I have been thinking, and talking with other parents, a great deal about parenting styles in the wake of the Amy Chua flapdoodle. Everyone, it seems, has regrets about past decisions. But everyone's regrets are different. Some wish they had been stricter with their children, others that they had relaxed the discipline and allowed their kids more wiggle room. Some wish they had been less preoccupied with their work and more attentive to their kids; others, especially those facing empty nests, that they had invested more in other pursuits and let their kids find their own way, both because their kids are overwhelmed by the freedom and lack of supervision at out-of-town colleges and because the parents themselves feel bereft of purpose with their raisons d'=C3=AAtre out of the house.
Many of us seem to have based our more extreme parenting choices in reaction or opposition to what we feel were our parents' mistakes. One friend wishes her mother had pushed her to practice piano, so she enrolled her daughter in Suzuki violin lessons starting when the child was three. Her daughter whined and complained about having to practice instead of play, but Maria would respond, "You'll thank me one day." So far, though, at seventeen, Chloe hasn't thanked her. She loathes the violin and blames Maria for what she feels are dismal social skills rooted in her not being allowed to play enough as a child. My friend Charlotte, though, wishes she had forced her son to stick with Little League; he was a promising but lazy player who is now obese with high blood sugar.
If it were possible to accurately project the results of our decisions through the years, we would all be perfect parents. If all children responded the same way to the same interventions, we would have a blueprint and there would be no need for these discussions. As it is, all we can do is keep reading and talking, learn from each other's experiences, and hope for the best.
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