Extreme Parenting – Confessions of a Liger Mom Pussy Cat

liger 300x232 Extreme Parenting   Confessions of a Liger Mom Pussy Cat

Yes, I said “Liger” not tiger!  A Liger is half lion and half tiger.  I’ve been reading about all the controversy over Amy Chua’s book and essay on WSJ “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior“.  Her book is “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Amy Chua Extreme Parenting   Confessions of a Liger Mom Pussy Cat“.  She uses the symbol of the Tiger as someone who is authoritative and powerful.  Well if you know anything about Lions you’ll know that they are mostly lazy, but the females do all the hard work.  So I figured, I’m sorta a combination of the two… with a little pussy cat thrown in!

In the Highly controverial essay Amy Chua explains how Chinese mothers are very strict on their children, thus bringing about academic success and over all successful children.  She says that Chinese mothers never coddle their children and have a long list of “never allowed to do” things for their children.

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

Any Chua also talks about an incident where her father called her “garbage” because she was being disrespectful to her parents, and how she also called her own daughter “garbage”.  Actually the entire essay in the WSJ is like reading a How To book  of emotional abuse tactics.  But of course she says it’s really ok because that’s how Chinese parents tell their kids they are strong.  Of course Ms. Chua’s eldest daughter comes to her mother’s defense in a very well written article in the New York Post.  Of course in that article Amy’s daughter explains how “she decided to be an easy child to raise early on” basically to avoid the wrath of Mama Tiger.  Sound like an abused child syndrome?

Really Amy Chua’s way of parenting is only one extreme.  There are those parents to go to the exact opposite extreme of parenting, they call themselves the “Free Range” type.  They basically let their kids roam freely anywhere they want to go without adult supervision.  Not only trusting that nothing bad will happen to their kids by the hands of other people, but also trusting that their kids aren’t completely spoiled brats who will cause other people problems.

Then there are the “Helicopter Parents“, which I have been accused of being on more than one occasion.  Of course, mostly the people who accuse me of this are the “Free Range” sort, so I take it with a grain of salt.  Helicopter parents are Marge Simpson on steriods… they fear for their children at every step of life and want the entire world to adjust to their child’s needs.

Really I like to think of myself as somewhere in the middle.  Although I’m probably really too lazy to be directly in the middle all the time.  That would take too much work.  LOL!  I breastfed my boys until they were almost 2 years old, and they shared my bed until they were ready for their own.  Not simply because I thought it was best, though I did.. but also because I didn’t really want to get up to feed them at 3am, when I could roll over and let them nurse while I slept.  I really didn’t like listening to them scream at night, when it was so much easier to lay down in bed with them until they fell asleep… and about half the time I went to sleep then too.

I was raised the same way really.  Although my mom didn’t know anything about homeschooling, she did what she could.  She put me into private christian schools and used them like babysitters that had educational activities while I was there, rather than expecting them to give me an “education” that she knew I’d actually get educated in College.  So it was when I wasn’t in school that I got my education.  We’d watch educational television (which was NOTHING like the stuff we have today!  There was no Discovery Channel!), we’d play all sorts of games which not only gave me my competitive tendency but also broadened my horizon.  Reading all sorts of books was always on the agenda as well, and plenty of discussions about everything.  It was always at home where I really learned things, not at school.  School was for “lip service”, which was encouraged, but as I got older and tired of giving schools what they wanted and rebelled against it, I wasn’t punished for getting bad grades.  Again, because my mom felt like anything that came before College didn’t really matter.

Of course this is where I got my disrespect for “traditional” schools and part of why I have always homeschooled my sons.  Of course, where most homeschoolers tend to push excelling at the various subjects and knowing more about this and that, I’m the opposite.  I don’t really care if the boys don’t get 100% on all the subjects, or if they don’t know their world geography.  Until I started in the career I have now, I couldn’t point out the various states on a map!  Not because I wasn’t smart enough, or hadn’t been taught, but because I didn’t CARE where IA was on a map and never used that information.  Now that I use that information on a daily basis, I can point out where every state is… but don’t ask me where any other country is on a map, ok!!  LOL!

In Amy Chua’s article about Chinese mothers she also relates a story about how she got her youngest daughter, who was 7 at the time, to learn a particularly hard piano piece.  Amy used all sorts of threats to the child, from taking away her toys to not feeding her dinner or lunch, until the girl learned the piece.  Finally the little girl did learn it and performed amazingly at the recital.  This anecdote was to show how wonderfully the threats worked.

