Saturday, February 24, 2018

Tiger Teacher Mom? No such thing

I am surrounded by Tiger Moms. Sometimes, against my better judgement, I try to be one too. But I have discovered that at heart, I can't be one. I can't keep it up. I've been told I don't have enough resolve to be a Tiger Mom. I'm okay with that because I know the real reason I can't be a pure, true blue Tiger Mom. 

Because I was a teacher before I became a mother and that shapes how I parent. And the teacher is a whole lot more reasonable and sees a lot more long term than the parent does.

I recently wrote something regarding my educational philosophy. 

" children are innately curious and creative and when given the right opportunities will come to love learning and that love for learning will propel them onto greater things. I have always chosen to focus on the former rather than teach with the singular aim of getting good grades. While I do agree that good grades are important, I see them as a by-product of the love for learning rather than an end in itself. My classroom ought to be a safe space for children to discover who they are and it must be a safe space for them to fail, pick themselves up, re-group and try again"

When I try to go all crazy Singaporean parent on my kids, I always end up being chastened by my better angels. I fall prey to fear and anxiety, mostly with the boys who are often careless and messy. With Evan, we saw brilliance but unwillingness to apply himself. So when it came to Muffin, I came down on him with the wrath of a Tiger Mom angered. 

To wrestle with carelessness, the penalty was to do yet another exercise. In theory, it sounded like a good idea. Get rid of the carelessness and increase mastery. But in execution, I saw how I was doing my son a disservice in the long run and all of a sudden those mistakes he was making, did not seem a big deal anymore. What I was doing, was an even bigger deal.

It had gotten to the point where Muffin would not start any work because he was paralysed by the fear of making any mistakes. 

It had gotten to the point where Muffin would cry hysterically when he discovered he had made a mistake. 

It had gotten to the point where he was fearful of the words "You have to get some work done". 

That's when I knew, for a fact, I was doing wrong by him.

As a parent, I was making sure that he feared failing just so that he would give me a good piece of work. 

As a parent, I was punishing him for trying to figure out math for himself; something he had enjoyed thoroughly up to this point. 

As a parent, I was making him fear learning because now, in his mind, testing what he had learnt had become punitive.  

As a parent, I was not giving him space to be okay with not getting it right the first time. Instead, I was causing him to become catatonic at the thought of getting something wrong.

As a teacher, I would have pointed all these things out to the parent and drawn attention to how damaging that was to the child, his self-esteem and confidence.  

As a teacher, I would have known that careless mistakes did not define the person the child would grow up into. 

As a teacher, I know that the fear of failing would limit the person the child would grow up into. 

And so, as a teacher, I would have wanted to smack around the parent who did that to his or her poor kid. 

So, Tiger Mom be damned, I listened to the teacher. Hopefully it isn't too late. 



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