Monday, April 4, 2011

Taming Tigers

Mathew Kahn wonders whether Tiger Mom Amy Chua might have indeed made some parents less strict:
"Will any parents who were revolted by Professor Chua’s story respond by engaging in less “tough love”?  Such defiance is always interesting."

I’ve been thinking about defiance a bit lately. As a teacher of generally defiant students, I essentially go with the “catch more flies with honey” doctrine. It seems to work pretty well for me. However I probably put up with things from my students that would make many blush. Yet I recently had an interesting discussion with a colleague who takes the opposite approach – they get few chances and then “they’re outta there”. We discussed who in the end may be getting more out of their students.

Of course, what complicates the process of teaching – or parenting, for that matter, is personality and temperament. I think my colleague and myself are basically doing what comes naturally to us, and were either of us to try and behave as the other, we would probably fail. Or, it would at least feel very unnatural. On the other end of things, our particular “styles” likely produce different results with different children. I know for a fact that many of her former students behave quite well for me. And likely many of my students could use her more dictatorial approach.

I’ve thought about trying to find a way to quantify and assess the efficacy of our distinct approaches, but there are numerous difficulties. I might at some future data find a way to design an effective model, one that captures what is going on.

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