This brought to memory my own childhood when I was learning to play the piano.  My mom’s boyfriend at the time was quite distraught over how my mom never forced me to practice playing the piano.  He had ideas similar to Amy Chua’s and forced his sons to practice practice practice.  Of course at the time, his children were grown and hated the piano and never touched it.  My mother’s philosophy was that if I wanted to play the piano I would and if not, then the piano would go back to the rental store.

Of course, I was around 9 or 10 at the time and I didn’t really like practicing, even though I loved playing the piano.  I was in 4th grade and because I wasn’t practicing my mom sent the piano back to the store.  The following school year I didn’t take piano lessons and didn’t perform in the school recital.  But since it was a small school, everyone had to attend the recital during school hours.  By the end of the recital I was in tears because I missed playing the piano so much.  That evening I begged my mom to let me have the piano back and after much convincing she did get me a piano.  From that moment on, I practiced so much that my mom would get angry at me for  being on the piano all day.  Part of the lesson was to fill out a card to show how many hours a day I practiced.  When I continually brought in cards that showed I played 30 hours a week on the piano, my teacher called my mother to confirm that this was accurate.  She thought I had lied, and my mom had to tell her that I was ALWAYS on the piano now.  I ended up getting trophies at the end of the year for most hours practiced, most improved student, and for one of my pieces that I learned to play.  I have never stopped loving the piano because *I* wanted to play, not because I was forced to.

This is the same philosophy I have for my boys too.  I don’t force them into doing things.  If they are interested then they will practice and if they aren’t and don’t practice then I’m not going to pay for lessons and materials.  The things they are really interested in you can see them practicing and getting better at because THEY love it, not because *I* want them to.

I also let my boys fail at things.  I had to do this with my youngest just this last semester.  The charter school we use had a deadline for getting certain things done, for which Jack was falling really far behind.  It was his choice NOT to do the work when he was supposed to.  And because of that, he ended up not getting a very good grade, even though he did finish the work, and had to continue to work through the weekend and a holiday to get it done.  But that was HIS choice.  This new semester however shows me exactly how much he doesn’t like “failing”, because now he’s already ahead of schedule, doing all the extra credit work and getting almost straight A’s.  That is while having MORE work than last semester!  It wasn’t my pushing him that did this, it was him failing at something and not liking that feeling!

There are things that I push them at, but each of my kids are very different.  I don’t treat them both the same way.  Any good parent understands this.  Jack is a mushroom… he would stay at home all day every day and never do anything at all, no matter how much fun it is, if I let him.  I have to shove and drag him out of the house to do fun things.  Generally, after he gets to whatever it is and is having fun he says to me “Mom, thanks for making me do this, I’m having a lot of fun.”  Now of course he doesn’t remember this when I’m forcing him to do something else, even with me, Steve and his brother all reminding him of what happens EVERY time I push him out of the house.  But that’s just who he is.  Roger I don’t have to push to do fun things… I do have to push him to work because he gives up on himself to easily.  He doesn’t think he’s smart or good at much, so he doesn’t try to do his best at things.  He thinks the only reason he gets good grades is because he’s “good at taking tests”, which only means he can take a test to him (Ironically, this is the bar for Amy Chua’s idea of great parenting, how well a child does at tests).  So I have to use different techniques for each of the boys for different reasons.

If I were a helicopter parent Jack would probably have no social life, be going to “therapy” for Autism 3 times a week, have tutors of all sorts and still not be a functional person.  If I were a “Free Range” mom, Roger and his girlfriend would probably have a baby by now, and he’d be wandering who knows where in Las Vegas doing who knows what!  If I were a chinese parent both boys would be scared to death of me, but they’d have straight A’s, play concert piano/violin and would be in therapy because they can’t seem to ever please their mother.  Personally, I think I like being a Liger Pussy Cat Mom… somewhere in between all of the extreme parents, loving my kids and doing whatever I feel is best for them.  Luckily, we can all do that still, here in the US.

So, what kind of Mother are you?  Are you an over-protective worry wort Helicopter Mom, a Free Range anything goes Mom, A authoritarian dictator strict Tiger mom?  Or somewhere in the middle with me?  Whatever  you are, I’m sure you’re doing the best you can with what you have to work with… I know I am!

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