Life's Tool Box – A Guide for Parents and Educators

March 10, 2011

Tiger Moms and the Jaws of Life

Filed under: Tools for Life Posts — by Life's Toolbox @ 10:26 pm
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 a combination spreader/cutter           Ask my children.  I’m a pretty hands on, strict, parent.  But watching an interview with the “Tiger Mom” gave me pause.  This intense, seemingly cutting style of parenting brought to mind the jaws of life tool used in dramatic rescues after car crashes.

            The jaws of life is a combination spreader and cutter.  When its jaws are closed it can be inserted into a small area and using hydraulics, spread open the mouth of the “jaws”, creating enough space to release the trapped victim.  In the middle of these open jaws is also a cutter strong enough to slice through any impediment to freedom.  All parents want to save their children from harm, and may wish for their personal jaw of life to release them from any harm, limit, or difficulty that holds them back.

            I must confess, I have not read the Tiger Mom’s book on parenting.  The few interviews I’ve seen and the buzz it is generating, around the water cooler and on the park bench, as well as numerous friends, colleagues and parents at workshops asking my opinion prompted this brief, and perhaps less than fully informed reflection.  The small snip of interview I witnessed discussed a child being sent to redo the birthday card made for her mom because it was sloppy.  The mom told the child she expected more.    The interview continued to present the notion that children must be held to high standards, arguing that too much coddling and pussy cat parenting leaves children without the skills they need to be successful.

            I have two difficulties with my initial take on Tiger parenting.  First, I am concerned that it is, in itself a tough love type of coddling.  By providing strict guidelines and monitoring all aspects of children’s behavior, it may cut through and cut out the child’s opportunities to get trapped, to struggle, and to find the way out.  If I know Mom will critique my work and make me do it again, why do I need to learn self-regulation, and self-evaluation?  If someone else is so “in charge” – I can just follow the rules.

            Everything I know about parenting, and I believe it is true for emergency rescue as well, tells me that humanity, relationship, warmth and caring, are as essential as standards.  The rescue worker who wields the jaws of life expertly, but who doesn’t calm the panicked victim, may have a shocky, uncooperative patient on his hands.  The parent who has not invested in building a strong, powerful and loving connection with their child has much less leeway when strict or critical, before risking serious damage to a child’s self-esteem and well being.

            I understand and appreciate setting high goals for children – but I think if we are clear about what our most basic and crucial goals are for our children we will recognize that we cannot dole out love and criticism in equal measure.  When we set standards and are critical, then, especially we must do it with love and gentleness, and in the right time and place.  I have sent many a homework assignment back to be redone for sloppiness – because a child’s respect for teachers and mastery of the content was primary.  When I have been blessed to receive a homemade card or gift, the lesson I most wanted to teach was gratitude and the message I most wanted to send was my appreciation for the emotional bond I share with my sons that prompted the gift and thought behind it.  My foremost standard, my ultimate goal for my children, is not cutting edge, jaws of life strength or skill – although I’m no slouch about academic or other accomplishments.  More than anything, I hope my children know that this lioness judges her children as most successful when they are decent, caring, responsible and engaging human beings.


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