I Believe In Tiger Parenting

I have been saying for years that the time to be uncompromising about parenting is from birth to about 12. Tiger Parenting is just that. Before such a term existed, I remember my years living in New York City (1982 to 2002), when some American mothers were very upset with Korean kids who frequently got into Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc. when their kids could not. Somehow they thought that this was ‘unfair’.

Meanwhile, I really admired the Koreans who came to NYC to start a business and give their kids the best possible life. The fathers came to the city and started their grocery stores, and then the families joined them about a year or so later. The family lived in a tiny apartment above the grocery store and everyone helped out with the family business, even from a young age. These parents were/are ‘tigers’ about homework, hard work, good grades, proper & respectful attitudes, and intellectually stimulating extra-curricular activities like music. These kids grow up knowing what hard work is, and that if they want a better life it’s UP TO THEM.

Amy Chua, who wrote ‘The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’, quite accurately says that being a Tiger Mom through the first 12 years means you don’t have to be a ‘Helicopter Parent’ after that.

When I was in primary school we were instilled with the idea that hard work was necessary to get what you wanted, that you might have to work harder than others to achieve the same goal, and that no matter how much you might want it to be, life was never going to be ‘fair’.

While, as a highly trained and experienced university educator, I don’t agree with many of the practices of our permissive K12 educational system, there is one thing that I do agree with: supporting kids’ self confidence. With the exception of my sixth grade class (Mr. Clark) and ninth grade algebra (Mr. Hart), my K12 experiences were generally not as engaging as they could have been. With these two instructors, learning was challenging and fun. We wanted to please these teachers and be proud of ourselves—and we worked very hard to accomplish those goals because of the classroom atmosphere these master teachers had expertly crafted.

Where modern education has gone wrong regarding the above is that it has translated ‘engaging’ too many times into ‘entertaining’—and that is a big mistake. ‘Engaging’ is when you sit forward with anticipation of a way to participate, whereas ‘entertaining’ is sitting back to see if something will amuse you. While I do very much like that young people are so much more articulate and confident than when I was in school, being confident is no substitute for knowing your facts, knowing how to solve problems and make good choices with those facts, and having a proper and respectful attitude about your place in life. There is no doubt that our K-College students have a lot of the former, but are woefully lacking in the latter.

I would go further to the idea of a Tiger Culture for our K to Primary students. That is, I feel that US schools and parents, supported by entrepreneurial investment in non-partisan expert guidance, should address any and all physical, physiological, emotional, and / or socio-economic learning difficulties and gaps in those primary years.

Just like Tiger parents, if we as a culture properly train our kids so that they have all the fundamental tools they need they will have a yearning, as they grow older, to do all they can to become productive and proud citizens. In essence, they will want to ‘give back’ to their parents and culture for so lovingly providing them with life’s keys to success.

So, I say, give children everything they need—no matter how painful; and teach them how to earn what they want—no matter how painful. This is the ultimate expression of love for children.   

Southpaugh Southpaugh
5 Responses May 5, 2012

What a wonderfull post.... so paraphrasing it ....be parents not friends to our children.

Yes, they have plenty of friends, they need parents and to be parented. It's all about being in a family environment that facilitates the incorporation of emotional and cognitive maturity into the minds and actions of young people, consistently and thoroughly. Once they have the ability to control themselves, the hard parenting work is done, and such children will then make their parent's life easier--it's just a natural response...

Couldn't agree more! How can we get this through to parents and education departments? I am so glad we went this path with our children and the rewards they reap nowadays are indescribable. Hope you told Mr. Hart and Mr. Clark how much they meant to you!

