What is “tiger” parenting? How does it affect children?
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Parenting advice is often black or white: Be firm and unwavering. But new research shows that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best way to handle things. Rather than consistency, a parent’s flexibility may be key to a well-adjusted kid, according to research published online this month in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. Nimble parents who tailor their parenting approaches to each child’s individual personality have kids who are half as likely to have symptoms of depression or anxiety, compared with parents who don’t take children’s temperaments into consideration, the study found. When it comes to granting kids autonomy, for example, parents should let their child’s disposition be their guide.
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Even though society encourages gradually giving kids increasing amounts of independence, for some kids, too much free rein can backfire. For three years, researchers tracked 214 families whose children were in the third to fifth grades, with an average age of 9, when the study began. Monthly, they visited the families and instructed parents and children to have two conversations: the first a neutral chat about their day and the second a dicier discussion about a challenging topic — chores, for example, or homework. Researchers assessed the interactions based on factors including the warmth and engagement of the parent, negative affect — being harsh or critical toward the child — and to what extent a parent granted a child autonomy or took the lead in the conversation.
They also asked parents and children to describe the children’s temperament. Each year, researchers gauged children’s symptoms of depression and anxiety. When all the information was combined, they found that certain temperaments combined with specific parenting approaches made kids more — or less — likely to develop anxiety and depression. Most significantly, children who displayed more effortful control — the ability to self-regulate, focus and stay on task — had greater symptoms of anxiety and depression if their mothers were control freaks and called the shots. Not surprisingly, children with low levels of fear whose parents related to them gently had the lowest levels of depression. And low-fear kids who parents interacted harshly with them had the highest levels of depression.
But fearful kids with parents who tended to be more critical also had low levels of depression. But with fearful children, you have to balance validating emotions with not being overly solicitous. Sometimes you just have to do what sounds like coming down hard on them. Tiger Mom might call that tough love.
For kids who are prone to irritability and frustration, however, researchers found that parental anger and criticism led to an increased likelihood of depression and anxiety. Lengua acknowledges that it’s confusing to know how much direction to offer each child. But the question is how much does your child need? In other words, what works for one kid doesn’t necessarily work for another.
But you didn’t really need academic research to confirm that, did you? Bonnie Rochman writes about pregnancy, fertility, parenting — the ups and downs of being a kid and having one — for TIME. This material may not be republished, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot. For parents struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, gardening can be an important tool. Don’t let the idea overwhelm you.
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How gardening can affect the BRAIN: There is a myriad of scientific concepts you can discuss with your kids when planting and tending to a garden. One study showed that children who participated in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement than those who did not. The wonder of seeing a garden grow may spark your kids to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? Why are worms good for the plants? Once you harvest your produce, think of all the brain-building vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients your kids will be eating and how that will continue to boost brain development. When children participate in gardening, the fruits and vegetables that they are inspired to eat will no doubt have a positive effect on their body.
But the act of gardening itself can also promote a healthy body. Kids LOVE to get their hands and feet in the dirt, which can run counter to the modern parenting style of compulsively keeping hands and surfaces cleaned and sanitized. These days all kids could benefit from a little more physical activity and sunshine they’ll get while gardening. Activities like moving soil, carrying a heavy watering can, digging in the dirt and pushing a wheelbarrow can promote gross motor skills and overall strength for a more fit body. In this electronic age, kids need time for meaningful family connection. Time in the garden allows for team building and promotes communication skills.
Planning a garden, planting the seeds and watching them grow give kids a sense of purpose and responsibility. Making sure that the plants get enough fertilizer, water and sun fosters mindfulness. Furthermore, studies show that when children have contact with soil during activities like digging and planting, they have improved moods, better learning experiences and decreased anxiety. Most important, the self-esteem a child gets from eating a perfect cucumber that he grew himself is priceless. I Said I Want the Red Bowl! Elin Woods, cuddling her two children—one on each hip—in the garage doorway as they return from their father’s house a mile around the corner.
