No Tiger Mothers here

Dad Days of Summer: While Momania’s Theresa Walsh Giarrusso takes a vacation, local dad and sportswriter Andy Johnston will be filling in. You can e-mail him at

One of the thousands of things I’ve had to learn and come to terms with over the past five years, is that every child matures at their own rate.

I don’t know why that surprised me. I know plenty of adults who have never grown up.

Andy and his son Ty.

Andy and his son Ty.

Maybe it’s because of all those charts the doctors and experts throw at you. You know, the ones that say things like: By age 3, your child should be doing long division and changing the oil in your car.

Kids are people, too, and their minds and personalities develop at their own pace.

I used to compare Ty with other kids his age and often was disappointed when one of his friends or his cousin, who is a couple of months younger than Ty, did something that seemed more advanced than what he was capable of doing.

Eventually I realized that he might not be able accomplish what they could, but maybe they couldn’t do the things that he likes to do.

I want Ty to succeed and excel in school, sports and life, but I want him to go at his own speed. I push him if he gets lazy or his focus wanes, but I’m not going to over-schedule him with a variety of practices and classes. I’m not going to force him to play a song on the piano or score six goals in a soccer game or memorize poems by a certain age just because some other kid did.

Theresa wrote about this in January, but I wanted to let you know where I’m coming from.

I guess if Amy Chua is a Tiger Mom, I’m a Turtle Dad.

Ty’s not into sports right now – unless our nightly wrestling matches count – and that’s OK. I’ve seen too many dads force their kids into things they don’t want to do, making for a miserable time for everybody involved.

So I’ll encourage Ty to develop his interests and be there with help or advice. I’ll teach, coach or whatever he needs to suceed and I’ll make him follow through with his commitments.
But right now, I want him to try things and find out what he likes. At his pace.

Kids need time to be kids.

Are you a Tiger Mom or Tiger Dad?

How has that helped or hurt your relationship with your kids?
- By Andy Johnston, for the Momania blog

25 comments Add your comment


July 8th, 2011
2:30 am

Tiger Mom sucks. Every time I see her on TV, I think “Someday this woman is going to be the worst mother-in-law ever”. I kinda hope something awful happens to her.

My daughter has about a thousand interests, and I catch myself comparing her to other kids frequently, but if I force myself to take a step back I’m overwhelmed by what a wonderful brave child she is. How many 7-year-olds constantly want to try new things? She does better at some of her activities than others, but her performance doesn’t seem to be the deciding feature on what she likes most.

She turns 7 this month, and she has already done tennis, soccer, gymnastics, dance, church choir, girl scouts, seim team, and cheerleading. We don’t push her into any of her activities..,.always her choice. She is best at gymnastics and loves it, but she is not a great dancer and probably likes dance the most. She is not / has not been the best of her peers at any of her activities, but nor is she the worst at any of them. How many dads can say they have a jack of all trades at 7?

As for my boy….there is nothing in his world but baseball. Fell in love with tee ball the first time he picked up a ball. He’s already damn good at it , and he cares about nothing else. No other interests. He’s not yet 5, and all he wants to do is play it, practice it, or watch it.

My kids are so different in so many ways, and I’m just trying to appreciate them both for who they are.

Happy Dad

July 8th, 2011
6:22 am

With kids being bombarded at so many angles to do so many activities, I told my wife, not our girls. I asked a couple of the other dads what their summer plans were, and I wasn’t surprised that the overscheduling really never slowed down from the school year.

A little learning this summer, mixed in with playing in the backyard, a trip or two to Dunkin D…..just letting them be kids and explore on their own. This doesn’t mean endless hours in front of the boon tube either. Moderation is the key, in my humble opinion. They are just kids. They will have plenty of time to feel the stresses of life later…..


July 8th, 2011
8:12 am

AMEN to the first two posters!!!

However, Andy, I would get Ty into a sport. Ease into it. All of you will enjoy it. It gets you out of the house, and you meet the nicest people. My daughter played softball for a few years, and we are still friends with most of the other players and their families.

Just try one sport. Don’t over extend yourself. Enjoy it. Try different sports. Baseball, football, soccer, etc.

Broaden your horizons.

Super Dad

July 8th, 2011
8:34 am

Unless we want yet another generation of tubby’s, we need to urge our kids into some sort of activity that they can break a little sweat.

No Hippy Parents

July 8th, 2011
8:43 am

Tiger Mom is right. This liberal attitude with your children is creating an ill-prepared wimpy nation. Hippy parenting will be the death of our country. Get on board, or you’ll be eating dust.

Andy Johnston

July 8th, 2011
8:46 am

JJ — Ty has played soccer and loves to swim, so he’s trying different things. He’s very active, as far as running and playing outside.


