The world is full of people who are ‘so smart’ or ‘really bright’ but just don’t seem to reach their potential. You hear it over and over again as people talk about the guy who can’t get ahead or he keeps getting in his own way, or never really tries to succeed. Followed the wistful shake of the head and the comment as your voice trails off: “Such a shame.” It is a shame. It is sad on an instinctive level for a human being.
The desire to achieve your potential is a critical part of human nature. I argue that the ability to achieve our potential is a function of a something that makes the human being truly unique and great. It is the ability to understand the pure core happiness that comes from reaching a hard fought goal. I do believe that there is nothing more human. And nothing more satisfying than putting aside the desire for a short term pleasure in the pursuit of a great or not so great objective. This is something Moly constantly misunderstands and subsequently misconstrues.
It caused me to think again of Moly's Youtube's on the Chinese Tiger Mother (see article at the Wall Street Journal or google it if you are unfamiliar). I went to it to see Moly in action.
The debating point is obvious. How tough should a parent be? Does the child learn something important about what they can accomplish or is the emotional trauma too much? Moly does not get this. No. He doesn’t want to address this debate. In the video, Moly wants to make it about ‘cognitive development.’ There is no doubt that reasoning, IQ and such are important to achieving potential, but cognitive development, is tangential to the subject here. The subject of debate here is the rellationship of self discipline to the achievement of your potential.
I have already posted on the subject so I will leave this area. But there was another moment in the video that provides a transparent view into Moly's damaged mind.
In the video at about 4 minutes in: He role played a scene from the future. The tiger mother was older and losing some of her memory capacity. The formerly abused child is now the adult child. The mother can't remember where her keys are and they have to leave. Moly plays the adult child and engages in a vicious verbal attack on her the elderly mother. “What do you mean you can’t remember where you put them!!! You are to remain there until you remember!!! I don’t care if you have to pee. You will sit on that step. Think; you senile, useless idiot! Now where are the keys!!!”
Moly really warmed to the task. He had to compose himself after he finished his own little psycho-drama. If you care to view this vignette, here is the link. It is about 4 minutes into the video:
Of course this view of the world only exists in Moly's sad and distorted view of things. There is no need to teach an elderly person, whose facilities are failing, to learn the joy of self-discipline so they can reach their potential when they become an adult.
The self-discipline to focus on a goal and consciously put aside all other pleasures and distractions to accomplish a goal is a uniquely human characteristic that has to be taught to a child. Whether it is routinely cleaning your bathroom or staying late at work to finish that proposal and get it just right, you need the self-discipline to focus and to get things done. It is the solemn and largely unpleasant duty of the parent to see past their desire to give their child unlimited and unqualified attention and indulgence. Moly’s working hypothesis (that shall not be complicated with empirical data) is that any effort on the part of the parent to enforce discipline will result a LOSS of cognitive development because you are placing the poor child under stress. Unless you are the Matt Damon character from Good Will Hunting, it likely took a great deal of self-discipline to learn all that is needed to solve a quadratic equation. I learned it as a Sophomore in High School Algebra (it was a junior level course). By that time, I had learned my own self-discipline on matters academic. But when I was failing math in 5th grade, I have a strong and complete memory of my father making d$#@ sure I spent a full hour a night on extra math work (over and above my other homework). He had his own drills from a math book I had never seen. He sat with me and did not leave my side. He yelled at me. He never let me get up until the drills were done completely. I hated those sessions. I hated him. The good news is that I did finally get those complex fractions figured out. Math was still tough for me, but not as much. I ended up in the advanced placement group. I finished my high school math requirement a year early. Thanks Dad.
Think about all those really bright people who “don’t ‘achieve their potential.” If only they had the discipline to apply themselves… Good Parents know that the difference between a happy life and a life of quiet desperation is a fine line. That is what the tiger mother understands. The cuddling and joy after the ‘dragon lesson’ or the feeling of pride and accomplishment felt by the child as she broke through and got the piece right are very real human responses. When those times come in life when you have to put aside the desire for the cheese cake, or the extra hour of sleep, or the desire to cut class, or leave early, thank your own self-discipline and give a nod of gratitude to your parents. When you notice that it comes ‘naturally’ to you to go ahead and put forth that extra effort or spend that extra bit of time to get something done, give yourself a pat on the back. And also think back to the time when your parents would not let you play with your friends, because you had a big project to do for school. And remember the “A” you got on that project and how good that felt.
It isn’t bullying. It isn’t petty anger. It is love that drives parents to insist that putting forth a weak effort is unacceptable. It is love that causes parents to drive their kids to understand the pure human joy that comes from accomplishing something important. It is love that causes parents to help their kids understand what it takes to reach their potential.