Parenting, education and culture – a big mix

Yesterday I remembered Amy Chua and her now infamous book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  My daughter started middle school and her assessment scores for courses’ placement didn’t turn out to be as high as we expected.  Aside from questions on where that would take her in the process of learning and how it would affect her own self-esteem, I was suddenly faced with questions of my own… like:

  • “What the &^$%$!”
  • “She’s always been a stellar student, what’s going on here?”
  • “How can she score worse than before – and worse than the other kids?”
  • Etc, Etc, Etc…

And as I mulled it over, feeling embarrassed, let down, bitter, and confused, I noticed that my husband wasn’t as emotional about it as I was.  I was ready to march into school and request to see the tests, I unearthed the KhanAcademy site and persuaded my daughter to spend an hour doing math (excellent resource, by the way!), and I spent more than just a few hours planning an intervention for what I felt was a failing student (now, mind you, it’s only been 2 days since the school started!).

Meanwhile my husband, as upset as the placements made him, wasn’t as emotional about the whole thing as I was.  Yes, the results bothered him and yes, he wanted to investigate farther yet he wasn’t burning the midnight oil looking for tutoring resources and creating to-do lists on how to tackle this.  So why was I so up in arms and why was he so nonchalant?

Then it dawned on me.  Cultural differences.   He is American and I am Russian-born.  I grew up in a society where education was akin to religion and where being best among the best was a must for the intelligenzia children.  My husband grew up with the motto – “as long as you do your best” whereas I grew up with the motto – “you only do your best when you are doing much better than most of the others”.  And so having my almost-a-straight-A-student daughter placed into non-advanced courses definitely touched a nerve.

What have been your experience with your children’s education?  Have you felt any differences in how you manage your kids’ education especially if you and your spouse hail from different cultures?

REMEMBER: if you coach, train, or consult people who work across cultures, consider joining us for the Culture Mastery Certification and License Program.  We start September 21, 2011 and a discount is available to anyone who registers before September 7, 2011.

3 responses to “Parenting, education and culture – a big mix

  1. Hi Margarita,
    I really appreciate your openness: I am sure there are many parents out there facing similar challenges and not talking about it. I always felt that people look at me strangly when I told them that my kids are not among the best! We decided to give them time to develop and it seems it was the right path, at least for two of them. But one was different: She made it, but barely. We did all we could to help her, got al the extra tuition,all we thought was necessary. But she did not get better, in fact she got worse, her selfesteem went down constantly. However I now know why: We never focused on her strength, but on her flaws. Instead of helping her to get better in what she could, we never even noticed it, but we well noticed what she could not! She is such a wonderful young woman now, on her way to cross the borders of what we all believed to be flaws.
    It now seems to me that you focuss on the failure, or the possible one. Eliana succeds in most things, if not in all! She is bright, smart, charming, does a lot of great things, but you ravel over one little failure! Forget it! Reframe it!
    I am not pro Amy Chua, but I believe she always believed in her kids. And maybe that is the true strength of a Tiger Mom!
    Love to you! Steffi

    • GlobalCoachCenter

      Hey Steffi,

      Thanks for the comment and for bringing in a different perspective. 🙂 I pride myself on the fact that I try hard to encourage what Eliana does best… this time, I guess, my saboteur got the best of me, tricky monster that he is. That went on for about 30 hours and then I wrote this blog post which was my way to free myself from the “habit” and “culture” of my upbringing and look at the situation through the “what-can-we-all-learn-from-this” glasses.

      The moral of my story, here, is once again seeing how important culture is in nurturing not only our souls but also our saboteurs and how much effort it takes to separate one from another. Here is to saboteur-free days!


  2. One of the biggest challenges that I’ve encountered being a TCK is that having a different culture that our parents have. I’ve moved around from places to places since I was young with my father. Both my parents are very traditional people who strongly believe in what is right and what is wrong. Where we should not cross over the barrier when it comes to relationship issues for instance. It became really hard for me to let my parents understand or communicate in such topics when I started to be in a relationship with someone else. Things in relationships that couples do would be seen as a big taboo to my parents. Have tried really hard over the years to let my parents understand and most importantly, hoping that they still know their daughter still loves them despite she is in a relationship. As for the culture that my parents lead, they would say things such as “I am your father, I will never harm you. Listen to me, I’ve seen more than you do…” It is not easy!

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