Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Being your child's champion or maybe a tiger parent?

My three having a great time pretending to be Harry Potter

As a parent, isn't it our job to be the champion of our child, the one who holds the banner high, encouraging them to be the best they can be and keeping them out of harms way?  Sure it is, but when does it go too far? When does it become harmful and the gentle encouragement changes to pressure and then intense stress put upon them?

It's a very fine line and one that I'm passionate I must not cross as a parent. Personally I think it is so important that my children grow into the person God destined them to be, we are each created with our own set of attributes and abilities. Just because I'm good at organisation, administration and management does not mean that I will turn out three little managers of the future and thus it is important that I don't try to push them in that direction or inadvertently make them feel as if that is the career choice that will win my approval.

The truth is they will have my approval whatever job they choose to do in the future. All I ask is that they try hard, find something they are passionate about, care about others and be a good citizen.

I'm pleased to say that I really do not consider myself to be a pushy or tiger parent. I believe in setting the boundaries and then stepping back a bit and letting the kids explore, make mistakes and learn who they are and what matters to them. It isn't always easy and yes at times it is incredibly frustrating. I would like things to be neat and tidy, easy even. I'm not looking for a hard life, I don't want to have to struggle and constantly dish out consequences when one of the kids does not listen but I do it as I know it will be worth it. I see it already with JJ, my older child, he went through the tricky stage and tested all the boundaries and pushed my buttons and he has come out the other side. Of course there will be more testing times with him, the hormones will be surging soon but that is OK as I know it is all transitional and in time my job will be complete and each of my children will be an adult. Gutsy, fun and friendly adults I pray.

A few weeks back I was sent a copy of 'Taming the Tiger Parent' by Tanith Carey and I've hardly been able to put the book down. For a non-fiction book it really is very gripping and the 190 pages pass in a flash. Apart from my Uni text books I'm not sure I've ever had a book with so many annotations in the margins. There are stars everywhere, literally as I turned each page I'd find something else that resonated with me.

I did wonder at first if the book would be right for me, was it just aimed at those who are tiger parents and need to learn how to calm down but no I imagine the book suits all parents. It does have parts that tackle the pushy parent and suggest ways to let go and loosen up but equally I found it strengthening me and reminding me that I'm in charge of my child's education, not their school and not our government. It has felt so poignant to be reading this book now as JJ starts in year 6 and gets ready for his SATS and transition to secondary school, and also my twins have moved into KS2 and one of them is not at all ready for the pressure that comes with this move.

I felt empowered to go into school and tell Miss E's teacher that she would not be doing all the homework she was set, she cannot cope and I refuse to put her under that kind of pressure and make her unhappy. Luckily enough he was fine with this and understood what I was saying, the challenge has been to help the children understand that we are in charge of their learning and not school.

Even in the introduction to the book I started to underline, make notes and be impacted by this book. It is shocking to think we are creating a nation of anxious children. Depressed children in primary school, it just shouldn't be happening. I need to share with you the ending from the introduction to the book as it gives such a good indication of Tanith's no-nonsense writing style -
This book asks you to examine what you mean by being successful parent. Should we judge ourselves on our ability to turn our offspring into high-achievers who gain entry to the top universities and get the best jobs in order to buy nice houses, holidays and expensive cars? 
Or should we judge ourselves on our ability to guide our children towards becoming happy, ethical, compassionate people who like themselves and value the world around them? 
Of course, put like this, its a no-brainer. My question is why are we still raising children as if we don't know the answer?
Do you see what I mean? Tanith has the ability to challenge your thinking without it being judgemental or preachy. She shares lots of real life case studies and draws on her own experience as a parent and combines this with solid research to make a really readable book.

The book is split into three sections. The first looks at how we ended up where we are today, what created the rise of the tiger parent? It was interesting to read the examples of the education systems in China and Japan and to see how apparently high and successful grades correlate with unhappy children and high suicide rates. There have been so many factors contributing in the UK too though and we are reminded that 'our children have not had time to work out their own strengths, before they get judged in contests they didn't ask to compete in'.

Part two explores how competition affects our children and that is competition in all ways, self enforced, put-upon by parents, teachers, peers and other well meaning people and it is horrifying to read about the rise in teenage suicides and self harm. This part of the books closes by asking us to recognise that competition sucks the joy out of parenting and diminishes our appreciation of our child as a unique being.

The last part of the book focuses on helping you shed your tiger parenting stripes and it would be easy to think this does not apply to you if you are not a pushy parent but actually I found this part really helpful and it gave me a list of tactics that I want to ensure I employ to help each of my children flourish and really be themselves. I'll publish another post with those later this week.

I suspect you can tell that I really enjoyed this book and I'm happy to recommend it. Taming the Tiger Parent by Tanith Carey went on sale this week and I see it is currently £6.29 on Amazon.

Disclosure: I was sent this book free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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