Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Responsibility and Accountability for Parents and Children

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" has generated a great deal of discussion on parenting philosophies.  These are always very personal to people, and are passionate topics since they deliver a message regarding our own approaches to life--what is a greater reflection of us, in our minds and in the minds of others, than our children whether it is true or not.

I found this article (and the reader comments on the article) fascinating since I found myself saying  sometimes "I wouldn't parent that way," but also thinking to myself temptingly "If I do more of what she did would I get the same results with my children?"

In all honesty, there are many ways in which I find what I do consistent with what she talked about (without some of the more dramatic moments).   The points that I like to take away from this article are:

1)  Excellence at anything requires hard work and dedication--whether I read it in this article, or in Malcolm Gladwell's "Outliers", or in the biography of someone who reached the top of their chosen field, without fail the best are the ones who spent more time, energy and effort than anyone else.   I help coach both of my son's soccer teams, and I often see parents who wonder why their children do not perform at the same level as other children, and I can always trace it back to the amount of time they spend playing, formally or informally.
2)  Responsibility and Accountability--I found the approach of the author of the article to be a little conflicted on this.  On the one hand, I appreciated the fact that she was honest with her children regarding their performance in different areas.  I was told by a friend once that John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach, always coached from the middle, never praising too much and never criticizing too much, but pointing out what was done correctly and incorrectly and what needed to be improved.

And I have experienced first hand the challenging moments with two children who play piano and violin--there have been some days where I certainly did not know if they would continue.   But I believe that even at early ages children can take responsibility for their learning, even if they need a push periodically.   The life lessons of growing in music are sports are great--each week you face a new musical piece, a new skill to master in soccer practice, etc., and it is always difficult to begin with.   But with time and effort, you overcome it just as daughter did in the article.  Having them learn their role in achieving excellence, and that it does not come easy.   The question this article raised for me is whether my wife and I as parents, and my children, are willing to make the effort to achieve the excellence that they say they desire.  Even though they are young, I am a believe that they are capable of having these discussions earlier than most of us believe.

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