Monday, May 9, 2011

I Think I'm a Human Mother

Every day in the news, there is another article about some kind of animal mother someone is claiming to be: a dolphin, a sloth, a panda... all thanks to the original self-titled "tiger mother" Amy Chua, who got all this craziness started a few months ago.

But as Peter Gray so brilliantly writes in this article, Amy Chua is more like a circus trainer than an actual tiger mother. She is ultimately concerned with performance, with impressing others. Her children are just actors (like it or not) in her big life show. It makes me sick to see anyone in the media congratulating her for her daughter's recent college acceptances, as if it somehow justifies her method.

As a parent, I have a choice. I can choose to focus on trying to craft a "designer child," as Chua and many other parents do. If so, then everything I do now is with an eye on the future: Punishments/Rewards, Requirements, Expectations, Manipulation, Forced Lessons. It's all just in case. It's all with the hopes that my child will be some certain way. If I do all of that stuff now I can control the future.

Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. There is no guarantee that my child will even live through the day. There is certainly no guarantee that even if I make my child do everything "right," his future will turn according to my plan. And even if it does go exactly as planned, there is no guarantee my child will be happy with it or thank me for it.

But there is another option. I can instead choose to focus on developing the best possible relationship with my child. I can do everything with my eyes on my child as he is right now, instead of always worrying about who he will become. I can choose Acceptance, Encouragement, Understanding, Trust, FUN. There still won't be a guarantee of any specific outcomes when choosing this way. But if I choose more happiness and more fun right now, I get more happiness and more fun.

Instead of the futile attempts to try to control the future, I can successfully take control of my actions right now. I can choose to be my child's ally, his partner, his friend, rather than his adversary, his warden, or his circus trainer. I can look at the way I treat my child, and ask whether the things I am doing and saying are supporting the goal of building some kind of fancy superhero child or, rather, the goal of building a relationship with another human.

After all, I'm a human mother. And my children are human children. And I want to have the best possible relationships with my children, two of my favorite humans on the planet.


  1. I love this post! I once read that when we boil everything down, there are only two real emotions: love and fear. How much more powerful it is to accept others out of love and to teach with love than to fear accepting the way things are and to teach others to fear them as well.

    Life is crazy! If our end goal is to just try to love others as much as we can, and teach them to love as well, then we are doing our job :)

  2. I love this post! Children are people too, they have hopes, fears, dreams all of their own & loving them means treating them as people, not pets.

  3. Thank you all. I was tired of trying to figure out what animal to compare myself to. :)