This is the continuation of my previous blog - Tiger Mom, Let's get the facts straight http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/263252/Tiger-Mom--Lets-get-the-facts-first
There are several good points brought up by Amy and I feel as many did not get enough air time in all the discussions about her book. So I’d like to focus on the things I took away and agree with.
- You often don’t enjoy doing things when you aren’t good at them – It is hard to decide if you really like an activity until you get good at it. This is equally true for children. If you get a child to decide if they decide if s/he likes an activity soon after s/he starts it there is a good chance that s/he is basing that decision on what it is like to do that activity badly. I think children should achieve a certain level of proficiency at an activity before deciding if they want to drop it. My younger son hated swimming when he started; he would cry and try him best to get out of it. I didn’t let him quit and he got good at it. Now he says it’s his favorite sport.
- It takes hard work to get good at things –We’ve heard about the 10,000 hours needed to master an activity and getting an appreciation for that early is important. My older son enjoyed soccer but noticed that some kids were really good at it. I told him that if he wanted to get good it would take a lot of hard work. He put in the hours and has become a really good player.
- You need to learn to work hard – Realizing that it takes a lot of work to get good at something and being able put in the hard work are two very different things. Learning to work hard at an early age is very important and will serve children for the rest of their lives. My wife or I study with my children for 1-2 hours every morning every day of the year. We started when they were 2 and never miss it. It is part of our philosophy that every day you need to feed your body, heart, and mind. This habit is now so engrained in them that it is easy to get them to focus on activities for extended periods.
- Some things in life are not optional – There are certain skills that we know we want our kids to have and if we allow our kids to quit early they may never learn them. When my children were young I told them that in life there are things that are optional and those that are not optional and if they are optional I would let them know. Learning math – not optional, watching TV – optional, learning to swim – not optional, playing on the computer – optional, etc.
- Parents need to help guide their children – As parents we need to make the best decision we can about skills that our children will need for the future. Leaving it up to our children to decide could result in them getting a skillset that may not be that useful to them. Being pros at watching TV and playing video games may not serve them as well as other skills they could learn.
- You need to maximize the expected educational value of your children’s activities – There is a potential to learn from a variety of activities / situations (for example, David Brooks points out how cognitively demanding it can be having a sleepover with 14 year old girls) but as parents we want to maximize the chance of them learning something. This is why corporations pay so much to facilitators to ensure that their employees learn things through fun activities. So while a sleep over has the potential to teach my sons something, I’m not banking on the sleepovers to teach them what they need to know.
- Don’t aim for mediocrity – Many children are thought that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others and instead should be happy with the level you’re at. I want my children to dream about being the best at whatever they enjoy doing and believe that they can be the best. If they want it enough and are willing to work hard enough at it they can be the best. They won’t be the best at everything but the can be the best at something.
Now even though I agree with many of Amy’s high level tenets I differ in how I implement them with my children. However, what is important to take away from what she wrote is do you agree that as a country we need to better educate our children and do you agree with the lessons above? If so then then we should each find a way of educating our children that works within our beliefs, our culture, and our values. Let’s not get distracted with the details as I’m sure each of us has flaws in the way we bring up our children and that people could criticize us. The question is understanding what we are trying to teach our children and having a clear plan as to how we are going to achieve it.