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Saturday 21 October 2017

Why my sons are still doing homework

Amy Chua. Photo: Getty
Amy Chua. Photo: Getty

I'm having a brief fit of Tiger Mother Syndrome.

The description comes from Amy Chua - the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

The daughter of Chinese immigrants to America, she decided to raise her children in an old-fashioned Eastern style.

Tiger Mothers use control, bribery and zero tolerance of average results to turn their children into high performing adults.

It was the maths result that did it. There was a '3' which means "below average".

Now I've accepted a lot. Appalling toilet habits. The refusal to use a knife while eating. Unsupervised YouTubing. You name it; I've lowered the bar.

But I drew the line at a '3'. No child of mine is "below average". He'd just decided not to bother anymore. So I asked Google and it advised: daily maths problems.

Constant exposure would break the psychological barriers down.

There were four tasks to be completed Monday to Friday. One puzzle. One set of maths problems And two domestic jobs. (I might as well teach him to clean too.)

Then to make it fair, I made another chart for the other fella with writing exercises.

If they complete the tasks over the holidays, then they've been promised FIFA 15, the latest Playstation game in September.

We're in Week Two of the programme, and the effort is enormous. Every day I have to push, push, push. They're brilliant at procrastination and always alert for moments of weakness. The simple word "yes" followed by obedience is an alien concept.

So I relate a lot to Ms Chua and the time she hauled the Doll's House out to the car and threatened to give it to charity unless her daughter practiced piano.

maths

Much to my relief they've accepted the jobs most easily. It's simple stuff. Emptying the dishwasher and tidying their rooms. They actually like hoovering.

The tough part is the maths. My son just panics and sits there crying while I impatiently try to guide him through it. It's pure torture for both of us.

But he is getting better at it and when he did a big sum the other night I urged him to shout "I can do long multiplication!" He refused so I chanted for him and he eventually laughed about it.

There's plenty of evidence that a healthy dose of this Tiger stuff is good. Proving to kids that they can overcome problems through determination and practice is an important life lesson.

You can't give up on something just because it's hard. Otherwise we'd never achieve anything.

Amy Chua came in for a lot of criticism and she accepted she'd gone too far. But her daughters are now a great success and said they are really grateful to their mother for her efforts.

I'm clinging to the hope that one day my poor tortured son will remember this summer and do likewise.

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