I made a decision to stay away from the Tiger Mom discussion,
not because I didn't have anything to say, but because there has
been so much said already.
But as I was reading the February issue of Oprah Magazine last
night, I ran across yet another Q&A with
Amy Chua, aka Tiger Mom, and one of her responses motivated me
to make just one small comment about something that is consistently
They asked: What about letting kids find
themselves by trying lots of different activities?
She said: There's something suspicious
about saying, "I'm just going to leave my child alone and let her
pursue her passions." You know what? I think most
13-year-olds' passion is sitting in front of the TV, or doing
Facebook, or surfing the Internet for hours. I really feel
that most things are difficult at the beginning and they become
fun, something you love, only after you've worked at them.
Making children do something hard can, in the long run, can be a
great parental service.
I have heard responses similar to this when I give presentations
about supporting our children's interests. There is an
assumption that if we allow our kids to discover their own
interests, boundaries around things like TV, Facebook, internet
would just go out the window.
Or that allowing children to be who they are means completely
disconnecting or leaving them to their own devices.
Of course you need to have boundaries in place. Allowing
your children to be who they are doesn't mean letting go of
structure and rules. Nor does it mean that you disconnect
from their experiences. Actually, it's quite the
The idea is to really notice your children, listen to what they
say, and be open to their interests.
To support your children's interests you actually need to spend
more time with them so you know more about what they
enjoy. Conversation and time together need to become a
priority so you really know who they are.
Of course you should introduce your children to the things you
love and expose them to new and different experiences. But
it's also important to stand back and notice what they like, what
really speaks to them.
This is can be the difficult part because many of us have dreams
for our children - things we hope they will do or things we wish
they would be. But, these are our dreams, not our
Sometimes it's our dream to have our children do what we did or
what we wish we would have done. But again, these are
our dreams. And because they are our dreams, we
should be responsible for pursuing them on our own; not ask our
children to do it for us.
If your children work hard at something just to please you, they
will need significant external validation for their efforts, a lot
of looking outside of themselves for motivation.
But if they are doing something because they love it, they will
be intrinsically motivated to learn more. They will want to
work harder simply because they love what they are doing.
So a true parental service is giving your children
permission to be who they are and listening and supporting as they
realize what brings them joy.
And "leaving them alone to pursue their passions" is more about
taking responsibility for your dreams and standing back a bit so
your children have room to discover and embrace their own.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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