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
1 Response May 5, 2012

I agree the American K12 system is a bit ridiculous and overly-kind, but at the same time I'm not angry about it. It made life pleasant for me at school. Anyway, some kind of higher standards would be nice. 'Average'=stupid for me in K through middle school, and putting in no effort was almost normal for kids. :/

But I'm not a fan for Tiger Parenting in school. Because it's harsh, yes, and it teaches you valuable things, yes, but ultimately, it's not necessary at all.