From the moment the umbilical cord is cut, today’s parents feel trapped in a never-ending race to ensure their child is the brightest and the best. But while it’s completely natural for us to want our kids to reach their potential, at what point does too much competition become damaging?
I have been reflecting on what attracted me to Tanith’s book Taming the Tiger Parent. I am certainly not a Tiger Parent. In fact I am the opposite. Until last week my kids didn’t do any organised activities after school or at the weekend. They have dipped in and out of things, but it’s never been a big part of our lives, yet our lives seem rich and full, sometimes too full.
School reading gets forgotten, we buy reading aids and literacy and maths sticker books with good intentions, but they always get buried under craft projects, baking and Lego.
People are always telling me we seem to do lots, one woman asked a friend of mine if I really did all the stuff I blogged about, or did I make it up. I laughed. You couldn’t make this stuff up. But if someone offers us the chance to travel, to see theatre, to go somewhere new, I will take it, and take my kids along too. Am I guilty of dragging them along, of overstuffing their little lives?
On the other hand I feel guilty when other parents start talking about brownies, cubs, tennis, football and piano lessons. I start panicking that my kids aren’t doing what they should be. I ask for details, I mean to call and book in, I really do. But I seldom get that far.
My kids are only 5 and 8, the 5 year old moans that he doesn’t have enough time to play. My 8 year old seems very content with play dates which I am really happy to organise, and making her own fun.
far from making our children more go-getting and successful, it (competition) can backfire with lifelong repercussions, damage their emotional well-being and fracture their relationships with the very people who love them most; their parents.
We’ve tried to commit, but swimming lessons just led to awful arguments and us hating each other. Losing my cool in a swimming cubicle isn’t the way I want to spend precious time with my 5yo, there is always time to revisit swimming, but right now just doesn’t seem like the time. His head is elsewhere.
Weekend activities are started with good intentions only to drift away as we find new places to visit and adventures to have far beyond suburbia. I guess we don’t like to be tied down. But at the same time, I know it can be good to be pushed a little and to make a commitment to stuff. I can be guilty of flitting.
While it’s completely natural for us to want our kids to reach their potential, at what point does too much competition become damaging?
It is only over the last year I have really seen indicators of what makes my 8yo daughter really tick gently emerge, all on their own. I watched and waited for them, like some kind of mad gardener, some were seeds I planted, others I could never have predicted. She loves art. She has asked to learn tennis more than once, despite me detesting it, and shows determination with her swing ball set. She has also found Science fascinating. We’ve paid here and there for her to have new experiences, but not necessarily ones that mean signing her up every week, or packing her off.
Tanith has simple guidance to help you find the balance between helping children reach their potential and pressurising them too much.
G, my 5yo is still happier playing Lego than tennis, and is still exhausted from a full day of following rules at school. I’m not sure he is ready for after school activity, or even weekend ones. But L did a tennis taster lesson this week, and that hour gave G and I an hour in the cafe next door, just me and him and a box of Lego.
One of my biggest fears is feeling overwhelmed, by everything I am juggling, by tired kids, by the need to get to places for a certain time and arrive without the kids having a fight.
Tanith, a mother-of-two, gathers together the latest evidence to give parents practical, realistic solutions that will give them permission to take their foot off the gas and reclaim a more relaxed family life.
I would still like to know if I am doing it right. There’s always a sneaky feeling that I am not doing enough for them. It’s just parental peer pressure I know, playgrounds are breeding grounds for paranoia. Which is why the subtitle of Tanith’s book: ‘How to put your child’s well-being first in a competitive world’ really appealed.
I’m back from parent’s evening tonight, the words ‘she’s happy and confident’ buzzing round my ears still, because Tanith argues we need to hold those measures above grades and results. I think if you get the former, the latter will follow, so here’s to keeping our eye on the real measure of parenthood, happy kids.
Buy Taming the Tiger Parent at Amazon here.