The “Tiger Mom”
Updated: May 15, 2021
(image courtesy of University of California)
The term “tiger mother” (more commonly referred to as “tiger mom”) was devised in 2011 by Amy Chua, an American author and a law professor at Yale University. She coined this term in her book, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Though this term can be ascribed to parents of any ethnicity, as any parent can adopt this parenting style, it is most often attributed to Asian parents. While “Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment,” she writes, Asian parents “believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away” (Chua). In a nutshell, tiger parenting is characterized by the authoritative role of parents in their children’s lives in every aspect.
This term, along with the book, was met with much controversy upon its creation. Whereas some acknowledged the differences in parenting across households, others critiqued this parenting style by referring to it as “abusive” and “negative.” Supporters of Chua agreed tiger parenting methods were justified by her two daughters’ successes, academically and musically. They argued that this method of parenting displayed the parents’ love for their children through sacrifice and care, conveying support through high expectations and desire for success. On the other hand, critics challenged this thinking by expressing that this parenting method will not lead to desirable developmental outcomes in children. They recognized emotional support as being far more important for children’s development than financial support. While there is not a “right” way of parenting, as every family handles its household in a unique way, the term “tiger mom” has become a stereotype for Asians living in American society.
Many Asian children and adolescents are often asked, “Is your mom a tiger mom?” To children who have never been raised by other guardians than their parents, this question is certainly startling. They’ve grown up their whole lives under their parents’ care, and to learn that other children’s parents are far more easygoing can be unsettling. Some may come home and ask, “Why can’t you be more easygoing?” At least, my sister and I have asked this question countless times. My mother has always answered, “We aren’t American; we are Korean. This is how we raise children in Korea.”
While my mother doesn’t quite fit the mold of a stereotypical Asian “tiger mom,” she certainly believes in this parenting approach. Her parenting style is rooted in our success, and she displays this in her endless support for our academic success. My mother, like most Asian parents, prioritizes our education over everything else. She has reminded us numerous times, “If my money is being spent on your education, it is worth every penny.” And she lives up to her words; when I ask for test preparation books or essay editing support, she does not hesitate to spend her money. On the other hand, when I ask her to buy me a new pair of jeans, she replies, “You have plenty of clothes.” Despite her continuous financial and educational support, and though I love my mother and am grateful for the sacrifices she has made, there have been times in the past when I wished she would support me and understand me on an emotional level. This, however, is not unique to my family. In fact, this situation is common among many Asian-American children and adolescents within American society.
As the case with various cultural aspects, this style of parenting is often seen as a strange method to Westerners, who perceive it to be too rigorous or harsh. However, just as there exists various fashion styles, each household has a unique way of raising its children. Regardless of parenting style, each parent displays their affection in their own ways. As long as the child receives sufficient support from their parents, there isn’t necessarily a “right” way to raise a child.