The blogosphere, and emails as well as the NY Times best selling book list are saturated with the parenting model of the Tiger-Mother – no sleep overs; no play dates; no grades lower than an A on a report card; no choosing your own extracurricular activities; and, no ranking in any endeavor lower than No. 1.
Recent results from the world-wide achievement test for children called the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) showed in stark detail the measured difference between the Tiger Mother technique of the Chinese – focus on hard work; skills mastery; long hours of study, and the American Model (the Manatee approach emphasizing self-esteem and praise for effort vs. performance) as follows:
- Chinese children are #1 in reading, science and math; and
- American children are #17 in reading, 23rd in science and 31st in math
As a family law attorney and mediator with Walker & Associates in Centennial, Colorado, I began to wonder how a “Tiger Mother” approach to parenting would be looked at through the lens of the most important criteria in family law set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124 “BEST INTEREST OF THE CHILD” (BIC).
The BIC Standard is the lynchpin for all child-related issues from parental responsibility (custody) determination, to parenting time (visitation) plans and modifications, to issues of removing the child out of state and to questions of whether non-biological parent figures, (grandparents and other care givers) get to spend time with the children. The core concepts of the BEST INTEREST STANDARD are:
- The wishes of the parents;
- The wishes of the children;
- The child’s (children’s) adjustment to neighborhood, school, etc.;
- The ability of each parent to foster and encourage an appropriate relationship between the child and the other parent; and
- Other issues which would influence meeting the child’s (children’s) needs and interests.
Let’s assume that female children age 13 and 10 have been raised by a “Tiger Mother” (i.e. performance/mastery based) and that the father’s role has been one of the “Manatee Father” (i.e. supporting the Tiger Mother’s approach and providing “self-esteem” skills). The Family is going through the divorce (dissolution of marriage) process. Each parent wants to be the primary caretaker parent – make all the decisions and limit the other parent’s access to the children. Mom fears a loss of the mastery-performance skills of the children and father thinks the mother’s approach has neglected the children’s self-esteem and social skills development.
Questions to be determined are:
- Which parent should the children live with most of the time;
- How should decisions be made about the children, particularly with regard to education and extra curricular activities; and
- How much parenting time (visitation) should the children have with the non-primary care parent?
The following facts are present in this case:
- The children are excelling in school and are at the top of their classes in reading, math and science;
- The children do not like the performance-mastery approach of mom and want to live most of the time with dad;
- The oldest child (13) excels at the piano while the younger child (10) struggles with the violin;
- Mom and dad agree that they have radically different parenting styles and strategies for raising the children.
POSITION #1: Tiger Mother should be primary residential parent, make all decisions about the children’s needs; parenting time with father “Manatee” should be limited so as not to interfere with the children’s exemplary performance in school.
RATIONALE FOR POSITION #1: Continue to emphasize the performance-mastery approach which has been the foundation of these children’s lives.
POSITION #2: Joint parental decision making with a Domestic Relations Decision-Maker (DRDM) appointed to implement decisions when an impasse is reached. Each parent should have equal time (parenting Time) with the children.
RATIONALE FOR POSITION #2: Need to balance mastery-performance emphasis of mother with self-esteem development emphasis of father.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHAT OTHER POSITIONS COULD BE TAKEN?