Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tiger mothering chez Casa Kaulins?

In his March 2011 diary, John Derbyshire responds to a request from a reader for details about the parenting going on at his home.  The requesting reader was curious after reading Derb's thoughts on Amy Chua, the Tiger Mom.
.....the number of people who are sure they have got parenting right is damn small; and that small number of people are all so damn smug about their achievement, the rest of us hate them anyway.

So I'm not speaking with any confidence here. That said, the pattern in the Derb household is a sort of lower-key version of the Chuas: Mom does the tiger business, nagging and harassing the kids to do homework, music practice, chores, etc., while Dad flaps around vaguely in the background murmuring: "Perhaps we should let them go out and play now, honey …"

Mrs D has the Chua tendency, but in nothing like so concentrated a form as Amy Chua herself. There are no tooth-marks on our piano. The music lessons — daughter violin and dance, son piano and school band — were all her doing. It's she who pounces on the school reports and demands to know why this semester's grade in Social Science is three points lower than last. (How does she remember?)

Dad is more laissez-faire, sees himself in fact as somewhat like the God of the Deists, who kick-starts the Universe then lets it run with just an occasional nudge in the right direction. If what I see on the school reports agrees tolerably well with my own estimation of my kids' abilities — which is, in both cases, modestly above average — I'm content. Music lessons? Sure: but when my son reached the age at which bitter rebellion set in, I argued his case with the Mrs while secretly admiring his spirit.

You can in fact lead a horse to water and make him drink, but only up to a certain age. After that, reason, diplomacy, forbearance, and some fatalism are far more appropriate than Chua-style bullying, certainly for American kids. My own Tom Sawyer and Calamity Jane are now aged 15 and 18, and I have no illusions about my ability to do much moulding from here on out, other than perhaps by example and persuasion.

I am in any case, by conviction, quite a strong genetic determinist. I know myself; I know my brother; I knew my father; and when I look at my son, I know what I'm looking at. Not that I'm necessarily a hundred percent happy about it; but I believe I have done my best, and at this point can do very little more.

I find this interesting because I have a Chinese wife, and I have to admit that reading this passage, Derb says, better than ever I could, what goes on at Casa K with our 43 month year-old Tony.  I can only modestly echo the similarities.  JKIC (Mrs. K) has exhibited Chua Tendencies.  She harasses Tony to behave.  She is reading the reports the teachers send her  about  Tony.  She gets in knots about Tony's progress against other students.  I am a bystander saying "Don't be hard on the boy!"  I share Derb's generic determinism but I prefer to say I am a genetic fatalist.   So much with Tony is out of my hands.

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