Tiger Or Pussycat Parenting?

Tiger-Or-Pussycat-ParentingQuestion: What are the two “mindsets” of children as identified by the respected psychologist, Carol Dweck?

Answer: “Fixed mindset” and “Growth mindset”

Last month David Cameron made a speech in which he mentioned “Tiger Mums” and thus he re-opened the debate on different styles of parenting.  Following on from this, the people in our office here at Education Quizzes reflected on what he said and we thought it would be a good idea to point you in the direction of four influential thinkers who we admire.

The prime minister said: “Character – persistence – is core to success. As Carol Dweck has shown in her work at Stanford, no matter how clever you are if you do not believe in continued hard work and concentration, and if you do not believe that you can return from failure you will not fulfil your potential.”

The fact that David Cameron specifically mentioned the work of Carol Dweck suggests that she is influential in this field so let’s start with her. We believe that her work deserves much greater exposure so here is a quick overview of her thinking.

Ms. Dweck believes that students fall into one of two camps which she refers to as two different mindsets – “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset”.  Let’s have a look at the characteristics of each in Carol Dweck’s own words.

“In a FIXED MINDSET students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb”.

“In a GROWTH mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it”.

Even if you don’t have a deep knowledge of psychology, I’m sure you will recognize the above traits in individuals you know.  Can any of us deny that we ought to do everything we possibly can to encourage our children to develop a GROWTH MINDSET?

If these ideas resonate with you then try the YouTube video at How to Help Every Child Fulfil their Potential in which Carol Dweck expands on her theories.  In fact, if you only watch one parenting video this year then please, please make it this one!

The second of our “deep thinkers” on parenting just has to be Amy Chua.  Her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” evidently plays a large part in David Cameron’s parenting ideas – why else would he mention “Tiger mums”?

Amy Chua is a disciplinarian in no short measure.  Her book relates how she threatens to burn her daughters’ soft toys unless they do piano practice, and explodes with fury if they ever fall short of straight-A grades.  Very few of us would consider this good parenting and yet…

These are not the actions of a mother hell-bent on ensuring her children achieve academic success at all costs.  Probably the most revealing aspect of Ms. Chua’s personality is summarized in her own words as follows: “If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second.  But I don’t think it’s as simple as that; it can be a tough world out there, and true self-esteem has to be earned”.

Amy Chua has a deep-rooted belief that being extremely strict with children’s education enhances their chance of long term happiness because it gives them the tools to succeed in life.

Continuing on the “Tiger Mum” theme, The Prime Minister went on to say “it is if you like, the precise opposite of an ‘all must have prizes’ culture… Put simply: children thrive on high expectations: it is how they grow in school and beyond.”  He went on to detail how this will be achieved through government policy, including encouraging competitive sports from age 5, emphasis on learning tables, and new parenting classes.

Not everyone agrees with Amy Chua and David Cameron.  On the other side of the fence we have the very well respected Paul Tough, the author of  How Children Succeed.  Mr. Tough is a leading advocate of “slow education”, whereby children are allowed to develop their own motivation. He says: “Qualities such as perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism and self-control are more likely to ensure a child’s success in life than ‘cognitive’ teachings’.”

He advocates loving support for the development of character – even ‘love bombing’ your child with quality attention and caring.   Paul Tough suggests that it is much more important to help develop your relationship with your children and to make them feel secure than it is to value their test results and academic achievement.

And then there is a third school of thought:  Frank Furedi, (a psychology professor at the University of Kent) is the author of “Paranoid Parenting” and he advocates that “a middle way is almost always the best. Some children really enjoy independence and it improves their maturity. Others can’t cope with it and go off the rails. Flexibility is a key attribute of parenting; knowing when to let go and when to pull a child back into line. Also, each child differs, so you have to alter your strategy to match their personality… Rearing a child requires a similar technique to teaching a child to ride a bike. You just sense when you have to steady them or push them forward or let them take over.”

So there you have it, one very well respected psychologist (Carol Dweck) who explains the different “Mindsets” that children have, another respected personality (Amy Chua) who believes in strict discipline, one more expert in the field (Paul Tough) who’s in favour of love bombing and finally Frank Furedi who tells us that the middle way is almost always best.

Our Knowledge Bank provides a valuable education resource that endeavours to answer parents’ questions. So, if there’s anything about schools or education you’ve always wondered, we’re bound to have the information you need. We also have plenty of articles offering guidance and advice to parents on issues such as bullying, substance abuse and child confidence. The Knowledge Bank is a useful weapon in any parent’s armoury!

Whether you are a tiger mum or a pussycat, it could do no harm to follow the links above to gain an insight into the many different ways of successful parenting.

The final word goes to Amy Chua who says:
Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. I tried to find the balance between the strict, traditional Chinese way I was raised, which I think can be too harsh, and what I see as a tendency in the West to be too permissive and indulgent. If I could do it all again, I would, with some adjustments.

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