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Five days later, with the Aug. Nordegren and hoped that healing the more profound hurts—those she won’t let her children see—would begin. Or put my family back together. Before she can close this chapter of her life, she wants, finally, to say her piece. But opening a window into her private thoughts was not a decision she came to easily. After the drama of last Thanksgiving weekend, when Woods, 34, crashed his car at the bottom of the driveway and she watched his double life unspool across months of tabloid headlines, the Swedish-born Nordegren, 30, faced down the press with silence. For my kids, I felt that was the only normalcy I could give them, since they have a very famous dad.
But after everything that happened and everything that was written and speculated—what I did or didn’t do—I felt like setting some things straight. Most important, she wants the world to know that she was blindsided by her husband’s betrayal. I’m so embarrassed that I never suspected—not a one. 2 years, when all this was going on, I was home a lot more with pregnancies, then the children and my school. The final exam for a summer course toward her bachelor’s degree in psychology was looming — and both kids were battling a fever — when, on Aug. 15, she invited a PEOPLE reporter to the rented Windermere, Fla.
Sam and Charlie have lived since the end of December. In 19 hours over four visits, Nordegren opened up about what she was feeling in the crucible that was her life these past nine months. It’s hard to think you have this life, and then all of a sudden—was it a lie? You’re struggling because it wasn’t real. It was hard, but it didn’t kill me. In some ways, she says, it is almost liberating to be out from under the PGA schedule and corporate apparatus that grew up around her husband. She is now the ruler of her own world, living on her own for the first time in her entire life, and Woods needs her permission to get past the guard of her gated community.
A in these pages: Nordegren would talk through PEOPLE’s questions but then write out her answers, saying she is still not 100 percent confident in her spoken English. I want to shelter them as much as I can. Shelter, for now, is the five-bedroom rental with its borrowed furniture that she originally intended as a temporary place while she and Woods worked on their marriage. I’m only going to be here a month!
In those months she motored through the business of motherhood and generally stayed busy as a way of coping. In what had been a game room, Nordegren turned the wet bar into a diaper-changing station and removed the pool table to make room for dance parties to the Pippi Longstocking soundtrack. She read stacks of picture books to the children — in both English and Swedish — and whenever she could, she’d take off for a run or a bike ride. Only at night, before Sam inevitably wandered into her bed, would Nordegren allow herself to be alone with an anguish that caused insomnia and weight loss. In the days before the divorce was final, she began to lose her hair, her body surrendering to the stress where her spirit would not.
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I wish I could bring up my emotions more at the time, but it usually comes afterward. After months of difficult work on the divorce, she now teases and plays practical jokes on her Richmond, Va. 55 million dream house that was built to be for the family of four. She’s excited about finding her own place.
And she’s okay with being single. Only recently she’s realized that her instinct to believe in the good in people—and her ability to trust—has somehow survived. It’s going to be just me and the kids for a little while. But I believe in love because I’ve seen it.
Before today I haven’t felt ready, but now I see it as a step toward putting it behind me. I also see this as an opportunity to thank everyone who has reached out to me. I have felt tremendous support from family, friends and people I never met, and I want them to know that every encouraging letter, e-mail, text message or phone call has been a tremendous help. I have no intention of addressing these matters again after this interview. As anyone who has gone through a divorce knows, it is never easy.
Every day is a little easier than the one before, but I still have a lot of healing to do. I have been through stages of disbelief and shock, to anger and ultimately grief over the loss of the family I so badly wanted for my children. I have learned a lot about myself, about the world and about people around me. With everything that’s been said, is there anything in particular you’d like to set straight? What comes to mind first is all the speculation that I had something to do with the car crash or that I had somehow used any kind of violence on Tiger.
This was one of the things I had the hardest time with people thinking. There was never any violence inside or outside our home. The speculation that I would have used a golf club to hit him is just truly ridiculous. Tiger left the house that night, and after a while when he didn’t return, I got worried and decided to go look for him. I did some modeling when I was younger.
