I've been thinking about my role as a mother. The pressure that I put on myself to be a successful parent is high. It has been my pleasure to observe many amazing mothers, who dedicate their lives to this role. I have also been one and had been a witness to many who put untold pressure on themselves to be perceived as a "successful" parent. Mother and naturally, in turn, their child must perform par excellence in all areas of their lives and become a success. It has been a journey of discovery and education to find the right balance between being an encouraging parent and not giving into being a tiger mom who scales up her success vicariously thru her children.
I admit I had felt the pangs of guilt like the time my child hadn't still learnt Bach's Minuet when someone else's child the same age had. At other times, I have felt a tinge of pride at the knowledge that my child knows his times-tables when others of his age don't. I had to ask myself then, how is this good parenting, when it clearly isn't? Such competitiveness cannot be a good parenting strategy. It only leaves you with sour grapes and put insurmountable unspoken pressure (and sometimes clearly spoken) pressure on my kids. I have since made a vow to myself that I will never compare my children with those of others. Since I had made this decision, I cannot tell you how freeing it has been. The best thing has been that my children are free to achieve and perform at their level without the fear of comparison to others by me. The pride of performance and their sense of achievement has become purely intrinsic. Thankfully nothing they do is to please me or to gain my approval.
Recently, I read that this sort of hands-off approach is not a road to disaster but could well be the way forward, as many children are seen to breakdown or burn out with the pressure put upon them by their helicopter parents. I read in the New York Times a book review on the author and psychologist Madeline Levine. In it she states "parents must learn new ways to express their love and concern, trading their fears of failure for their faith in their children's innate strengths, and prioritize the joys and challenges of life in the present (my italics) over anxious visions of an uncertain future."
The article says that Levine encourages:
The virtue of teaching empathy.
The development of an authentic self (meaning do what you love and not just what is expected by others)
Making time for dreaming, creating and unstructured outdoor play.
I love what Peg's Hubby from Boston wrote in one of the comments:
What I have found (since) is that, aside from the provision of good schooling, love and friendly support and basic opportunities for sports and music, kids will do well whose drive comes from within. I long for the days when parents could go about the business of providing a stable and loving home while the kids sorted out their friendships, interests and projects on their own, with occasional consultation as needed. Anxiety and guilt - that's what we feel instead.
So these past few holidays, we unplugged the TV and apart from about an hour a day of scheduled homework time, I let the kids loose to follow their hearts desire, and these are some of the things they chose to do:
They learnt to rollerblade and skateboard.
They created art collaborating with others.
They spent time in nature.
They cooked together.
They turned themselves upside down. A lot!!!
But most of all, they gave generously to others in their unique way.