Are Western Parents Too Soft?
Recently I have been listening to the audio book version of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua and it got me thinking about how I parent and how we parent as a whole in the United States. I have long been looked at by my peers as a “strict” mother. After listening to Amy Chua’s book I am starting to think even my version of strict is pretty soft.
A lot of the issues that this soft parenting model brings are issues I now struggle with myself as an adult and when I am feeling rather sorry for myself as happens sometimes I will attribute these struggles with the way I was raised. My biggest struggle is with self-discipline and it has reared its ugly head with issues like my weight, college, and house maintenance. I even sometimes feel that I would be so much more successful in my career if I had more self-discipline. As a child I was never made to be responsible for myself or my things. My Mother did all the household chores and was a workaholic. She never stopped until she passed out on the couch at night when she finally sat down for the day.
I quickly learned that I could count on my Mom to do all my chores and even sometimes my school assignments if I procrastinated long enough. My Mom genuinely thought she was doing the best for me. I know she loved and still loves me. I just don’t think many of the parent’s that raised my generation were concerned with our future. They were very busy themselves working for the American Dream.
Now fast forward to the current generation and not only is the Western Parent not worried about preparing their child for their future adulthood, we are also trying to pour on the attention and materialism that we felt we were deprived of as children. Now I know this doesn’t paint the picture of every family in the United States as we are a mixed pot but I feel it is a healthy majority. I have been lucky enough through Girl Scouts, my work with teens, and my various other community activities to be involved with very large samples of children and families. Even watching my own nieces and nephews be raised I can see this trend.
I have coined the phrase “failure to launch” when I see another teen turn eighteen and then the parents realize their child has no clue how to function as an adult. Then the teen is prepared haphazardly for adulthood in their early twenties and maybe by thirty they will resemble a responsible adult. Of course they will probably always struggle like me with work ethic and self-discipline if they were not taught these habits as children.
The flip side to this soft parenting is pretty aggressive parenting and what some would call abusive. I do not agree with all the philosophies that Amy Chua wrote about in her book but I do feel there is a healthy middle ground that we have definitely lost sight of in this country. Hard work and pride in your work have faded away. We reserve childhood for some never-ending fun fest instead of the preparation for adulthood that it needs to be. The sad fact is that our parenting isn’t producing the happy, well-adjusted people we think we are making. Just take a look at depression, obesity, violence, and suicide statistics and you can see our parenting model is not even close to the answer we seek. The system is broken. We need to stop letting the media make our parenting choices for us and start doing the hard work of parenting needed to raise successful adults, which is the purpose of parenting.
What do you think? Am I off the mark about my thoughts on parenting? Is our current system better than I think? Let me know. I love to hear your opinion and comments.