This post is a continuation from HERE.
David S. Landes' book provides evidence that it is possible to raise capable children across multiple generations. Some parents are better at it than others. What are their parenting secrets? Dr. Pet is no historian. Dr. Pet is a psychologist. What follows are 2 parenting practices that I have observed in my parent coaching practice, which contribute to underperforming children.
The Smothering Parent
This parent cannot separate herself from her child. She feels a sense of worth from helping and serving her child. She helps the child with everything even if the child is clearly old enough to do many of the things. This parent sees the child as an extension of herself. She owns her child's triumphs and her child's disappointments. Her child becomes a way for this parent to feel validated and valued. This type of parenting completely disempowers the child. If docile, the child will not learn to be self-reliant. If not docile, this child will fight with the parent. Any time spent in conflict is time taken away from growth, development and achievement.
The All or Nothing Parent
This parent helps in everything until the child reaches a certain age. At that magic age, the parent decides that the child should be independent and so tells the child, "You are old enough to do this on your own. What is wrong with you? Why do you still need me to run after you?"
That is a little like pulling a child out of a tub of nice hot water and plunging him into a tub of iced water. There is no transition. The transition from dependent child to independent child should not be so drastic. There should be interim stages. For example, many parents wake up one day and say to their child, "You are old enough to plan and monitor your own work. I am not helping you anymore." With my son, I went through 4 different stages:
- Stage 1: I plan and explain to him why I plan things a certain way.
- Stage 2: I do a vague plan and get his input on the specifics, always asking to understand why he prefers to plan a certain way.
- Stage 3: He plans and explains to me why he plans things a certain way.
- Stage 4: He plans and I don't care what he plans.
By stage 4, I did not even have to tell him that he was old enough to do it on his own. He just naturally took over the planning and never felt for a single moment that there was something wrong with him.
This link is a continuation from HERE.
David S. Landes' book provides evidence that wealth can be maintained across more than 3 generations. It is clearly possible to raise capable children across multiple generations. Not all families succeed at it. Those who do succeed at it, what are their parenting secrets? Dr. Pet is no historian. Dr. Pet is a psychologist. What follows is a list of parenting practices that I have observed in my parent coaching practice, which contribute to underperforming children.
The Know It All Parent
This is the parent who will study the school material &/or tuition material whenever the child complains that he does not know. The parent will put in time and effort to figure out the material, and explain to the child. In this relationship, the parent is the respected expert. The child is the respectful follower. The parent feels the pressure to know it all. The child expects to get all answers from a respected authority.
Over time, the child becomes dependent on help. This help can be from tutors or from very intelligent parents. The child never learns that he or she has a brain the equal of his genetic parents. IQ is inherited via our genes, is it not?
I think my most valuable skill in parenting my own children was the ability to look convincingly stupid. Since my children knew that I was too dumb to be relied upon, they had to think for themselves.
The Contemptuous Parent
This is the high achiever parent who tells me that he will only praise the child when there is something deserving of praise. If Pablo Picasso had been born to such a parent, the artist would never have made it to genius level. This parent would be waiting for Picasso to produce Guernica before he praised. Picasso would have never been encouraged enough to paint and keep on painting.
This parent is critical because he is so afraid that his child will grow up lazy, indisciplined and dissolute. The fear is so great that he pounces on every whisper of a negative trait to stamp it out. Psychologically, this has the opposite effect on the child. It actually reinforces the negative traits because it convinces the child that he is lazy, indisciplined and dissolute. Give these traits enough attention and they will grow into monsters within your child.
So, when my son was 9 years old (having been convinced by his caregiver Grandma that he was lazy, playful, slow and indisciplined) I knew I had to put in effort to starve these monsters to death. Not surprisingly, back then, my son was scoring at the somewhat bottom of his class. I did 2 things:
(1) I set out to FIND things to praise. I watched like a hawk for the random occurrences of good traits, pounced on them and praised him, "You found the mall toilet even though Mommy could not! You are very resourceful!"
(2) I set him up for success. I created situations where he would unconsciously and without effort demonstrate the traits I wanted. For example, to make it easier for him to stay engaged with 10 long division sums, I sat behind him and gave him positive attention after every sum. He did not have to do the very difficult HW alone. I was there to give him moral support. Then, when he was done, I praised him as if he had done it all on his own, "You are not afraid of difficulty! You did all these difficult long division sums!"
