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Free Event for Friends of TJEd: “An Evening with Sheriff Mack” (3/31/11; online)
Adult Constitution Seminar: “The Constitution Made Simple” (Thursdays, April – May 2011; online)
Tigers and Tiggers: A Debate About Moms
by Oliver DeMille
Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has sparked a new national debate about what makes a good mother. As one episode of Desperate Housewives put it (in a riff on Tolstoy), every mother worries that she isn’t doing well as a mother. Whether or not this is true, the Tiger Mom debate has brought a whole new dimension to feminism. For example, Chua writes:
“Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:
- 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 #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
- play any instrument other than the piano or violin
- not play the piano or violin”[i]
Commentators on Tiger Education have called this everything from extremism and child abuse to simple good parenting. Some have gone as far as promoting what I would call “Tigger Education”: a focus on “bouncy…fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.”
The best commentary on Tiger Parenting may be Sandra Tsing Loh’s essay in The Atlantic, and her conclusion that: “Tiger kids aren’t going to conquer the world—rather, they’ll end up in high-class drone work.”[ii] Indeed, such a life seems to be the top educational goal of most parents and schools today. What passes for “success” and a “good career” in many American conversations could be defined as “high-class drone work.”
There are at least two points from all this that should be explored. First, the Tiggers are often doubtful about their own parenting methods while the Tigers tend to look down on everybody else’s parenting choices. This smugness is at least partially rooted in our modern bias toward action: “Whatever the consequences, at least Tiger Moms are doing everything they possibly can to help their kids.”
Second, the Tiggers are more likely to prepare world-changing entrepreneurs and leaders than the Tigers. The challenge is that such results seem accidental to most Tigers–not linked to parental choices but in fact happening in spite of parenting “failures”. Again, this shows our modern bias toward managing children and controlling outcomes. But there is a real reason Tiggers are more likely than Tigers to significantly impact the world: by pursing their passion Tiggers learn to take risks, and in the process they become experienced in weighing and analyzing risks so they can make them wisely.
Tigers, in contrast, are taught to avoid risks and stay entirely “in control” of results. They are also trained to rely almost exclusively on the wisdom of others (parents, experts, “superiors?”), and to see acceptance to Ivy League schools as the measure of educational success. In this view, a life of leadership and building great things isn’t the goal, but rather admittance to the right school and a career of “high-class drone work.” To get there, one must conform to the system rather than improve on it.
The classical Greeks sometimes said that God loves the obedient but he blesses the bold. When the lesson is obedience, and boldness is considered careless (and even indulgent), the result is, as mentioned, “high-class drones.” The work pays well, it keeps the Tiger always in Rousseau’s “mean” place in the upper-middle class, and it tends to perpetuate itself in families. Some would argue that this is exactly the best result.
The same view points out that while the Tigger approach might result in some spectacular world-changing entrepreneurs and leaders, it also has its share of failures. The great fear of Tigers is to raise children who are unemployed, while the Tiggers fear rearing kids whose lives are stressful or unfulfilled. There are many examples of successes and failures in both sets of goals.
3-A Deeper View
Tigers and Tiggers aside, it should be noted that childhood is more than just a preparation for adulthood. This is a hard sell in some circles; but childhood is valuable for its own sake. For that matter, so is adulthood. The Leadership Model of education invites children to be children, youth to be youth, and adults to be adults—and allows each to be rewarding, fulfilling and successful on its own terms. The angst to make children into little adults (the “mompetitor” trend)[iii] often leads to unhappy and truly unsuccessful lives; relationships, especially, are jeopardized in this model. Likewise, a view of youth as idyllic abnegation of any responsibility often leads to dysfunction on many levels. Again: Children are children, youth are youth, and adulthood is adulthood.
Indeed, the push to always sacrifice the present to the future has become extreme in our Western culture. Now it means not only considered sacrifice for the sake of something better, but setting aside what the now is actually for! Childhood and youth become dedicated to and defined by a preparation for adulthood, one’s career is often reduced to a preparation for retirement, and retirement is viewed by many as simply a waiting period for death. Ironically, our elder care centers often follow the same model as elementary schools. In the end, the Tiger and Tigger approaches are often both unfulfilling and unsuccessful—on their own terms.
4-Leadership Parenting: Principles, not Practices; Meaning, not Momentum
Perhaps it’s ironic that it’s the modern Asian sensibility that’s expressed by Tiger parenting, for it’s to the same culture that we look for the remedy: a little dose of Zen wisdom helps us employ the best of the Tiger and the Tigger—each in their own time and place. When we rely on principles, rather than practices, we are free to personalize our approach and make choices that have meaning, rather than momentum. Leadership Education actually draws from both Tiger and Tigger parenting; either can be applied as needed by an individual student at a given point in her young life, but neither must be applied. The needs of the individual rule educational choices, from Tiger and Tigger to every other model of education including Montessori, Mason, Waldorf, Holt, Bauer, charter, public, private, home and beyond.
Leadership Education promotes a focus on great parenting, and urges parents to express their genius, leadership and individual purpose. At times there can be a fine line between, on the one hand, focusing on one’s career to the detriment of the children and, on the other hand, going to the extreme of expressing all one’s hopes and dreams through one’s kids and judging one’s personal achievement in terms of controlling a child’s life and “success.” Finding the right balance can be challenging, as Tolstoy said (and the challenge is recurring) but the result is a happy family and life—a pretty fair definition of success, in my book.