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I was never very successful at it, and I didn’t intend to pursue it. It is flattering to be called a model, but I hardly think a few shoots in my teenage years make me a model. I was a nanny for Jesper and Mia Parnevik’s children for a year in between my studies. It is common in Europe to take a year or two off after gymnasiet to travel or go overseas to learn another language before you continue your studies. Tell us about your childhood dreams growing up in Sweden. I grew up in a little town called Vaxholm outside Stockholm.
I always loved sports and was an avid soccer player throughout my childhood. I knew after high school that I wanted to study psychology. I always loved children and I wanted to study something that could combine the two. After my year as a nanny, I planned to go back to Sweden. I was 21 when I met Tiger. How did growing up a twin and as the daughter of two prominent parents — your mother a government official, your father a journalist — shape you? I have huge respect for both of my parents.
They gave me a base of trust, loyalty and love that I will always have and want to pass on to my children. Before my parents split up in 1987, they took my older brother Axel, my sister and me everywhere. My brother is 13 months older than my sister and me, so we were like triplets growing up. We were the kind of family that spent every little penny left over on travel. They stuffed us into a little Fiat Panda and drove all around Europe as often as possible.
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I have seen every country in Europe more than once. I have great memories of those trips. Education and independence are very important in my family. I am an identical twin, so my parents stressed the importance of independence a lot more with me and my sister. They rarely dressed us in the same clothes, and if they did, I always wore red and my sister always wore blue so no one would say the wrong name. Everybody knew that red equals Elin and blue equals Josefin. They cut our hair differently and put my sister and me in different classes.
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Today I appreciate that they did that. My parents split up when I was 7, and it was hard for me. I lived with each parent an equal amount of time after that, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with both of them. Despite the split, I feel like the base was still there. My mom showed me that it is possible to be on your own, be a mother and still pursue your career.
My father moved to Germany in 1997, and my sister and I went with him for a year to study German and English. How did you and Tiger Woods meet? I was traveling the PGA tour with Mia and Jesper, so we met through friends. I wasn’t interested at first, ironically. I had my opinions about celebrities.
To an extent.
I got convinced that we were a lot alike and agreed to a date. The biggest reason I fell for him was because we had a lot of fun together. What was it like adjusting to his world? The hardest thing was being in the public eye. I am by nature a pretty shy and private person. What was it about him that ultimately made you want to share your life with him? I loved him, we had so much fun, and I felt safe with him.
Our wedding day was one of the happiest days of my life. We know you don’t want to discuss the things that led up to your divorce, but can you talk about how you first learned of his betrayal and what you felt at that moment? I felt stupid as more things were revealed — how could I not have known anything? The word betrayal isn’t strong enough. I felt like my whole world had fallen apart. It seemed that my world as I thought it was had never existed.
I felt embarrassed for having been so deceived. I felt betrayed by many people around me. What have the last nine months been like for you? It is hard to describe the emotional roller coaster I have been on, and it’s not over yet.
Did you follow the news, or were you able to block it out? I practically haven’t watched any TV from November to now. I had friends tell me what was going on, but I was also reading some of it on the Internet. So, yes, I followed some of it, but not all of it. In the middle of the crisis in December, your mother came to be with you and the children, then was rushed to the hospital by ambulance one night. What happened, and how is your mother now? Charlie had a bad stomach bug and we all ended up getting it.
My mom, who has very low blood pressure, collapsed at the house. She was unconscious for a while, and I called 911. She was fine soon after, but it got a tremendous amount of coverage because of the other things that were going on. Did you ever think you could still make the marriage work? You think of every way you can save a marriage when it is in a crisis, and I think you try even harder when you have children. So yes, initially, I thought we had a chance, and we tried really hard.
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I don’t want to go into details of why I didn’t think it was possible. Did your childhood with divorced parents affect your thinking? I really wanted my children to have a core family. I think my parents did a pretty good job as a divorced couple, but I can imagine that having your parents stay happily together would be the ultimate best thing for children. However, if there is no trust between the parents, I think it is better for the children that the parents split up. I am now going to do my very best to show them that alone and happy is better than being in a relationship where there is no trust. Who helped you get through this?