Monday, February 14, 2011

Extreme Parenting: How Far is Too Far?

Here's my CBS 11 clip on the topic. Many, many tanks to CBS Dallas for having me- I have such a blast sharing with parents this way! (Read on- there's more below the clip!)

We all heard the story of Tiger Mom- and if you didn’t, here’s a recap: strict, Chinese, Yale law school professor mom raises two daughters the ‘traditional Chinese’ way, according to her- including practices such as forcing them to practice piano pieces for hours at a time with no bathroom breaks and throwing less-than-acceptable Mother’s Day Cards back at them. Her argument? It teaches them to live in the competitive, unforgiving, global society.

My argument? Children need to have a say in their lives (you knew I was going to say that, right?!). When parents outright reject the opinions of their children and exert complete power over them, children cannot grow and develop as independent, self-governing individuals. Think about it: if someone is always making decisions for you (and rejecting the few decisions you do make on your own) how will you ever learn to think on your own and live independently and fearlessly in the world around you?

There’s always the question of: My child is painfully shy/timid. Should I push him to join a club/group/sport?
I definitely don’t think it’s a mistake to introduce the idea of joining an organized activity. You can do it in a gentle way- make a list of lots of activities you think might interest him and see if any catch his eye. If he says no, talk about why. But if he persists with his decision not to join, I don’t know that I’d force him to. Think about it this way: if he’s that shy, would he really enjoy being a part of a large group? Or would it just be overwhelming and intimidating? He’ll have the experience of being a part of a group in other ways: classroom activities, group projects, etc. and he’ll get camaraderie through his close friends and family. Just because you think being a part of an organized sport or activity would be good for him doesn’t mean it’s the only way for him to experience life.

My daughter is getting overweight. Unfortunately, I know that attractive people are treated better in this world- should I push her to lose the weight?
Hopefully as a parent, your reasons for wanting a child to lose weight are health-oriented and not appearance oriented. You should always encourage your children to focus on what other people have to offer on the inside- things like morals and character traits, not appearance.

That said, there are, of course, health benefits to being of a healthy weight. When helping a child maintain a healthy weight, researchers are unanimous: keep the focus on health, not weight. Help your child choose healthy foods and balanced meals, exercise and stay active, and get enough sleep. Don’t focus on pounds or the way she looks. Doing so will only lead to dissapointment.

My child wants to quit an activity he is involved in. Should I let him? Or push him to stay in it?
Here’s a situation where it’s probably best to talk about why your child wants to stop the activity. Is it because he’s no longer interested and/or is becoming interested in something else? Then it may be time for a change. Is it because he’s had a tough season and doesn’t like losing? Then it’s time for a talk about why not every season will be a winning season (a tough conversation- but end it on a high note à what can you improve on next season?).

This situation is one where you and your child really have to talk it out together and use your best judgment.

At the end of the day, remember: your child is a different person than you are. She may be interested in similar things as you were as a child, but she may not. Do your best to have an open mind and be supportive.


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