July 8th, 2011
8:50 am

Just because someone isn’t a Tiger Mom, doesn’t make them a hippie parent. Most parents fall somewhere in between. I don’t force my child into anything he doesn’t want to do (like sports, music, etc) but the stuff he does want to do, I do enforce some level of commitment. My son has played soccer for years. He loves it, but every now and again he gets down about it, but I won’t let him quit midseason because he’s made a commitment to the team and that’s important to keep. Same with piano lessons. He wanted to try it, so he had to complete the year and participate in the recital. But his interest was never really there, so this coming year, we are dropping piano but continuing soccer. I think it is important to give your child options, let them explore their interests, but not force them to do too many things. I also think it’s important to make them stand by the commitments they make, so it’s a happy medium. I’m no Tiger, but I’m no hippie. I’m just a Mom!


July 8th, 2011
9:24 am

I guess I am a bobcat mom. I certainly didn’t shame my kids like the Tiger Mom did, but I did have expectations of them, and I did insist that they do certain things. For example, they had to go to and finish college in 4 years. None of this drifting around on the playground of college, finding themselves. I expected that they would learn to read early and well. I expected that they would learn an instrument or two. They did not have to be first chair (altho 2 were). I expected them to choose ways to serve others, not for pay. I expected that they not shame their family (mostly successful). Some of my friends think I pushed too hard. However, their kids are on the 10 year college plan and have other problems I think could have/should have been prevented by pushing a little.


July 8th, 2011
9:41 am

I am also no Tiger nor a Turtle. I am a national early childhood educational consultant who meets lots of teachers and children. I do not have the answers for all children. I appreciate parents who enjoy their children and Andy, you seem like you do! I am disappointed in parents who treat their children like baggage ( business as usual with their lives…the kids can just deal with it and tag on) or even worse those who want to live their lives through their children and push them into the dreams they never fulfilled. Often, it is hard to find balance.

I have learned that children are unique and their interests may not match ours. Providing opportunities and sitting back is, to me, not the same “hippie parenting” whatever that means.

Here are some things I think children need:

Schedule and Routine ( do adults like a new set of expectations or work schedule each day?)
Hygiene …daily
Pet Appreciation and Responsibility
Introduction to some sport for team work and perserverance ( Lori…loved your comment)
Volunteering and giving back
Chores…even a 2 year old can put napkins on the dinner table or water in the dog bowl
Music appreciation and if they want to play an instrument that is wonderful
Freeplay and games…casual interaction and problem solving
Art…even fingerpainting can be expressive ..exposure to cultural aspects too
Respect for others…all jobs are important…even the trash man…if you are making a contribution hold your head high.

JJ…I know you can meet wonderful people through sports but we have also made some friends through our church, volunteering, our neighborhood pool and just on our block.

We are all about making new friendships and we even know people from the places we vacation each year, as both are smaller condo units. We love to catch up with them. Our kids have met some fun and interesting people. We want them to know that friendship is in every corner of our world and that different people can bring interesting things to the table!

I think most folks have compared their kids and even themselves to others. I like to watch children unfold and provide a fertile enrvironment to grow and learn. My kids and others have surprised me!


July 8th, 2011
9:51 am

I love your “Turtle Dad” Label.
I find that most are much more Tiger-ish with their first born. By the the time the 3rd or 4th kid comes along, you realize that hitting most of those milestones early means nothing in the long run. I know I am much more laid-back with my third. I also enjoy my time with him more because I am not so worried about how he will turn out. So far, he is doing just fine without all the pressure I put on myself with the first one.


July 8th, 2011
9:52 am

Here’s my advise after having two kids go through numerous activities.
(fyi..we never overschedule. My kids have more down time than most due to the homeschooling)
1. Don’t do any activities until they are at least 5(except swim lessons) – waste of money and more for the parents than the kid.
2. some activities are a “have to”. In my house that includes swim lessons and 2 yrs of music.
3. Sports should be fun, cheap with limited time commitment. ( way is my 2nd grader going to practice football every night after school for 2 hrs and play games on Saturday). Upwards and the YMCA have great programs that are affordable, teach the kids all the rules of the game and allow the kids to decide what they might want to do in the future.
3. Allow your child to do the thing you least expected them to want to do. My child who will barely speak to his grandparents wanted to act in a local drama club (WTH??) He ended up singing and dancing (with a group) in 3 plays. Both my kids begged to do martial arts. After months of me rolling my eyes and saying “we’ll see” I relented and they are both kicking butt (literally).
4. Highly encourage you kids to do activities that they can enjoy into adulthood. Biking, swimming, hiking or tennis. Playing football will do your child no good once he/she is out of high school or college. How many fat ex-football players do you know. I know several.

@ Andy, Ty is still young. He reminds me a lot of my son. You might find he does better in individual rather than team sports. Whatever he’s done up until now is really not an indicator of what he’ll do in the future (see # 1 on my list) I regret every dime I spent on anything my kids did before age 5.

Having said all this, I will say that I do believe that no child gets good at an activity without hard work and a little encouragement (maybe just a litte pushing). I think the key is to find out what activity they really want to try hard at and provide them lots of oportunity to practice.


July 8th, 2011
10:12 am

@homeschooler I loved you numbers 3/4. We are not a sports intense family. I do not regret the $$$ I spent on swimming lessons, t-ball, soccer, karate and dance. These were all for 5 and under. Maybe it is just me.
@catlady…I think we both agree on setting expectations and outcomes!
@April…you do bring up a good point. I only have two, so things were pretty much the same with both of them and they are 5 years apart. Sometimes, it is sheer exhaustion to be structured with a large family. Not everyone is up to it. I know I could not be as organized with 4-6 children.