Slowly, my son began to be convinced that he was hard working, resourceful, determined, responsible... etc..."
Watch this space next week for more types of parents that raise underperforming children.
Dynasties, Fortunes and Misfortunes of the World's Great Family Businesses, by David S. Landes, is a good read. David S. Landes is professor emeritus of history and economics at Harvard. He also wrote The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.The book details the history of illustrious families such as:
- The Barings
- The Rothschilds
- The Morgans
- The Agnellis and Fiat
- Peugeot, Renault and Citroen
- Toyoda (we know it as Toyota now)
- The Rockefellers
- The Guggenheims
- The Schlumberger
- The Wendel
These are names we recognise as those of multi-national corporations. They all started as family businesses.
My interest in this book arose from my interest in parenting. Quite often, I coach highly accomplished parents whose children are not reaching potential. The parents may be medical doctors, accountants, lawyers and CEO founders. Their children, whilst having inherited their parents' IQ, nonetheless, do not seem to fulfil their potential. Again and again the Chinese saying returns to haunt me:
Wealth does not pass 3 generations.
It is not my nature to be fatalistic. I did not want to accept this as an universal truth. For parents, the most heartrending tragedy must be to grow old and see one's children be losers and wastrels. Don't all of us send our kids to tuition, and sit with them to do homework just to ensure that they are best positioned to be better than we are? When I was a young mother in my 30s, my worst fears were that my children grow up spendthrift, entitled, reliant on me. I badly wanted my children to surpass me and my husband.
It struck me that Italian families and French families were often able to ensure that wealth pass down to even the 7th and 8th generation. The Rockefeller family is now in its SEVENTH generation, with as many as 170 heirs. They still hold substantial wealth. In 1523, Battista Suardi was a powerful man in the region of Bergamo, Italy. The family still has considerable wealth and influence today. Clearly, these families were able to raise capable children generation after generation.
I wondered what it is about European parenting practices that allowed them to do so, when Chinese families seemed to fatalistically accept that:
Wealth does not pass 3 generations.
Click HERE for the next post in this series.
Click HERE for the article in Singapore Motherhood magazine.
There are costs to giving a child negative feedback. There are costs to self-esteem. Worse, there are costs to self-concept. Self-concept is what the child believes himself/herself to be.
In parent coaching, I often see parents who love their children so much that they fear the worst for them. They fear that these children will become their worst fears...
As a result, these parents are hypervigilant to manifestations of these traits in their toddlers and primary school children. It is at these 2 stages (toddlerhood and primary school) that the child's self-concept forms.
A child's self-concept is important to form correctly. Enough research shows quite robustly that human beings behave in ways consistent with what they believe themselves to be. If you think you are impatient, then you will be impatient. If your child thinks he is lazy, then he will be lazy.
The issue raises its ugly head whenever a loving and hypervigilant parent seeks to stamp out every indication of his/her worst fears by scolding the child:
- Why are you so lazy?
- Don't be selfish!
- You were so unkind.
- How stupid of you!
- You lie!
These negative accusations craft the child's self-concept in the same way a jadeite craftsman sculpts a piece of jadeite stone. As a parent, do you not want to sculpt your child into a being of great beauty? Surely, you do not want to sculpt your child into the shape of your worst fears.
So what do you do when you want to teach your child that certain behaviours are not desirable? I used 2 steps to do this with The Son.
Step 1: Accuse Another Child
I point to the misbehaviour in another child and grumble about that child instead. This can be any child in the street, or in a movie.
I said, "Ohhhh... look at SoAndSo, he spends so much time watching TV. He is such an indisciplined boy. No wonder his Mama is always angry with him, and his grades are so poor. I am glad you are not like him."
Of course, one should not say such a thing in front of SoAndSo. There is no sense hurting a stranger child's feelings.
Step 2: Point Out The Behaviour Without Accusing The Child
I said, "You spent 1 hr watching Youtube? That is not like you at all! You are not such an indisciplined child. What happened?"
Done this way, the child understands his behaviour is not desirable but he also understands that the lapse in his behaviour does not define him as "indisciplined."