What are Tiger Moms?


You may have come across the term “tiger mom” at some point during your parenting years. Every parent wants their child to succeed and excel, but in Amy Chua’s controversial book, ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, children can, and must, exceed at all costs.

A tiger mom is said to be a very strict female parent whose main concern is to make her children work particularly hard and achieve nothing less than an A-grade.

The concept of a tiger mom is mostly associated with Asian parents who are commonly known for employing strong disciplinary measures, such as not allowing TV, play dates, sleep overs or other non-academic activities. By employing these strict policies, Tiger parents aim to keep the child focused on maintaining their A-grades at school.

Many argue that this style of parenting is harsh and the concern is that it limits a child’s social performance and detracts from developing enough emotional intelligence, particularly in younger years.

But for others, tiger-parenting shows strong academic results and it is believed that that is what is most important in order to grow and succeed in the world.

During my au pair years, I joined a Chinese family who lived in Cape Town. The au pair agency who had appointed me to the family, had mentioned that the parent’s primary concern for their children was that they excel in all their school subjects, art and music. I had no idea just how strongly they felt about this, and I certainly didn’t expect to meet two children, aged four and six whose favorite after-school activity was Maths.  

After collecting the children from school, I’d take them to their after-school activities. Kumon classes were part of their everyday, extra-curriculum schedule followed by violin and harp lessons. There were no team sports, no ballet, no drama and certainly no social-skills on their weekly time-tables.

I would bring the children home at around 3pm, where they could have a quick snack before Mom brought out more ‘homework’ that she had prepared for them. Once this was done, they were allowed to choose their favourite book to read, quietly, to themselves from a book-shelf that kept nothing more than educational content like The Britannica Encyclopedias, The Oxford Dictionary and for the four-year-old, Learn To Read books, which I probably only learnt to read myself at the age of six.

By the time they were done with this, they would have to spend another half-an-hour practicing on their musical instruments. After that, dinner was served-at which point I’d leave and spend my time in traffic, thanking my parents for raising me in a home where family-time wasn’t limited to homework and practicing Maths skills with my Mother.

It may have been due to the fact that I wasn’t used to this sort of upbringing, but it seemed something was missing. Where was the laughter? Where were the games? I worried that the children might have been emotionally troubled, and probably wouldn’t have become aware of that until they were older and when they were faced with more social and emotional interactions. I personally felt sad for them, but who was I to say that they weren’t actually happy?

What do you think about Tiger-parenting?

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