Does the Tiger Mom Always Create Success?
Two years ago, Amy Chua, author of The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, upset a lot of American parents with her “memoir” of parenting. She asserted that Chinese mothers were “superior” to typical American moms, and put her own successful track record with her very gifted daughters on the line to prove it. The typical American parent was a weakling by comparison, so concerned with a child’s self-esteem they were crippling achievement and self-reliance.
While the “haters and praisers” went at it for more than a year, Su Yeong Kim of the University of Texas led a study team for research on over 400 Chinese-American teenagers. Their goal: to determine if the Tiger Mother style of parenting was really effective and more importantly, if it even existed. Here are a few results:
- Yes, Tiger Parenting does exist. About 28% of the families studied were classified as Tiger Parents. However, most parents (45%) were considered supportive and democratic in their child-rearing practices, while the balance was either easy-going (19%) or harsh (8%).
- Supportive parents were associated with higher grades and educational attainment and a stronger sense of family obligations.
- Tiger Parents were associated with higher levels of pressure for academics but also higher levels of depression and alienation.
- Overall, regardless of parenting type, the high achieving children with high educational attainment were also the highest in positive psychological adjustment.
- Beyond the study findings the authors do discuss that culture does set a stage for the parenting styles, so high academic expectations and family obligation are present across all parenting styles.
- Lastly, and very important, a child’s own temperament certainly plays a role in setting the parenting style. What works with one might not work with the other.
So, what’s the easy take-away from this research and the debate about Tiger Moms?
For one, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was a book aimed to shock and awe you with its hyper- parenting extremes. Arranging music lessons with famous teachers in other countries while the family was on a European vacation?? Who the heck does that?? Amy Chua does. The lead character and narrator was outrageous, condescending, and CLEAR on what she wanted from her children. She developed HER WAY to make them deliver and wrote a book, starring herself, to prove HER point. I, for one, loved the book if only for its inside view of her aggressive over the top machinations. Chua is hilarious, except perhaps to her critics.
The downside is that the Tiger Mom archetype contributed a lot to negative racial stereotyping and a weak-minded resentment of high-achieving Asian students as a whole. But if anything is held in common across several Asian cultures it’s not the Tiger in every parent, it’s the value placed on education, the honor achievement brings to the family, and the focused approach taken in the pursuit of those goals. Kim, et.al., have demonstrated that loving, supportive, parents who listen to and reason with their children get the greatest and most consistent results.