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Nicole Brittingham Furlonge Headshot

Against 'Superior Parenting,' or an Allen Iverson Remix

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What do parenting and Allen Iverson have to do with each other? Bear with me.

I am not a "Tiger Mom."

I am not a superior French parent (though I admit that my children have learned to say "please" and "thank you" from the beginning -- not just because it is polite to do so, but because we want them to understand the importance of appreciating others).

I am a different parent. A parent who is different in many ways from the parent Amy Chua and Pamela Druckerman imagine. As they are writing their superior parent into being, who are they imagining as inferior? "The American parent," yes. Indeed, if that were not the case, who would buy their books? But, what does that "American parent" look like? Underlying these assertions of preferred parenting styles is, in many ways, an American parent who is of a certain class and even, perhaps, of a certain race and family culture.

Not only that, but don't we all know parents who do at least some of what Druckerman identifies as "French parenting" who aren't French? Who are African-American, Latino, Native American, European, Middle Eastern, African, West Indian, Asian?

That said, what I actually object to most are the attempts to present a fully packaged parenting, one that, at least in the advertising and excerpting of these women's fuller works, presents "Tiger Moms" and "French parenting" as commodities that can be bought and then replicated to the letter by those who consume their product (though, hopefully, not as a second snack).

In comes Allen Iverson. Remember his rant against "practice"? In his press conference, Iverson complained because he's being criticized and penalized for failing to attend practice. He's a "franchise player." He's focused on "the game" and everyone else is "talkin' about practice."

If you allow me a moment of poetic license, I'm going to ignore Iverson's intent and use his words for my own purposes.

In my view, parenting isn't about pronouncement of superior approaches. It's not a pre-packaged, inflexible, fixed labeled item. It's not about "the game"; it is about "practice." And as much as "we" -- parents -- might really want parenting to be "a game," handed to us with all the rules defined, all the plays mapped, all the strategies for difficult moments outlined, we've actually been thrown into a constant practice. An intentional practice, to be sure, but it is, for better or worse, practice nonetheless.

Practitioner Parents.

And I like to think that we are developing our children to be practitioners, too, in so many ways. One colleague shared this thought from a former music teacher with me: "I don't teach my students to play music. I teach them to practice." In this sense, practice isn't this undervalued, "fake" moment. It becomes the game. It changes our notion of "the game" into a process, an atmosphere of continual growth.

Quality parenting, ultimately, isn't about a fixed label. It's not a packaged deal. It's about how we practice the role we've been chosen to play.