Thanks! I was, as it turns out, lucky to have 2 such wonderful teachers, because so many in my time, before, and after didn't--most teachers I had were competent, but these 2 made you yearn to please them, and this is something that has been lost. Now, young people want to consider everyone as 'equal' and call everyone by their first names. God knows we're all equal, but we need acknowledgements for our accomplishments. I teach academic and research writing in a university in the Middle East--my students call me 'Professor'. As you say, the rewards for getting kids to buckle down and get their facts, their thinking skills, and their attitude in line are indescribable, but they are also there for life once in place. The sophomores I used to teach at the University of Florida (05-08) were likeable kids, but most of them didn't have a clue about 'passion' meant--the drive to put your entire self into something you want--the endless battle to raise the bar. The only bar most of them knew about was the place they went to get drunk 3 or 4 times a week. What we take from our kids when not pushing them every single day to do everything from sit up straight and brush their teeth to doing their best each and every day in school is incalculable. I only had a few really excellent teachers, but that was enough to let me know what excellence was and that I wanted to achieve that in my life's pursuits. It took a long time, but I made it and now I am a superb professor and teacher. I know myself, I know my students, and I know my subject--and I get better with each semester I teach. I know what it takes to become one of the best of the best, and know that if we don't give this passion to our young people that we are doing a vast disservice to them and our country. The biggest problem is that once students go through 16 years of secular progressive, 'you are special' non-education, they cannot even conceive of the hard work it takes to know themselves, much less develop the knowledge and skills to even begin to find a worthwhile path in life. BTW, I never had to tell Mr. Clark or Mr. Hart how much I loved them--they knew how much all of us loved them. We showed them every day. But I had one more superb teacher in grad school and a few weeks ago I found her university in Australia and sent her a long email thanking her for being one of the best teachers I ever had. To this day I model my teaching on these three teacher, especially Mr. Clark and Prof. Best--they were absolutely the finest teachers I ever experienced--truly the best of the best. Thanks for you kind words.

As a student trained by a family of both teachers and nomads, I agree with what you say regarding education. We've been far too lackluster about it, and even though I'm quite a bit younger than you are, I have my own theories as well. I'd love to talk with you about it on a 1:1 level sometime, if you're interested.

I would love to hear about your experiences, too! Sounds like you have parents, who are similarly 'irresponsible' like ourselves, who take kids out of school to travel and home school them for periods of time... ;-) And obviously it hasn't harmed you!

@ ViewFromHeaven. I'd like that too. Tell me what you have in mind and thank you.

this is pathetic.... Now lets bring a bit of hate on one of your stories hmm? Tiger Parenting has been proven a negative. It comes with little positives. Yes the child may turn out academically smarter than some other students, but they also suffer from GREAT DEPRESSION, LOW-SELF ESTEEM and HIGH STRESS LEVELS. Studying Psych in University doesn't tell you that all those can psychologically effect your child. <br />
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Suicide. Yes those poor souls do end up commiting suicide. What for? They could find the next cure for cancer, the next football legend, the next Prime Minister! Yet they've always been told there not good enough, ended up living in negatively that, thats all they've known. It dramatically effects them later on in life. The sad thing is they disguise it so quickly.... Sometimes you don't even see the signs. There here one day, the next probably slit wrist, or hanging from a rope.... But hey. It's your own crap opinion that a higher percentage of people are against.

Fishing again are we?

no actually I'm just finishing what you started. When you haha RAN AWAY. Then you come to me and talk about 'men'. You can't even face me and I'm a woman. Most of them just can't keep away... ;D HAHA

Well, good for you...

hmmm thank-you :) too easy

1 More Response

One question: <br />
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The education system, technology and various global conditions have changed drastically since the 1980s.<br />
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With the advent of the internet, knowledge sharing has increased to a large extent. There may still be further changes ahead due to either technology and the deficient of resources.<br />
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"Tiger Parenting" may work in an environment whereby scholarship, retention of facts and obedience to authority is valued, but how can you be sure that the product (of the discipline) will be equipped to deal with a future that may value and reward other attributes?

The reason why Tiger parenting is so important up to about age 12 is that it instills into children the SELF discipline they need to meet academic and life challenges after that age. Tiger mothers are not authoritarian, but they are insistent on their philosophies of hard work, etc. An authoritarian parent does not feel the need to have or explain constructive reasons for their 'rules', but a Tiger parent always explains his or her reasoning behind what children must do. The fact is that hard work, resourcefulness, creativity, humility, focus, commitment, good problem solving abilities, self-initiation, and a good work ethic will NEVER be passe, and in my opinion, there is no such thing as a future world that would not highly reward such attributes. One might argue that maximum creativity should be the goal of education and that Tiger parenting would stifle that, but I believe that children are actually set free to BE creative when they have a good, strong foundation instilled inside them from early. Jazz musician--perhaps the most creative people on earth--all study the classical masters first, for instance. Some might say that a genius like Einstein would have been held back by Tiger parenting, but I have seen far too many 'genius' talents wasted precisely BECAUSE their parents thought of them as some kind of Hothouse Flower and not a real human child in need of real human childhoods, with all the 'NOs' included. Thanks for your comment.