How to tame the tiger parent
When I was 12 and 13 I babysat regularly every weekend for two families with babies the same age. One of the moms spent her days showing flash cards to her baby and using educational tools and toys to interact with her baby. The other mom did not. Over the few years I spent with both families, I noticed a difference in the babies’ development and their ability to speak, communicate and interact with me. The flash card baby spoke much sooner and was able to communicate more clearly than the other baby. At the time, because I was very young I didn’t think about it much more beyond my observations, but now as a parent, I can see what the flashcard mom was doing.
I just finished reading Tanith Carey’s latest book called Taming The Tiger Parent: How to put your child’s well being first in a competitive world and the memories of these two babies came flooding back along with thoughts about my own parenting style as well. It would be interesting to see what these two babies are doing today as adults.
Carey’s book, Taming The Tiger Parent, looks at her own initial desire to be a tiger parent to her young daughter after repatriating to the UK from the USA, how tiger parenting became a global force, the affects competitive parenting have on our children, how to recognize when you are becoming a tiger parent and offers an alternative to tiger parenting and how parents can change and achieve this.
After reading Cary’s book and some of the example scenarios and children who have been tiger parented, and also doing her tiger parent checklist, I know I am definitely not a tiger parent. I think outside factors play an important role in how you parent such as your socioeconomic class, the people you associate with, your childrens’ friends, the types of schools available and even the country you live in. I often wonder if my parenting style would be different if we were raising our children in America instead of in Britain or if we were better off and were in a position to send our children to private or international schools. Perhaps I would be more of a tiger parent if we had more money to invest in our children’s academic and personal development or if I were a stay at home mum who had free time.
But as Carey so rightly states in part two of her book How Competitive Parenting And Schooling Affect Our Children, being a tiger parent can cause them stress which could lead to psychological problems as well as creating a disfunctional and resentful relationship between children and parents, I hope I would think twice. There’s an example of a little girl who tears up her homework if she makes one small mistake and stays up late in order to perfect her homework. I have seen my daughter do this on occasion and I’ve worried a bit about her desire to have everything she does be perfect and the stress it causes. I think one of the challenges of being a good parent is to find a balance between helping and teaching your children to do their best, to achieve high marks, win awards, further their abilities and talents and simply being there for them as positive role models with the right set of values and ethos.
I’m a huge fan of Carey’s books and have also recently read Where Has My Little Girl Gone? I noticed a bit of cross over between these two books and one thing that stood out for me was her advice about eating together as a family. We always did this when I was a child and it’s important for me for my family to spend time eating together. I know this goes against the grain here in Britain where most families don’t do this regularly. The other day I was chatting to an American mom over FaceTime with a British mum sitting next to me. The American mom was talking about family culture and sitting down for dinner together. As soon as the FaceTime call ended the British mum turned to me and said, “that wouldn’t work here, you know how it is, British families eat whenever they want often times in front of the telly!” Too funny, but very true. In Britain, when the children are little, they are fed at 5pm and the parents eat much later. Then when they are older families tend to eat wherever and whenever. I think what Carey says about eating together in part three How to Shed Your Tiger Parenting Stripes is so important for family bonding and creating a unique family culture. This, I found to be extremely interesting:
“Children who eat four meals a week with their families have been shown to score higher in academics tests, and girls in particular have been found to have higher levels of self-esteem.” page 146
I would encourage all parents to read Taming The Tiger Parent and also if you have girls, take a look at Where Has My Little Girl Gone? – in particular fathers. I keep showing my husband passages from this book, encouraging him to take note. My two older children are of a similar age to Carey’s and I’ve followed her writing since she wrote How to be an “Amazing” Mum – When You Just Don’t Have the Time: The Ultimate Handbook for Hassled Mothers when my youngest was a baby. This is a great book packed full of hints and tips and great time saving habits to start and carry on with.
I think one of the strengths of Taming The Tiger Parent is that Carey herself started out on the tiger mother path and through experience and research has written a book which speaks about the dangers of tiger parenting in today’s world and how we can prevent it happening to us and presents other ways of raising smart, confident, successful, loving and lovable children.
Meghan Peterson Fenn is the author of Bringing Up Brits and co-author of Inspiring Global Entrepreneurs with Heidi Mulligan Walker. Meghan is also the Director and Chief Designer at her own design company, White Ochre Design Ltd. And, she is an award winning expat blogger.