Thursday, May 07, 2009

Raising my Asian kids Jewish

I saw this story on the Omamas blog: A talk with Wendy Mogel, author of 'Blessing of a Skinned Knee.'

The author is giving a talk at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center today. I hadn't heard of her prior to reading the post, and I don't know if I'm going to make it out to the Hillsdale area tomorrow, but based on her advice in the interview, I may very well check out her book. As aparent, I believe that parents who overparent are worse than parents who underparent. I think parents who don't allow their kids to make decisions, who micromanage their kids, and who create an environment of fear, are much worse than parents who simply don't show up. I like her quote: "The kids who do best in college are the kids who have life skills and not this fancy academic sophistication."

I don't know if I speak for the rest of you, but I was horrified when I read reviews for Top of the Class, a book written by two Korean American sisters a few years ago on how to raise kids Asian style. I never read the book, but based on some of the interviews with the two sisters (verified by the Amazon.com comments), the book advocated a military style of raising kids, including having family reviews of report cards. It bordered on child abuse.

I think Mogel's style is just her personal interpretation of Jewish law. This is the first time I've heard anyone say that Jewish parents are lax; in fact, I've heard exactly the opposite. Regardless of whether it's Jewish, Goy, Asian, or American, however, the style makes sense to me. The last thing a kid needs is for a zealous parent to micromanage his soul, and my belief is that if you teach a child street smarts combined with a curiosity about life, he or she will be able to take care of himself or herself. Of course, I'm writing this while my son is only three and my daughter just started eating solids.

Thoughts?

(cross posted on bigWOWO)

7 comments:

Angie in Texas said...

i have witnessed too many times (when i worked at a university) the sad results of over-parenting: college-aged kids completely unable to function without the input of their parents, some would go "wild" because it was their first experience without parental control . . . both extremes are bad.

there was a woman who was criticized a few years(?) ago for letting her then 10 year old son ride the NYC subway system on his own. i thought it was brilliant - here she was teaching him responsibility, giving him a sense of capability and allowing him to develop as a child who was confident in his abilities. most critics called it abuse - i call it life lessons.

bigWOWO said...

Crazy, isn't it? I think we've all had the media freak us out with horror stories. I think we need to return to basics, or all our kids will be helpless. We need to bring those life lessons.

O.W. said...

"I believe that parents who overparent are worse than parents who underparent. "

Underparenting at its most extreme = neglect, overparenting at its most extreme = abuse. I don't think one is worse than the other; both sound pretty bad to me.

Anonymous said...

I would rather think that appropriate age parenting is more important. I mean, when they were newborns, parents do have to micromanage things. But of course as they grow up, the locus of control should become more of the child's rather than the parents'...

That said, I do agree with you on this: "...my belief is that if you teach a child street smarts combined with a curiosity about life, he or she will be able to take care of himself or herself"

bigWOWO said...

Anon,

I agree.

Oliver,

"Underparenting at its most extreme = neglect, overparenting at its most extreme = abuse. I don't think one is worse than the other; both sound pretty bad to me."

I agree with you on the extremes. In between, however, I think there's a difference. Let's say Parents A overparent their 10 year old and 8 year old kids. They don't let their kids use a knife at dinner until they are 10 years old. They don't let their kids play with other kids because they're worried about germs. Grades are the be-all-and-end-all of life in the house.

Compare them with Parents B who underparent. These parents leave for work at 7 am and get home at 8 pm. The kids hardly see them, and sometimes the kids have to fix meals themselves. There's not a lot of supervision in the house.

Both are bad, but I think Kids B are in a better situation.

manzoid said...

The let-them-learn-life-lessons theme in "Blessings of a Skinned Knee" is fine but I have to say I was underwhelmed by the part in her book where she explained how she handled bratty behavior. Basically, she marched her daughter to the back door and told her to just leave the house (it was nighttime). The scared daughter then became obedient.

The author seemed to be pretty proud of this technique, I guess because it highlighted how big and scary the real world is (?), and therefore fit in with the life-lessons theme (?) But to me it just seemed like getting your way by threatening the child with abandonment. As a parent of two myself, I can certainly understand the motivations for making such threats, but it hardly seems like a jewel of a technique to be patting yourself on the back for, in a parenting book.

bigWOWO said...

I just finished the book a couple of days ago. I thought it was good for the parts about letting a child get bored, peace in the home, redirecting the yetzer hara, and encouraging creativity.

I agree with you on that part about threatening to have her kid spend the night outdoors though.

I personally think time-outs are good enough. Threatening a child with abandonment seems a bit extreme.