When I was pregnant with my first child I was a sponge for advice. Every mother I met would be inundated with questions about labor, best diapers, breast feeding or formula, best car seat, and on and on. I am sure many of those poor mothers were glad to see me waddle away.
Now on the other end of the spectrum I find myself giving advice to pregnant moms to be about child rearing and discipline. I am discussing with older parents how to teach kids to respect parental authority, deal with teens who are sexually active, kids being bullied, kids on drugs and often how to communicate with their children. It seems many parents these days are either afraid to discipline their children for fear of “not being their friend or hurting their feelings” or are indifferent to their behavior. I find this very concerning. Am I the only one noticing this trend in America?
I recently read some reviews of Amy Chua’s book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." It is a memoir written by an American born Chinese mother of two teen girls. Tiger Mother is Amy Chua's own assessment of herself as she was born in the Chinese year of the tiger. She is a strict disciplinarian who micromanages all aspects of her children's lives which may include calling them "garbage", rejecting hand crafted birthday cards or forcing a 7 year-old child to practice at the piano hour upon hour without a bathroom break. She states that this was how she was raised by her Chinese immigrant parents. Her goal is to prepare her children for the harsh world reality. It is tough out there and you need to be prepared.
I certainly do not agree with her harsh and humiliating tactics but she does point out that in our western culture we are raising a generation of weak children who are indulged for the sake of their self esteem. We have lost sight of the fact that children need to learn from failures, solve difficult problems, that there are rules, and that they will be held responsible for their actions. America is back sliding but are we helpless to stop it?
I would hope not. I can only challenge each of us as mothers and physicians who can influence parents and children alike to put forth the energy to change the culture we have developed. Do we want to put our future into hands of adults who expect life to be handed to them on a fluffy pillow to soften their falls? We are doing ourselves, our children and country a disservice if we don’t encourage families to focus on staying together, push parenting with the goal of responsible adults even if it means some discomfort now, and being honest with our children that our country needs strong, creative, hard-working adults to fix the many problems we have created. Will you join me?