By: Rozanne Lim
hǔ mā de jiàoyù
Tiger mum parenting, and why it may not be as detrimental to children as it seems
“You know Auntie Karen’s daughter? She gets straight A*s, plays the violin professionally and got into Harvard. Why can’t you be more like her?”
“Pass me your grades. Why are you getting less than 94%? You know those kids in India, they are under more pressure but they still perform better.”
Sound familiar? Yep, it’s the same old comparison tactic used by tiger parents. But contrary to belief, tiger parenting is not such a bad method. And before you get ready to trash this article, hear me out. First of all, our view of the term “tiger parenting” may not be the same. Many view 虎妈 hǔmā (tiger mum) teachings as harsh, strict and restrictive; such as when Yale law professor Amy Chua published Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mum, revealing her interesting methods in parenting her two, now successful and grateful, daughters – that sort of teaching is actually in the minority of Asian teaching methods.
Interestingly, the popularised version of “tiger parenting” may not actually be “tiger parenting”. The term may have an altogether different definition depending on who views it and who it is instilled upon. It is difficult to put a definition to the term as it is viewed and carried out differently around the world. Tiger parenting would be termed as a merger of authoritative and authoritarian parenting, according to PubMed Central.
This means that other than high levels of support and rules (which is the best sort of parenting), another element exists – one that is absent from other parenting styles, and is the favourite of every Asian child ever – shaming.
Research shows that some degree of shaming, such as pointing out successful kids, do play a role in supportive parenting in Asians. It is instilled in Asian culture that children owe everything to their parents, and being filial is a core concept. According to a report published by Stanford University, motivation comes from different areas within different cultures. In Asian culture, children find support in parental expectations, and would have higher rates of success through tiger parenting compared to Western children, where motivation mainly stems from themselves. Asian children, according to Pacific Standard, view intelligence as something that requires effort, and is not fixed, hence, they would be more likely to be molded and headed in the direction that tiger parenting pushes them to.
However, excessive negative shaming does affect mental health. This creates an achievement/ adjustment paradox. Children have high levels of academic achievement in contrast to their psychological development. South Korea’s suicide rates ranked fourth worldwide in 2018, due to the competitive education system where students competed for top universities that had low acceptance rates. Some of that stress is attributed to parents wanting the best for their children, but the main source of stress is the education system itself, and that is a problem to be solved on its own. With tiger parenting, the way to avoid overwhelming children, but still push them to their highest potential, is to limit negative shaming.
The world is becoming increasingly competitive. Statistically, almost two-thirds of high school graduates apply to college, compared to 30 years ago, when only half did. High achievements solely in academics is no longer enough. You’ve gotten four A*s in the A levels? Someone out there has gotten five. You got a 45 in the IB? So have six other students who applied to the same college as you. Tiger parenting pushes children to be the best they can be from young, where it is easier to grasp new ideas, learn new skills and eventually be an expert in that skill. Aiming high, developing a good work ethic and believing in themselves comes along with that upbringing, preparing teens for high school and college, where they are ready to face challenges and handle the academic content.
To all children of 虎妈 hǔmā, tiger parenting works, and you just might be thankful in the future for your ferocious mum.
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- B.Parker, Clifton. “’Tiger moms’ vs. Western-style mothers? Stanford researchers find different but equally effective styles” Stanford University. <https://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/may/asian-european-moms-052014.html> Date accessed: 30 March 2019
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