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Column: Approach to tough test lesson in bad parenting

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One morning this past week, as I was listing for my daughter her many stellar attributes and achievements, I was struck with worry. We’ve all heard about “tiger parenting,” but what if I’ve become something worse? What if I have become a “My Little Pony” parent?

We’ve all met them or seen them. Most of us have been them. And mostly, when we have, we’ve done our kids more harm than good.

The term tiger parenting was popularized by author, Yale law professor and (somewhat) reformed psycho-obsessive mom Amy Chua. Tiger parents try to drive their kids toward excellence by insisting they work harder and do better. Chua didn’t let her two daughters have sleepovers, made them practice violin and piano for hours each day, found anything less than an A-plus unacceptable and once rejected a birthday card from her 4-year-old because she found the quality wanting.

That’s extreme. Most of us, at least on the official “Chua/Tiger/Children Trying to Tunnel Out of the House Under the Cover of Night scale,” don’t have much to worry about. What we have to watch out for is going too far in the other direction. That’s becoming noticeable a week before this year’s Common Core standardized testing begins for Grades 3 through 8.

Some parents plan to keep their kids from taking the tests to shield them from feelings of inadequacy.

What if they aren’t particularly special, smart and accomplished? What if they find out? Surely it would destroy them.

My generation of moms and pops parent by congratulating our kids on tasks so banal that single-cell forms of life can accomplish them.

How many times have I tried to buck up my child with a casual, “It’s OK, honey. You tried, and that’s what really counts”?

That’s my message to my daughter? Earthworms try. The Confederate Army tried. Even the Jets try. Sporadically.

It’s results that count, but hiding that fact from our kids has become normal for many. That’s what I think of as “My Little Pony” parenting. It’s easy, sickly sweet and empty.

This is the second year of tests based on Common Core standards in New York, and last year’s results were daunting. The percentage of kids who met or exceeded the accepted skill level was half what it was the previous year, with about 30 percent of students statewide hitting the mark.

With those negative results still reverberating, news reports say plenty of moms and dads are looking to go the “My Little Pony” parent route and make sure their children don’t encounter a test (or a test result) that leaves them feeling less than superb and masterful.

The tests are tough? The kids just won’t take them.

The implementation of Common Core in New York has been bumpy, but there are positive aspects to the exams. They are much more skill-based than the past ones, and less susceptible to “teaching to the test.”

Their difficulty should be their selling point.

Sometimes feeling badly about ourselves is what makes us try harder. In most great success stories, the triumphs come only after numerous failures.

Taking the tests could tell parents, teachers and students something about skill levels. Not taking them will tell us nothing at all.

The parents who keep their kids from taking the tests will accomplish something I thought impossible. They will soften and degrade the process of parenting even more than we already have, trading in: “As long as you did your best, I’m proud of you” for “That’s OK, honey. You didn’t try at all, and that’s what counts. We’re so proud of you.”

Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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