The other day I walked down the block after drop off at my son’s school and chatted with two moms of lower school children. The topic was tutoring.
Mom 1: “Listen to this. I was in Mathnasium the other day with my son and there was another boy from my child’s class. The following day at the school’s morning assembly, I said hello to the mom of the boy from the Mathnasium class. ‘Hey, it’s nice that the boys are getting extra Math help together,’ I said, noticing that a few other parents were listening to our conversation. And then she replied, ‘What do you mean? My son doesn’t get tutored. You must be mistaken.’”
Mom 1 wasn’t fooled by the denial: “I know what I saw,” she continued, “and the boy was definitely her son. My point in telling you this story is….”
Mom 2: “OMG! Really? Are we that competitive? The child is in second grade, and this mom didn’t want you to know her kid is getting tutored?”
Mom 1: “Wait it gets better. The boy came up to my son the next day, and told him he doesn’t get tutored, but just has math play dates.”
This should be an eyebrow-raising anecdote, but unfortunately I’ve shared it several times, and I don’t get shock – I get a lot of head-nodding agreement. That’s how competitive tiger parents have become—telling kids to say they are on a play date when in fact they are being tutored. This is not a good message to be sending. It encourages way too many negatives, like asking your child to lie and putting pressure on kids at such an early age.
With a daughter in eighth grade and a son still in nursery school, my sense is competition and pressure is greater than ever. Many kids are being tutored not because they need help, but to be pushed to the head of the pack. The unfortunate result is that the overly-tutored group becomes the norm, and those who aren’t tutored appear average at best; some fall even further behind. Big sigh. It is New York City, and competition is fierce. Getting a ‘B’ here is like failing. But can’t these kids ever do something just for fun, because they enjoy it, rather than thinking, how will this look on my college application? By the way, my daughter is struggling in math and I’m considering getting her a tutor…. I promise if and when the tutor comes, I will not tell her to say she is on a play date.
* I just discovered, there is a retail storefront in Brooklyn, where they sell superhero supplies, like toys and costumes in the front, but it actually doubles as a secret writing-learning center with a hidden door in back. You can’t make this stuff up.