Educators. Students. Community members. Much more unites us than divides us, particularly knowing we all wear multiple hats. Building relationships. Thinking BIG.
Challenging and supporting one another. Developing engaged, empathetic citizens. Please join me in pondering how best to nurture these common ground connections.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'd Rather Be a Wolf Than A Tiger

I am the LAST person you should ask about parenting. For confirmation on that, just ask my girls. It is, without a doubt, the most taxing and simultaneously rewarding role there is. As a team, my husband and I have done the best we can with what we have and what we know for past 18-plus years. And wow! In my humble, unbiased opinion, we have the most amazing girls around. ;) Perhaps a bit because of us and perhaps a bit in spite of us.

Today, I was drawn to an NPR article summarizing the humorous and controversial book by Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. (See also author interview.) I haven't read the book, but think I might put it on my Kindle "To Read" list; the book is apparently causing quite a stir! Cultural stereotypes are rampant. Professor Chua shares her experiences being raised by and deciding to be a "Chinese" mother. In short, "Chinese" mothers are incredibly strict, focusing on producing highly accomplished kids, especially academically. Having fun and being happy are not part of the equation. "Western" mothers, on the other hand, are much less strict and "worry" about their kids' happiness, sometimes to a detrimental point.

Professor Chua makes it clear that this is a memoir, not a "how-to" book. She is candid and human in the interview. She makes fun of herself and reflects fondly on both her time as a child and as a parent. She emphasizes that this is not intended to compare the "Chinese Mother" to the "Western Mother," neither being superior. She creatively and honestly shares her journey with us—faults, achievements, pleasures, disappointments, etc.

I found the article and interview intriguing. And as both a parent and an educator, I learned a great deal from just the tidbits of information that NPR shared.
1. Parenting is complex. There's simply no other word for it. We build memories that could easily be the basis for a sitcom, drama, tragedy, action/adventure and psychological thriller all wrapped into one, every single day! But I'm really working on having the sitcom override all the others. Laughing with my children is the highlight of my day!
2. Cultural differences are deep. Even those messy, perhaps politically incorrect stereotypes should be investigated. These differences influence how our students navigate our educational system, and how our children respond to their environment. As educators, we need to know and understand these differences in order to reach every child.
3. Focus on the most important lesson, and the rest will follow. No disrespect intended, but personally, I would rather be a wolf than a tiger, both as an educator and a parent. I have never been a fan of false encouragement or beating-around-the-bush, just like Professor Chua. In fact, my husband and I have tried to be very aboveboard with our girls over the years. But I do not agree with the philosophy of being a "Tiger," pushing my children or my students to exhaustion to be superior to those around them. I would rather be a "Wolf" with a pack mentality. We are social creatures and we should help one another. We're not in competition with one another; rather, we're all in it together. Use your passion and your talent to make the world a better place than you found it.
4. Love is the common denominator.  Always has been. Always will be. All of us want what we believe is best for our kids. Because we love them!

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