Recently I've been reading and reviewing Taming the Tiger Parent by Tanith Carey - 'How to put your child's well-being first in a competitive world'. The book is about how today's parents feel trapped in a never-ending race to ensure that their child is the brightest and the best, but while it's completely natural for us to want our kids to reach their potential, at what point does too much competition become damaging?
Carey uses case-studies in the book to explore what this contest is doing to the next generation, and there are some worrying results. Children are being pushed by their parents to make sure that they are not just academically ahead but also well rounded and excelling in other areas such as sport and music at the same time. Planning and executing a child's busy schedule as they are ferried about to after school activities and tutoring can put so much stress on both parents and child that it leads to the breakdown of relationships and has the completely opposite effect than the one desired.
I must admit that this book was an alarming read. Firstly because I had no idea that there was so much competition out there. It actually made me panic a bit that we don't have a plan in place to make sure that our children are headed on the right path to a good university. But then secondly because if you do go ahead and book your children into the correct enrichment classes, tutoring, extra-curricular activities and so on, then you run the risk of damaging both them and your relationship with them, and all that hard work will have caused it.
I always say that I just want my children to be happy, but this book made me realise how competitive I actually am. This is the first time I've really thought about it, but I do compare Harry to the others in his class. I want to know what reading book level his peers are on, and I check the work on the walls of his classroom to see which children have neater handwriting and can draw more recognisable pictures. The book contains a list of different types of tiger parents, and I could see my own traits in many of them, from The Spy to the Humblebragger.
Of course I want my children to be happy, but as parents we do have certain expectations and I just assume that one day they will go to university and have good jobs. If I don't push them, how will they get there? Ram is very competitive too. But something that particularly struck me was that it's all very well to help your child reach the top of the class, but then they are faced with the continuing pressure to stay up there, and if they fall below that high standard then they will feel like a failure.
The book is divided into three sections - How tiger parenting became a global force, How competitive parenting and schooling affect our children and How to shed your tiger parenting stripes. I think that I found the final chapter most useful. There are some really good suggestions on how to take a step back and really connect with your child, as well as helping to spot early warning signs in both yourself and your child.
This book really is one that I think all parents should read. I read it in two sittings on the train to London and back and it made the journey fly by. It flows smoothly, and I found myself marking many paragraphs that I wanted to refer back do. I'd definitely recommend it, whether you consider yourself to be a tiger parent or not.
I received a copy of this book to review.