Defined by UrbanDictionary.com as a stereotypically Asian mother, the term Tiger Mom has been widely used in popular TV shows, YouTube videos, and other popular media. But, the question remains as to whether these mythical creatures actually exist and whether this style of parenting is really as effective as it’s been made out to be.
I had a friend whose mother attempted to micromanage just about every aspect of his life. She would conduct elaborate Chinese torture on him for getting a B+ in class and wake up him at 4:00 AM for “oversleeping.” And that was just the tip of the iceberg. This was in the 8th grade. His mom was a Tiger Mom.
Obviously, not all Asian mothers are Tiger Moms. And not all Tiger Moms are Asian. But, clearly they do exist. So on the next important question: is their style of parenting effective?
I would have to say no.
Case in point: my life.
My sister and I are five years apart. And though we were raised by the same parents in the same household, we may as well have been born into separate families. Our parents adopted vastly different attitudes when it came to their parenting styles.
With my sister, they were the usual, painfully stereotypical “Tiger Parents.” They drilled her with the multiplication table when she was just five, punished her for receiving anything less than an ‘A,’ and mandated that she study for hours and hours every single day. They employed mild corporal punishments to enforce their lessons, such as spanking her with the bright red plastic fly swatter or making her hold her arms above her head for two hours at a time.
The result? My sister went through a rebellious phase in high school, deliberately disobeyed my parents, and refused to concentrate on her studies.
Upon seeing the failure of their parenting ways, our parents adopted a more laissez-faire approach with me; a sort of hands-off approach. Though still emotionally present and supportive, my mother allowed me to pace my own studies, regulate my own grades, and take responsibility for myself. I didn’t suffer the same academic terror my sister went through. In the end, I was able to be more academically successful in high school even though my sister is just as, if not more intelligent than I am.
According to the sociologist Paul Tough’s findings in “How Children Succeed,” early parental behavior affects the development of children in both animals and humans. Drawing the link between high stress level and poor academic achievement, Tough argues that children who are either neglected or abused find it more difficult to cope with stress which leads to lower academic results.
Granted, Tiger Mothering is not necessarily abusive parenting. And the rubric of what is in fact good mothering is subjective. But based on my own upbringing and the experiences of those around me, I think Tiger Mothering rarely leads to the results said Tiger Mother expects. As well-intentioned as these Tiger Moms may be, their overly strict style of parenting just isn’t conducive to either the emotional well-being of the child or the child’s academic success.