Lately I've been reading quite a lof of articles about parenting. Most of them are book reviews but I did not read any of these books though1, which could mean: (A) I'm a bit shallow, (B) stressed out New Yorkers, overproductive Chinese immigrants, rich Californians are not people that I feel entitled to give me directions on how to raise my kid (even though I acknowledge their superior education and intelligence and that their sons and daughters will surely rule the world).
Anyway, these articles are (as usual) very well written and are full of ideas that I have enjoyed. I want to keep updating this post every time I find something good. They may also help a future me because you never know what's behind the corner of becoming a dad.
excerpt 1: "Spoiled Rotten" by Elizabeth Kolbert
In the L.A. families observed, no child routinely performed household chores without being instructed to. Often, the kids had to be begged to attempt the simplest tasks; often, they still refused.
Although Yanira had no clear role in the group, she quickly found ways to make herself useful. Twice a day, she swept the sand off the sleeping mats, and she helped stack the kapashi leaves for transport back to the village. In the evening, she fished for crustaceans, which she cleaned, boiled, and served to the others. Calm and self-possessed, Yanira “asked for nothing,” Izquierdo later recalled. The girl’s behavior made a strong impression on the anthropologist because at the time of the trip Yanira was just six years old.
"Most parents today were brought up in a culture that put a strong emphasis on being special, (...) being special takes hard work and can’t be trusted to children. Hence the exhausting cycle of constantly monitoring their work and performance, which in turn makes children feel less competent and confident, so that they need even more oversight."
(...) today’s incoming freshmen are less likely to be concerned about the rigors of higher education than "about how they will handle the logistics of everyday life".
Children, according to “Life at Home,” are disproportionate generators of clutter: “Each new child in a household leads to a 30 percent increase in a family’s inventory of possessions during the preschool years alone.” Many of the kids’ rooms pictured are so crowded with clothes and toys, so many of which have been tossed on the floor, that there is no path to the bed.
excerpt 2: "Raising Successful Children" by Madeline Levine
The central task of growing up is to develop a sense of self that is autonomous, confident and generally in accord with reality. If you treat your walking toddler as if she can’t walk, you diminish her confidence and distort reality. Ditto nightly “reviews” of homework, repetitive phone calls to “just check if you’re O.K.” and “editing” (read: writing) your child’s college application essay.
Hanging back and allowing children to make mistakes is one of the greatest challenges of parenting.
Having tutors prep your anxious 3-year-old for a preschool interview because all your friends’ children are going to this particular school or pushing your exhausted child to take one more advanced-placement course because it will ensure her spot as class valedictorian is not involved parenting but toxic overparenting aimed at meeting the parents’ need for status or affirmation and not the child’s needs.
(...) the child’s job is to grow, yours is to control your anxiety so it doesn’t get in the way of his reasonable moves toward autonomy (...)
Parents also have to make sure their own lives are fulfilling. There is no parent more vulnerable to the excesses of overparenting than an unhappy parent One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.
excerpt 3: "How to Raise a Child" By Judith Warner
(...) schools that worship at the altar of high achievement but do everything they can to undermine children’s growth and well-being: eliminating recess; assigning mind-deadening amounts of homework; and ranking, measuring and valuing kids by narrowly focused test scores, while cutting out other areas of creative education in which large numbers of students who don’t necessarily test well might find success and thrive.
(...) the inconvenient truth remains that not every child can be shaped and accelerated into Harvard material. But all kids can have their spirits broken, depression induced and anxiety stoked by too much stress, too little downtime and too much attention given to external factors that make them look good to an audience of appraising eyes but leave them feeling rotten inside.
excerpt 4: "America’s Top Parent - What’s behind the Tiger Mother craze?" by Elizabeth Kolbert
Chua, the daughter of Chinese immigrants, is a Yale Law School professor. She is married to another Yale law professor and has two daughters, whom she drives relentlessly (...) In Chua’s binary world, there are just two kinds of mother. There are “Chinese mothers,” who, she allows, do not necessarily have to be Chinese (...) Then, there are “Western” mothers. (...) Chua chooses the instruments that her daughters will play and stands over them as they practice for three, four, sometimes five hours at a stretch.
"Yes, you can brute-force any kid to learn to play the piano—just precisely like his or her billion neighbors" is how one of the comments on the Wall Street Journal’s Web site put it. "But you’ll never get a Jimi Hendrix that way".
Just about the only category in which American students outperform the competition is self-regard (...)
Parenting is hard. As anyone who has gone through the process and had enough leisure (and still functioning brain cells) to reflect on it knows, a lot of it is a crapshoot. Things go wrong that you have no control over, and, on occasion, things also go right, and you have no control over those, either. The experience is scary and exhilarating and often humiliating, not because you’re disappointed in your kids, necessarily, but because you’re disappointed in yourself.
The only book I've read is by an italian philosophy professor, Stefano Zecchi, who recounts a nice tale about parenting at a late age, being frequently mistaken by his son's grandfather, and some clever observations on the declining importance of the dad in today's family. ↩