I struggle with the “tiger mum” concept because I don’t want to be one but sometimes some of my parenting beliefs have a tiger mum-ish feel to them. I discovered this recently in a conversation with another mum. I was venting my frustrations about my difficulties getting my children to practise the piano, particularly my son who is 4. Her response was quite typical – “if he’s not enjoying it, give it up”.
Not exactly the response I was looking for.
I tried to explain how important music was from a developmental point of view. How much it meant to me and what a difference it has made in my life. Then she offered that perhaps that was my “issue” and questioned whether I was perhaps imposing this on my children.
“Just give up for now and do it later if it’s that important”
True. I could do that, but this is where belief systems come to play. I believe that it’s my responsibility as a parent to get my children to the “tipping point” and to do this in a supportive and nurturing way.
I remember my mother holding the cane as a threat to get me to practise! Not the best experience I grant you, but I do appreciate the fact that it got me to my “tipping point” in music which was about a Grade 5 skill level. At that level, everything changed for me. I could pick my own music, teach myself to play, and quite simply, play beautiful music that I chose. I was no longer bound to what my teacher said I “had” to play.
To fully understand why tipping points and persistence are significant, I recommend reading two books – Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” and Seth Godin’s “The Dip”. Both have nothing to do with parenting but provide interesting insights. “The dip” is simply the point when people give up i.e. when things get tough.
In order to reach my friend at the same level, I asked her whether she would allow her kids to quit school because “they weren’t enjoying it”. Naturally, her response was “no”. Learning music is as fundamental to me as schooling is to other people. It is part of my children’s education, not just an extra-curricular activity.
Some parents allow their children to quit school once they get to 16 or 17. We all have different “tipping points” consciously or unconsciously. Why 16 or 17 for these parents? That’s their tipping point.
I believe that starting my children young means they have the best chance of getting to the “tipping point” before other distractions creep in and before rebellion sets in. When they start to explore their independence and spread their wings, I know that I will have less influence and control. I want to make hay while the sun shines, except I’m finding it tough. I’m hitting my “dip”.
I know what I need is motivation to push through “the dip” and my best chance of doing this is finding people who share the same values to support me.
An interesting question I have is this – Is it possible to take the best out of what a “tiger mum” wants to give her kids without being a “tiger mum”?