. The beauty of having three children is how unique each child is! I sometimes wonder how they all came from the same parents. I am a different Mom to each of my children and I think that’s the way I should be. I think my job as a parent is to figure out each child’s currency; what motivates them. What drives them? To help them figure out what feeds their soul, what really energizes them? I think by figuring that out I can help them find internal motivation. I feel such frustration and sadness for kids who are extrinsically motivated. It would stink to go through life waiting to be rewarded for everything. I love that feeling of accomplishing something I set out to do. And I think kids enjoy that too. As parents we have to be careful not to create an environment where every action earns a reward.

I let my boys choose their extra-curricular activities – within parameters. I get to veto an activity if it’s too expensive, takes too much time, etc. But once they commit to an activity, they must see it through to the end…painful as that can sometimes be. Whether it is basketball or mathletics, you committed to the team and you need to keep your commitment. When the season/event is over is the time to reevaluate your participation. Forcing your children into specific extracurricular activities is selfish on the parent’s part. And a little bit arrogant. This assumes that they cannot know what they will excel at and find joy in themselves.

If kids don’t have the opportunity to make choices how will they learn to make them well as an adult? If they are never allowed to make mistakes how will they learn consequences?  And if they never fail as a child what will happen when they face failure as an adult – and they will face failure as an adult?

My husband and I, not our kids, are in charge in our home – no surprise to anyone who knows us. We make the rules and our kids are expected to follow them. If they choose not to, they know there are consequences. But our level of control changes, lessens a tiny bit each year. Giving them opportunities to make decisions, try them out, experience the downside of making the wrong choice. And to experience the personal satisfaction and pride in making a decision, working hard toward a goal and succeeding.

Parenting is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. And it seems to get a little more challenging each year. Surrounding myself with other Moms who share our values has been vital to me. Having them to bounce ideas off of and problem solve with is such a gift.

I’d have to say I have a bit of Tiger and Soccer Mom in me, but I would like to think I’m a balanced Mom. 

What kind of Mom are you?



Filed under Legacy, Lifestyle, Parenting

2 responses to “Tiger Mom vs. Soccer Mom

  1. Wow. You are so reasonable. And you sound like my parents, whose style I’ve come to appreciate. Tough but flexible to my needs and abilities.

    It’s so exciting to discover my own parenting style as it unfolds (we have a 9-month-old).

    You should pat yourself on the back for achieving this balance, and for articulating it beautifully so others can hopefully strive to replicate it.

    Did you read the book??

    • Thanks! I like to think I’m reasonable and maybe a little predictable:). Which is probably a good thing when it comes to parenting.
      It is a journey – finding your parenting style – I think I’m very different now than I was when I first became a mom. Hopefully better, feels like I’ve learned a lot along the way.
      No, I haven’t read the book, just excerpts. Based on the bits I’ve read, I think I would get really crabby if I tried to read the whole thing:).
      Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for stopping by my blog.

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