Thursday, March 3, 2011

Easy Being a Parent? Yeah, Right.

I got a lot of reaction to my post on whether Tiger Mom would be able to raise a child with autism. Some folks were unabashed fans of the now-famous symbol of Asian parenting. Others said that her methods were akin to child abuse.

One comment from a 19 year old typified those who wanted to find a happy medium between Asian and Western methods. She said that she thought that Tiger Mom was too harsh, though Western methods can be lax. But the part of her comment that most interested me was when she went on to say, “I think it would be easy for a parent to push a child with a firm yet loving demeanor.”

Easy? Hah, I appreciate this reader’s sentiments, but it is obvious that she is not a parent.

As a dad who strives to push my son with a “firm yet loving demeanor,” I can tell you that it is not easy at all. What is the line between “loving” and “lax?” What happens when you are being “firm yet loving” and your child still refuses to do his homework or eat his vegetables or clean up the mess he made? What do you do when he talks back or says mean words as you try to firmly get him to do what he needs to do? What is next when the consequences he suffers doesn’t seem to deter him? How firm is too firm? At what point does “firm” cross over the line and become “harsh?”

I would guess that many children have trouble seeing things from anyone’s perspective but their own. In my son’s case, if I withhold dessert as a consequence of a poor choice he made, he will say that I am being mean, and would not think of what he did to cause my reaction. Based on what I have heard about teenagers, I have a feeling that this does not change all that much as kids get older. If anything, teens are probably even more inclined to think that their parents are unreasonable.

And so, I think that firmness and harshness is oftentimes a matter of perspective. If you are the parent and you are holding your child accountable, you are being firm. If you are the child and your parents are punishing you, they are being harsh.

Thinking about all this makes me think that this difference in perspective is a big reason why kids don’t fully appreciate their parents, perhaps until they themselves become parents as well. To kids, being a parent is easy. They must be incredulous that we all do such a lousy job.

Not that any of this should matter to us parents. We raise our kids the best we can. We shouldn’t do it out of hope that they will ever appreciate all that we do for them. There is no way they ever can. They will never truly understand how much thought we put into them, the worries we all have, the anxiety we feel when things don’t go well, and the joy we feel when they are happy or accomplishing something.

But, that’s okay. We do what we do as parents because we want the best for our kids. We do it because we love them.


  1. What irritates me is when people equate "loving" their children with being a "good" parent. Sure there are lots of great parents out there who love their children as there are many horrible parents out there that love their children but just do the wrong things, or nothing at all. Active, involved, and effective parenting is HARD WORK.

  2. Right on! I would think that most parents love their kids, but that by itself doesn't mean that they are good parents. I definitely agree that you have to put in a lot of work to be a good parent.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...