Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Christan Mother

There has been an uproar over this article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.  Amy Chua, a Yale law professor and mother, declared that Chinese parenting produces more successful and thus happy children. I have read the article and watched several interviews of Mrs. Chua.  Frankly, much of her methods are deplorable and abusive to me.  The article was simply a pat on the back for what Mrs. Chua has created. 

I don't fault Chua for her methods, for she is simply reenacting the same life in which she was reared.  Right or wrong, unless you have been exposed to other methods, other theories of parenting, you will repeat history.  I know there are tactics I use that were used on me - the good, the bad and the ugly.  Her parenting is steeped deeply in the Chinese culture which believes success equals money which equals happiness.

I agree with Chua on a one point, however.  Rewarding mediocrity.  American society coughs up awards for every event in our children's lives.  There are awards for being potty-trained (really, this should go to the parents), being nice, having the cleanest desk, always being on time, being neat, sharing, etc. These traits that every child should have, right?    More importantly, are these attributes that are awarded when they are adults?  No. They are expected.

On the soccer field, there are kids who play every game with skill and agility, while others languish around picking flowers and stare off in space.  Yet, they are awarded the same medal at the end of the season.  What does this teach a child?  Did the medal propel the child who has no interest in soccer to become better the next season?  No, because the award is the same whether he put in a lot of effort or not.

Ethan has been begging to have texting on his ipod.  Jay and I feel this is a privilege that he needs to earn.  We told him that he could get it if he made all As on his report card.  Unfortunately, his first report card came home with one B that was one point away from an A.  I had several parents tell me I should give it to him anyway because he was so close and tried his best.  We did not cave.  A deal was a deal and he did not hold up his end of the bargain.  He did well, no doubt, but he could have studied a bit more, and been a little more careful on his work.

This weekend at a swim meet, Sadie was very inconsistent in the pool.  She was not rewarded with new time achievements and appeared to be disappointed with her results.  She said, "I tried my hardest," but I did not allow her to get away with this well-worn phrase.  She didn't do her best.  She was not focused and she did not swim the techniques she has been taught all year.  She simply dove in the pool and tried to swim fast using whatever means necessary.  I did not award her with comfort and accolades for swimming slower than she did at the previous meet.  Unlike Chua, however, I did not punish my child for the results either.  She has to live with her disappointment and channel that into bettering herself at the next meet.

This only scratches the surfaces regarding our culture's view on parenting.  It is largely defined by well-meaning psychologists and helicopter-style parenting by those that continue insert themselves into their children's lives in order for them to never meet failure face to face.  Not exactly preparing them for adulthood, now is it?

However, the purpose of this blog entry was to point to what really made my heart sink when reading this article and listening to subsequent interviews: the complete oblivion to God and his incredible doling out of grace. 

The only way I have not had a complete collapse as a mother is knowing that God's grace is sufficient to cover my mistakes.  It is also sufficient to cover my kids' mistakes as well.  I have never held back the reality of my sin and failures to my kids.  I apologize and ask their forgiveness when I have lashed out in anger or exhibited pride.

It has been a blessing to show my kids that life is full of struggles and suffering.  God does not expect them to face these challenges alone.  It is through these struggles that we learn and deepen our dependence on God.  For example, I often tell Sadie that she cannot control her impulsivity all on her own.  God sent the Holy Spirit to help her, to provide that strength. Seeing your kids confidence soar when they know that the God of the universe, who knows each star and each grain of sand and each hair on their head, is helping them achieve and be all He wants them to be, is unmatched.

I think I can sum up my Christian Mom's view as this:  I want my kids to be the best God created them to be, always giving Him their best because of what gifts He has given them, and calling on Him in times of weakness and struggle.  

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