This week, the blogosphere was all a-buzz over a Wall Street Journal piece called, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior." In it, author Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, argued that tough love was the key to raising successful children. Her parenting methods included never allowing her two daughters to "attend a sleepover, have a play date, 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."
We live in impossibly difficult times. I don’t think I need to make a list. And bringing up children is hard enough without adding a draconian regimen to the mix. But no sleepovers? No play dates, computer games, or state-sanctioned extra-curriculars? What the hells, I'm raising kids here, lady, not Romanian gymnasts!
Lose the fear.
Raising kids is hard work but no regimen, regardless of its strictness, we can prevent our kids from hurt, harm and disappointment. It’s a fantasy of control and protection in times that seem, well, out of control and scary. Sometimes you have to throw caution to the wind and not let your expectation for them rule the day. And, for good or bad, you have to let your kids make choices on their own. Let them play Wii on a Tuesday night every once in a while. Let them pick their nose in the car and hide it under the seat for you to find encrusted six months later. Let them spend their allowance on nine dollars worth of Silly Banz that will make their rooms smell like the Goodyear Tire plant in Altoona, Pennsylvannia.
I know why she wrote the piece, though. She, like me, is looking to correct this culture of parenting that says that all of our children are geniuses, that their art work is on par with Picasso and their soccer trophies are an example of potential World Cup greatness. This is as crazy as the Yale professor's parenting methods, to my mind. But how about this instead:
Why can't we all just do our best?
My advice to all parents who are afraid that they are going to screw it all up for their kids is to buy them a pair of fake glasses. That's what I did for mine. They make them look and feel smarter AND, as an added bonus, prepare them for a world that is constantly telling them - in one way or the other- that what they choose to do for a living (and not how they treat those around them) will ultimately define who they are. Right, Professor Rea?