‘Teach Your Children Well’ Speaks to Tiger Moms, Not The Rest of Us

If you’re a New York Times reader, then you probably read the glowing review of the new parenting book called Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine. But just in case you didn’t see it, here’s my take.

These writers (Amy Chua included) are from upper-class, privileged and wealthy communities. That’s great. Woot for them. But they’re totally out of touch with how real moms and dads choose to raise children in everyday America.

I admire Levine’s research and work. She’s a longtime psychologist in affluent Marin County, California. The title of her previous book says everything you need to know about her topic of interest. It’s called The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids.

Her schtick is that our society puts too much pressure on kids to get into the Ivy Leagues while requiring them to beef up their resumes with varsity sports and volunteer missions to Cambodia. She says kids have too much homework and not enough free time. Children’s test scores are more important than their unique personalities. Meanwhile, parents work all hours to earn loads of money to buy lessons, tutors, coaches and iPads so their kids will rock at absolutely everything.

Really? Who are these parents? Who has the time and money for this crap? I don’t. Who’s letting their kids have iPads? I’ve read a lot of articles and books saying that we push our kids too hard, and I agree that some people are (especially in Manhattan). But I don’t know many of them, and I have over 1,000 friends on Facebook.

I’ll be happiest if my kids hug me often, stand up to bullies and treat others with love and kindness. They can grow up to be hair stylists, landscapers, plumbers or bankers and lawyers. My hopes for them are simple: I want them to be strong and healthy; I want them to remember to call on my birthday; and I want them to pick a nice nursing home for me.

My kids, ages 6, 6 and 4, don’t go to gymnastics or T-ball or Kumon (we quit) or fancy summer camps because we can’t stretch ourselves that thin financially. But more importantly, we prefer having time to ride bikes and eat dinner together. I’m not pushing them to get straight As in kindergarten and beyond because there’s more to life than perfect report cards–like catching fireflies and giving wedgies. Besides, unless they’re geniuses (they’re not), I don’t believe it’s a solid idea to go into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt to attend Harvard. My dream is for them to go to my alma mater which is a state school in Indiana. If they don’t, I’ll be okay with that as long as they still root for my basketball team.

I’m just saying there are a lot of normal, laid-back parents out here who aren’t pushing or expecting their kids to reach crazy high goals. In her book, Levine writes, “Our version of success is a failure.” I disagree because my version involves climbing trees, dirty knees and generosity. I think the gist of her book is solid. She wants parents to relax and connect. Luckily, though, a lot of us already know that.

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