Dear Dr. Fournier:
I recently read your article on the role China will play in the global economy of the next decade and beyond. You also referenced the “Tiger Mother,” which has generated a lot of publicity of late. I read another article a few days ago about a mother that is the antithesis of the “Tiger Mother,” who has her own memoir entitled “Hiroshima in the Morning.” What should parents take from this new wave of parenting possibilities?
Both the “Tiger Mother” and the “Hiroshima Mom” have created convenient excuses for themselves to inflate their own respective egotistical needs. In the case of a “Tiger Mother,” the egotistical justification is that the ends justify the means. If the child grows up to have academic (or athletic, musical or the like) success, thereby reflecting well on the parent, then the methods used to “deliver the goods,” are of no consequence, regardless of the lifelong scars that may be imprinted. In the case of a “Hiroshima Mom,” we see the ethical justification of a self-serving decision that can be called nothing other than abandonment. Do both of these styles of parenting have points worthy of consideration? Perhaps, but going to the extreme on either end of the spectrum can have disastrous and life-long consequences.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time there have been those who have attempted to turn the taboos of the past into the virtues of today, nor will it be the last. Anyone who has to run to edge of the box to live will have to go to the extreme of challenging the mainstream paradigm. In this case both mothers purport their positions to be the right thing to do. Thus they fearlessly jump off the cliff into the abyss, renouncing the mainstream paradigm to create another that suits their wishes/desires/ego. While on the surface they appear diametrically opposed, they are unified in their justification that this is the fair thing to do. In the world of philosophical analysis the word “Fair” in essence means, “I get what I want.” Fair does not mean right. Fair does not mean wrong. Fair is about what one person believes to be right or wrong exclusively for themselves. To sensationalize if not outright champion these egotistical positions not only serves to validate the personal behavior of the authors, it also subliminally challenges parents that have made the selfless choice to engage in responsible parenting to question themselves and how they relate to their children based on a dangling carrot that promises an ego boost, destroying the power of love and caring.
If there is any doubt that these mothers are placing their own needs ahead of their children, the very fact that they felt compelled to write memoirs should be all the evidence one needs to see to draw the conclusion that these decisions were ego driven. Tamara, I leave you with this quote on the nature of caring, growth, and actualization from Milton Mayeroff, and his deep study On Caring ““In caring for the other, in helping it grow, I actualize myself. The writer grows in caring for his ideas; the teacher grows in caring for his students; the parent grows in caring for his child. Or, put differently, by using powers like trust, understanding, courage, responsibility, devotion, and honesty I grow also; and I am able to bring such powers into play because my interest is focused on the other… I do not try to help the other grow in order to actualize myself, but by helping the other grow I do actualize myself.” Both of these women have chosen to help the other grow in order to actualize themselves. This is not caring.
WHAT TO DO
Stay the course. Operate from a position of caring. Define what is sacred to you in your home. I should not have to advise you that calling any child, much less your own child, “garbage” is poor parenting of the highest order. Challenging your children in a healthy manner is one thing, but verbal berating and humiliation is certainly not it. Also, much like the hurried parent who is so involved in their own extracurricular activities that they cannot make time for or even feel “held back” by their own children, do not attempt to rationalize or justify a lack of involvement as a parent as a positive. Care for your children first, and the rest will fall into line.
CONTACT DR. FOURNIER
Have a question about education, education-related issues or your child’s schoolwork or homework? Ask Dr. Fournier and look for her answer in this column. E-mail your question or comment to Dr. Yvonne Fournier at [email protected]