Eye Of The Tiger Mom
“MADDIE! STUDY FOR YOUR PHYSICS TEST!!!!! NOW!!!!” A pencil flies across the room. More yelling is exchanged. Ignoring my mother’s commands, I resume watching “Bob’s Burgers,” and put on my noise-canceling headphones. Bad move: I have just awoken the Tiger.
Tiger parenting. It’s the only parenting style where a child’s academics come before everything else. In this Asian parenting style, there are no such things as sleepovers, videogames, or relationships—anything that can distract these “tiger cubs” from their homework. After author/tiger mom Amy Chua proudly defended this authoritative style of parenting in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, there has been much debate over whether tiger parenting is truly superior to all other parenting styles.
As someone who’s had her own share of mental injuries from tiger parenting, I’ve come to the conclusion that tiger parenting fosters a psychologically scarring academic bootcamp for their “tiger cubs”—a rigid environment where the tiger cub is oppressed. Throughout my childhood, my Tiger mom forced upon me a series of daily verbal torture and academic commands followed by hours of viola, ACT, and homework. On multiple occasions, she withheld from me tennis tournaments, drills, and lessons to “teach me a lesson.” And one time, my tiger mom smashed my laptop with a hammer because I was getting “too distracted” with Minecraft. This was all to hammer me into an academic robot.
To a certain extent, tiger parenting “worked.” The time, money, and energy my tiger mom spent in art, tennis, and viola lessons translated into results. With her persistent commands, I won eight gold keys in the Scholastic art competition, became ranked #11 in Minnesota in tennis, and was admitted into AllState’s orchestra. Her constant lectures pushed me to work hard to reach my goals and to work even harder when I failed. Eventually, her raging expectations instilled intrinsic motivation in myself to succeed.
This Asian parenting style is also effective academically on a national scale. Amy Hsin, a researcher from the Queens College of the City University of New York, found that tiger moms are more successful in instilling a work ethic and upbringing higher-earning children compared to white parents. In addition, tiger parenting is correlated with higher GPAs and admittance to prestigious educational institutions for their children. A report found that Asians “encompass about 20 percent of enrollments at Ivy League institutions like Harvard” even though Asian Americans make up 5% of the U.S. population. Tiger parenting therefore has its merits, helping to develop academic prowess and a work ethic in one’s children.
However, tiger parenting comes with a psychological price. For me, the stress from school combined with my parents’ overbearing pressures developed my adjustment disorder, causing me to be very prone to anxiety. A study found similar findings: Tiger parents and their academic pressure likely instill psychological problems including depression in their children. With a higher probability of mental illness, the rates of suicide rise disproportionately for Asian Americans especially in higher education. For example, at MIT, 61% of the suicides between 1996-2006 were committed by Asian students. Chua disregards these claims in the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother stating, “There are all kinds of psychological disorders in the West that don’t exist in Asia.” However, Chua fails to address that compared to every ethnic group, Asian-American women ages 15-24 have the highest suicide rate and that academic pressure is a huge factor in this. And that “tiger cubs” are more likely to have negative relationships with their parents and self-image problems. In the end, the high achievements, performance, and academics that tiger parents stress is nothing compared to a loss of life.
Ultimately, tiger parenting, while academically effective, should be directed in a supportive manner. Pushing a kid is okay; but pushing a child over their mental limits could lead to conflict and psychological harm. At that point, what is the point of pushing a child if he or she will not be happy? As my mother and I pondered this question, she and I decided to enroll in family therapy to find ways to improve our relationship. Since then, our mental health has significantly improved. She has learned to trust me, giving me enough space to watch “Bob’s Burgers,” have sleepovers, and even go on dates; Meanwhile, I maintained my grades and extracurriculars. Across America, while tiger parents continually upbring math whizzes, music whizzes, and everything whizzes, keep in mind that the tiger cub’s mental health must come before academics.
Chua, Amy. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. New York: Penguin, 2011. Print.
Cohen, Elizabeth. “Push to Achieve Tied to Suicide in Asian-American Women.” CNN, Cable News Network, 16 May 2007, www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/05/16/asian.suicides/index.html.
Fang, Jenn. “Asian American Student Suicide Rate at MIT Is Quadruple the National Average.” Reappropriate, Reappropriate, 20 May 2015, reappropriate.co/2015/05/asian-american-student-suicide-rate-at-mit-is-quadruple-the-national-average/.
Oldham, Jennifer. “’Tiger Mother’ Meets Reality: Asian-American Students Struggle, Too.” The Hechinger Report, Columbia University, 12 Feb. 2015, hechingerreport.org/tiger-mother-meets-reality-asian-american-students-struggle-too/.
Park, Alice. “The Tiger Mom Effect Is Real, Says Large Study.” Time, Time, May 2014, time.com/88125/the-tiger-mom-effect-is-real-says-large-study/.
Rivas, Anthony. “Tiger Parenting Works, But At What Cost?” Medical Daily, Media Inc., 23 Sept. 2014, www.medicaldaily.com/tiger-moms-may-help-their-kids-succeed-it-comes-psychological-cost-304606.