Tiger Mother, was published in 2011, telling of her campaign to impose a strict Chinese parenting style on her two daughters, the default position among western parents was slight unease.
Surely our children would not react well to the imposition of such an unbending timetable — weekends filled with extra-curricular activities, homework and chores. Childhood, or at least a portion of it is for messing around. Right?
And yet parts of Chua’s position chimed with our own guilt. Parenting is after all meant to be hard work and we all want to give our children the best possible chance in life. So maybe we should be enrolling them in violin classes at three years old and gymnastics at four. And if, by the time they have finished reception, they are not leading the class in numeracy, then perhapsweneed to think long and hard about Kumon classes after school.
So to what extent should leisure time be taken seriously? A number of studies have suggested that to become expert at anything from tennis to flute, you need to put in 10,000 hours of practice — and that means starting very young. Clearly if you are as susceptible to guilt as we Jews are, this is a compelling argument. For many in the community, every moment the children are HEN AMY Chua’s memo ir , Battle Hymn of the
SUMMER 2013 sitting at the computer or vegging-out watching the TV is a parenting failure and historically Jewish parents have been every bit as ambitious for their children as their Far Eastern counterparts.
However, others beg to differ. A new book entitled Minimalist Parenting attempts to demonstrate to both mothers and fathers that a less-intense approach to bringing up children can be both more fun and more effective. American co-authors Christine Koh, who comes from a strict Korean family and Asha Dornfest, who is part-Indian, part-Jewish, came to the realisation that the extreme parenting they felt compelled to inflict on their children was not working.
Dornfest found it hard to relax as a mother. “I read dozens of manuals and I was always on the internet. I couldn’t be natural. I even learnt how to change a nappy from diagrams,” she says. Both women decided that good parenting should be more about learning how to trust their instincts more and giving their children more time to develop