[i] Cited in Sandra Tsing Loh, “My Chinese American Problem—and Ours,” The Atlantic, April 2011.
[iii] “How to Handle a Mompetitor,” Redbook, April 2011.
From the Desk of Rachel DeMille…
Don’t you just love being able to connect online with so many wonderful resources and people? From TJEdOnline Community to TJEd MUSE to Facebook and TJEd.org, This Week in History, The Center for Social Leadership and OliverDeMille.com, I’m finding that I have myriad ways to share my thoughts, interact with others on them and learn from others.
I had an interesting email from a new TJEder who pointed out a bit of content on our TJEdOnline Community that she considered inappropriate. I was so grateful to her for both her vigilance and her sense of community to alert me to the problem. It was not gravely offensive, and in fact it was a fan video about a popular book shared innocently by one of our youth; however, I did agree that it was not the kind of content I want to feature on TJEdOnline Community, and it was removed. This little experience brought to mind a couple of thoughts regarding the power of the internet, the power of parenting and the power of community.
1. We can act as a community here, and elsewhere, to help facilitate the best and dismiss the worst of the internet for both our own families and those of our friends and neighbors.
This new friend illustrated how important it can be for us to watch out for one another and our kids in an unselfish and sincerely helpful way. I have never been offended by the efforts of a friend to act as a nurturing adult for my children. One of the tragedies of our modern culture is that extended families are so distantly located from one another that we lose out on the role of aunts, uncles and grandparents to help us rear our children and to provide worthy models for them. How grateful I am for the substitute “aunts” that have stepped up to be a blessing to me and my family!
2. As parents, we should not be shy about monitoring our youth’s interactions online.
I have passwords for each of my eligible kids’ TJEdOnline Community and Facebook accounts. I periodically peruse their posts, activities and interactions–and they know it. By commenting on their wall often, being a part of their conversations online and speaking to them offline about their activity, they have the sense that their online life is no different than their other activities. Mom and Dad are vigilant and involved in giving permissions, setting standards and enforcing boundaries, both online and in “real” life.
I give them feedback on issues of security, propriety and maturity, and I use it as an opportunity to critique their technical language proficiency. I have on several occasions had reason to suggest the modification or removal of a particular post, profile information or so forth. Once or twice I have even logged on using their account information and removed something myself without delay because I was concerned about the potential of identity theft.
3. There are tools to help us manage our kids’ online activities.
My good friend Rachel Keppner recently recommended a service that allows the Administrator (the parent) to easily block the internet for periods of time, block specific sites, or even just types of sites. AND it has the flexibility to make exceptions for a period of time by typing in the password. She says it’s been a real blessing to her family–and it’s free. You can download it here.
To the extent that we use the internet in our children’s education and socialization, we must make the effort and take the time to establish and adhere to standards and rules–just as we do in the other aspects of their education and socialization. I have written elsewhere about my feelings on leveraging these important things using the internet.
Of course, by virtue of the fact that you’re reading this in an article on my website, I’m sort of preaching to the choir here, right? But we’re all at different levels of proficiency, and we’re all growing daily in our knowledge and facility with online applications, so this discussion will likely be ongoing. This message is copied on my TJEdOnline Community and TJEd.org blogs, and you are invited to comment. We will all benefit from one another’s input…
Blessings to you and yours,
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…brings inspiring people – individuals who are living leadership right now – into your family room, free of charge. TJEd.org is excited to announce our that Williamsburg Academy has invited our Friends of TJEd to their next event: Thursday, March 31, 7-8:15 pm MT.
Reserve your family’s spot quickly. There were nearly 600 registrants last time and they can only take 300 this time.
The guest for this inspiring event will be Sheriff Richard Mack. Here is his story:
The Brady Act of 1993 was a federal gun control law that compelled state law enforcement officers to enforce it. Previously, federal officers had to enforce federal laws, but this new approach allowed Congress to commandeer state officials to do their bidding.
Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack, who took his role as sheriff of Graham County seriously, didn’t like it. So he sued the United States, stating that the federal law unconstitutionally stepped on Arizona’s state sovereignty. The District Court agreed with him, but the United States appealed to the Ninth Circuit, whose decision said that the Act did not violate Arizona’s rights.
Sheriff Mack didn’t like that either. So he appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States – who agreed to hear his case! In one of the most important Tenth Amendment cases in U.S. History, a majority of the Supreme Court justices agreed with Sheriff Mack that Congress should not be able to force state officials to do their bidding. Sheriff Mack’s case is now taught in every Constitutional Law class at every law school around the country, and is one of the beacons of hope for the Tenth Amendment in America today.
When we don’t like a law, what should we do about it? How hard should we fight to protect the Constitution? Sheriff Mack is so inspiring he is paid well to speak at events all over the country. But because he believes in the Leadership Education offered to our youth by our friends at Williamsburg Academy he’s agreed to speak to all of us in this unique, one-time event without charge.
Can regular citizens really make a difference? Come find out.
You cherish your freedoms. But you feel them slipping away. You know something is seriously wrong in America.
It’s not enough to love freedom. It’s not enough to be mad at Washi