July 8th, 2011
10:13 am

@homeschooler, I like the “must” on music. We haven’t tried it yet, but both kids really like music.

Only problem is that my daughter already has her heart set on playing the DRUMS. Every time I mention piano or even guitar, she tells me no, and I’m not going to force a specific instrument on her (talk about pushing a hatred of an activity). I have no room for a drum kit, and honestly no tolerance for noise related to the learning curve.


July 8th, 2011
10:29 am

@jarvis….my son wanted to play the drums. I told him no. I regret it now. Just sayin’….
We also had a neighbor whose son practiced the trombone outside, for months….deafening!
My daughter played the piano and still does…she loves it.


July 8th, 2011
11:05 am

Andy- You are doing a fabulous job! I wish the AJC would hire you here instead of Theresa and her phoning it in as of late topics for discussion.
Anyway, keep up the great work!


July 8th, 2011
11:11 am

@ Jarvis. I believe music is just a part of education. (like studying a foreign language). I was lucky in that my son picked up the guitar and loved it. My daughter has taken piano for a couple of months and we are having to change teachers. I was seeing her slack off a bit. It might be harder to keep her on the “have to” schedule that it was my son.
How old is your daughter? Maybe she can play drums in middle school band. Look on the bright side, better that she wants to be a drummer than date one. :-)

Warrior Woman

July 8th, 2011
11:13 am

@jarvis – There are drum pads that you can get for learners that are both much smaller and much quieter. This is what my daughters’ band directors recommend for learning to play drums.


July 8th, 2011
12:25 pm

I think MOST parents fall somewhere in between hippie and Tiger….you just don’t hear about them. It’s only the ones that create waves/hysteria/anger that get noticed.

The rest of us are just happy to parent our children whichever way works best for our families.

Andy Johnston

July 8th, 2011
3:23 pm

April — Thanks for the kudos on the line, since it was meant as more of joke or play on words. Ty is a very active child and we do a lot together, but we’re letting him go at his own speed.

Homeschooler — Great tips. We’ll keep them in mind. Ty had just turned 4 when he played soccer, so we’ll try that again and other sports in the next year.

Mark — Thanks, but this is Theresa’s baby. Her topics and great participation by everybody has made this a vital and interesting blog and community.


July 8th, 2011
8:00 pm

my kids have done a myriad of different things. some were stopped due to finances or transport issues (i live on a mountain and sometimes it was just inpossible to get up the mountain from work then back down to the town for the activity) and some were stopped due to lack of interest-if my kids chose to participate in any sport or whatever my rule was they had to participate attitude and presence. if they decided they didnt like it, they had to finish the season or session. all of my kids have been very physically active, involved in sports and just in their everyday play they are riding dirt bikes-4 wheelers and horses, kayaking etc… i never had to force them…i did have to remind them of the you have to finish it rule a couple of times when whatever they had chosen wasnt what they expected it to be. they are also all avid readers and one is a fantastic musician. i have been lucky to live in a place that really encourages the kids to be active and many grown ups and teachers can be found riding the dirt bikes and 4 wheelers and padling their kayaks down the river right along with the kids.,


July 9th, 2011
1:19 am

Homeschooler, haha…so funny you say that. She’s 7, and I have a childhood friend that is a moderately famous drummer, and even though she doesn’t call it a crush, I’m pretty sure she has puppy love.

“Daddy, when can we go see (my friend) play again. I can’t get them out of my head.”. She writes him fan notes.


July 9th, 2011
2:33 pm

People are quick to label other parents as, “those who want to live their lives through their children and push them into the dreams they never fulfilled.” Usually people think they have found the perfect balance with their own kids. They like to apply that charge against anyone else they see pushing kids even a fraction harder.


July 9th, 2011
9:40 pm

@ T.S. I am all about giving children a little push. Just not thrilled with intensity in sports ( when the kids are not into it) or beauty competitions ( where the little girls wear more makeup than most adults).
I tried to push my kids in directions that would make a difference even when they made it to adulthood. I have made mistakes with mine but when other adults tell me I have great kids, I take it and appreciate it.

July 11th, 2011
7:54 am

Most of my daughter’s friends are so overscheduled that they have no idea what to do with themselves when there is not an organized activity for them, other than turn on the TV. When they come over, they have no ideas and don’t want to play outside (not that I blame them in the heat, for sure, but we have five acres to run around on, and a pool,a nd it’s not always hot!!). They have less imagination and cannot focus.

I feel like we are doing our kids a huge disservice by scheduling their every waking moment. Yes, they should have exposure to lots of different things, but sometimes it goes way too far.

2005 seat altea tdi

July 13th, 2011
10:57 am

You’ll find some intriguing points in time in this write-up but I don’t know if I see all of them center to heart.There’s some validity but I will take hold opinion until I look into it further.Excellent write-up , thanks and we want much more! Added to FeedBurner also