(Reading with my daughter, Susan. Obviously, we were enjoying ourselves!)With four children and thirteen grandchildren, people might assume I could impart at least a few tips on parenting. I'm very proud of them all. But as soon as I try to provide words of wisdom for parents of today, I find it pretty hard to generalize. Each of my kids was and is so different, and I tried like the dickens to help each one develop his or her individual talents. Before you give me credit for my high aspirations and herculean efforts I must give a large portion of the credit to the oracle of parenting in the 1950's and 60's: Dr. Benjamen Spock.
Dr. Spock wrote a book that was packed with instructions and suggestions that came to be known as a bible of child rearing. I referred to this bible so many times over the years that even the second copy became rumpled and threadbare. There was one commandment that was threaded throughout the pages, and it was this: Thou shalt NEVER do anything that might undermine your child's self image! So simple, so profound, so all encompassing.
And so whenever I was in doubt about how to proceed, I asked myself whether or not my parenting was going to enhance my offspring's confidence. Simple, right? Well suffice it to say, it was far from simple.
Now, just yesterday, I heard an anchor woman introducing an author of a new book of parental advice, on Tiger Mothers. The new book takes the parental role in the opposite direction from Spock. All activities should focus on getting straight A's and mastering musical or other cultural studies outside of school.
According to this author, striving for excellence should be the mantra covering all parental-child interaction . Case in point: your child has made you a simple birthday card that's been scribbled out with one or two crayons, say, one with a big red crooked heart with what could be little blue flowers. How to react? Whenever my own kids gifted me with their original works of art, often drawn on rumpled notebook paper, I received them with enthusiasm regardless of quality! Hey, if they had made them for me, they were quality! I warmly and gratefully thanked them. I put them on the refrigerator for all the world to see. It was what a mother did. (Or so I thought). Now, going on 80, I hear my response could have been detrimental. Have to admit I know some people who actually pet their children in public.Ugh! Has a tiny sliver of doubt entered my mind reguarding my own principles of child rearing? Had I at times mistakenly communicated my acceptance of mediocrity? Would they have become even better, more amazing than they are? Had I crippled their potential? Good grief, I sure hope not.
As to which school of child rearing is the best, you thoughtful, honest parents who really know your children are in the best position to decide. And may the force be with you!