Should Every Mother Be A Tiger Mother?

by Dr. Shanthi Thomas

Amy Chua, a Yale Law Professor and the daughter of Chinese immigrants, in her 2011 memoir Battle cry of the tiger mother, did indeed unleash a tiger among the thinking parents of the world. It got them into thinking whether they were also tiger mothers or fathers or someone far less aggressive.

Tiger parenting is the term that refers to strict and controlling type of parenting that prioritizes and demands the child’s achievements over virtually everything else. Such a mother would not be satisfied with an A grade or B grade in exams; they would want an A+. These expectations were not just in academics, but in all spheres of life such as music lessons or sports. But is tiger parenting healthy? Should all mothers be tiger mothers? Let us look at what tiger mothering is all about.

High levels of parental expectations

Typical tiger parents expect a lot from their children, not just in academics but also in extracurricular activities such as music and sports. If the child is able to cope with the pressure of parental expectations with the help of the school, he does well in school, but if the child is getting no support from the school or a tuition teacher, this kind of high expectations may lead to depression among students.

Authoritarian style of parenting

Tiger mothers are also said to engage Authoritarian parenting style which is characterized by high demands, very little nurturing and feedback, and harsh punishments for mistakes. If at all feedback is given, it is negative. Corporal punishment and yelling is also common. In the authoritarian style of parenting, parents are usually not willing to explain the reasoning behind their rules. They will be very impatient with children when they break the many rules they set.

Steeped in culture

It is also important to remember that the concept of the tiger mother is deeply embedded in the Asian cultural values that celebrates patriarchy, hierarchy, ancestral authority and obligation of duty from children to parents. In such cultures, it is one of the most important obligations of a child to study well and become an educated person so that he can provide for the family and contribute to the society. In Asian societies, often, being a good child means fulfilling the expectations of parents.

Shaming children

One of the stereotypical tiger mother characteristics is that mothers do not have any qualms about shaming children for not being up to their expectations. Shaming is usually accompanied by some kind of punishment, spanking or threats. Tiger mothers don’t think twice before telling their daughters, “Hey fatty, enough of eating chips now!’’

All this does not mean that tiger parenting is entirely damaging to the child. There are some positives.

Involves affection and care

Tiger parenting differs from authoritarian parenting in that there is affection and care in the former. Tiger mothers especially love their children, care and support them a lot. They are often willing to go to any lengths just so that their children succeed in life.

Encourages self-discipline

Since there are rules for every facet of life, tiger parenting often instils self-discipline in children. Coupled with self-discipline is a sense of responsibility because a tiger parent would hold her child accountable to whatever he does. Through self-discipline and a sense of responsibility, children grow up to reveal their true potential in life.

Let us come back to our original question. Should all mothers be tiger mothers? Consider the following:

  1. There is a high chance that kids feel overburdened and pressured due to the high expectations placed on them.
  2. Children are scared of making mistakes because of fear of punishment
  3. The demand for perfectionism hinders growth.
  4. Since tiger mothers are micro-managers, children learn to be very dependent on them, and they may develop poor coping skills when they are on their own in society.
  5. When a child is always supposed to follow rules and regulations strictly, and never express what he/she truly feels, creativity and emotional growth may be stunted.

So, there it is.

Parenting is a subject about which every parent has something to talk about, and hence there will be no dearth of discussion about tiger parenting in the years to come. However, for the time being, it seems apparent that the answer to the question ‘Should every mother be a tiger mother?’ seems to be ‘No’.

Related reading: Are we helicopter parents? Or should we be?


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