Has anyone with children.... no, strike that.... has ANYONE in the United States not been exposed to the great debate sparked by Amy Chua's book on the oriental “tiger moms” method of raising children?
Over the last month I have been overwhelmed with discussions regarding her book and her parenting philosophy. The results of the discussions have ranged from, “I'm so glad that you are the anti-tiger mom!” to “I'm so glad you are a tiger mom!” The truth is that I'm neither. The truth is that sometimes my kids are “number one” and sometimes they are not. I try to celebrate when appropriate and encourage when needed, but I also try to not get too worked up over either result. Rank in school, or any endeavor has little eternal significance.
I'm currently attending a conference with lots and lots of youth. The conference is incredible. Well organized, excellent leadership, and a great program. The ages of the youth attending range from fifth grade through college. Some of these young musicians and vocalists have a decent amount of talent, some can simply carry a tune, some are amazing artists. Some are passionate about their art, while others just enjoy their art. Art aside though, the overwhelming common denominator that seems to be in place for a good majority is an incredible lack of good manners. Now, if you think I'm just grumpy and old, I can tell you that the same sentiment was expressed by some who are decades younger than I! Doors slamming in faces, texting during conversations, shoving in front of those who are smaller, ugly statements to peers... you get the picture.
So, it occurred to me that while the tiger moms and the anti-tigers have both conveyed some excellent points, to some extent, they both seem to be misplacing their greatest efforts. Maybe both need to focus a little more on teaching their children what it means to be a good citizen and making a contribution to the world rather than emphasizing being the "top-dog". This is especially if you happen to call yourself a Christian.
Focusing on your child's success and demanding that they be “number one” in every endeavor promotes self-centered thinking and behavior. Likewise, placing your child's success above all else is a form of idolatry. This does not make a good citizen who others will enjoy being with.
Focusing on your child's self-esteem and happiness also results in a great deal of self-centered behavior. Likewise, focusing only on happiness creates a false world. The Bible makes no claim that life on this earth will be easy, happy and self-fulfilling. Good citizens don't insist that everything be exactly as they might like it to be.
So, why don't we just do what American parents used to do? Why don't we tell our children to do their best, work hard and use good manners? Sometimes we will be first, sometimes we will be last. When we are first we should give the glory to God. When we are last, we should remind ourselves that Jesus was the suffering servant. Kindness, compassion and good citizenship change the world.
In the midst of all this chaos, there have been some wonderfully sweet moments that I have witnessed as well: A sixth grader helping a lost mom, teenagers with an angst ridden appearance politely and cheerfully greeting the adults. Young men holding the door for young women... and older women too! I high school girl giving food to a man who appeared to be homeless.
I don't know if any of these young people excel in their artistic field, and I don't know if any of them are the “number one” musician, but I do know that their manners provide a glimmer of hope and their parents should be proud that they have raised kind, well-mannered, compassionate children who will make this world a better place. Wouldn't it be fantastic if they were the norm?