Academic challenges ‘Tiger Mum’ approach to parenting

Tiger mothers who push their children to achieve at all costs might be doing more harm than good, says French academic

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Tiger mums watch out! It might be a case of pushing your children to do well at school and teaching them failure isn’t an option is harming their chances of success.

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Research conducted by Frederique Autin, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Poitiers, France, has claimed that children perform best when they’re told failure and trying again is a normal part of learning.

“By being obsessed with success, students are afraid to fail, so they are reluctant to take difficult steps to master new material,” Frederique explained. “Acknowledging that difficulty is a crucial part of learning could stop a vicious circle in which difficulty creates feelings of incompetence that in turn disrupts learning.”

Frederique’s survey of 111 French pupils aged 11 to 12 suggested that teachers and parents should emphasise children’s progress rather than focusing on grades and test scores.

The pupils were given tricky anagram problems that none of them could solve, and then split into two groups. The first group was told that failure is common but practice will help – just like riding a bike. However, children in the second group didn’t receive this advice and were simply asked how they tried to solve the problems.

In a new set of tests, the children in the first group (who had been told failure is common) did better than those in the second group. The study concluded that how children are taught to consider failure could be more important than their own success when learning difficult new skills.

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