Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tiger Mothers are Superior. Here is Why.

I really wanted to let this one pass until later, because I was in the middle of researching for and writing a big series on education in Korea, which would nicely lead into Korean American educational philosophy. But alas, the world does not turn the way I want. Professor Chua’s story about “Chinese” mothers did not blow over -- it blew up instead. Even in the news cycle that included the most important political assassination/assassination attempt in the last decade, Prof. Chua’s “extreme parenting” story continues to reverberate. In fact, it has a strong likelihood of becoming the defining story concerning education and Asian Americans of 2011, although the year is still very young at this point. That makes this topic simply irresistible -- so here it is.

But first, let us go through some caveats. First of all, we must be fair to Prof. Chua. If you still do not know, the original Wall Street Journal article is an excerpt from Prof. Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It is a memoir, not a parenting manual. Prof. Chua did not select the Journal article’s salacious title, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” In fact, it was not even an excerpt in a normal sense -- the article is a selection of the most sensational pieces of the book, scissored and stitched together to depict the most incendiary picture of Prof. Chua’s parenting, while the rest of the book actually discusses Prof. Chua’s movement away from such parenting.

Second, I am not trying to discuss exactly what Prof. Chua did with her daughters. Too many people were so outraged and distracted by Prof. Chua’s precise tactics (e.g. calling her child “garbage”) that they failed to see the point that Prof. Chua was making. I actually want to discuss what the Wall Street Journal headline provocatively suggested -- that is, are Chinese mothers superior?

(For the record, I found exactly nothing wrong in Prof. Chua’s methodology. It is hard to be outraged at calling a child “garbage” when I had several mop handles broken into my legs by the time I was 16, when I emigrated from Korea. The reaction of my wife was equally nonchalant: “I used to be thrown out of the house in a T-shirt in the middle of the winter if I didn’t practice violin. It didn’t scar me. People need to get over themselves.” But you don’t have to agree with us to buy into the rest of the post. Please read on.)

But let’s get our terminology straight first, because the term “Chinese mother” is misleading. In fact, Prof. Chua recognizes that she is using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. “Chinese mother” is not about the Chinese ethnicity; it is about a certain mindset present across all different races. But term is still misleading, if only because Americans, to their credit, are very concerned with remaining neutral with different races. So instead of “Chinese mother,” let’s use the other term that Prof. Chua uses -- the “Tiger Mother.”

Again, Tiger Mother can be from any country. Tiger Mothers are found in China, but also in Korea, Japan, Europe, Caribbean Islands and Africa. Most importantly, by all accounts Tiger Mothers used to be abundant in the U.S.

But here, I must give an apology for all non-Asian Tiger Moms, because I will use Asian Americans as my primary example throughout this post. The reason for this is twofold. One, I know Asian Americans well. I would love to discuss African Americans from the West Indies -- whose success is well-chronicled -- but unfortunately, I do not know enough to discuss. Two, Asian American parents tend to be homogeneous when it comes to parenting -- virtually all of them are Tiger Moms. This makes for a neat natural experiment. There are plenty of white American Tiger Moms, but it is difficult to isolate their population and examine their Tiger Cubs.

What are the characteristics of Tiger Mother? Koreans share an apocryphal myth about how mother Tigers push their cub down the cliff, electing to raise only the ones that climb back up. This is a good way of thinking about Tiger Parenting. Under a Tiger Mother, the Tiger Cub will go through what appears to be hellish, almost always against his own desire. Tiger Parenting demands excellence -- almost exclusively academic excellence, punctuated by high-brow hobby such as classical music -- from Tiger Cubs.

The precise extent to which Tiger Moms define excellence is worth mentioning. To Tiger Moms, the word “excellence” means its purest definition, not the watered-down “mark of excellence” given out for simply showing up. Excellence means perfection, or as close to it as humanly possible. Excellence means all A’s. Excellence means top awards, first place.

It must be noted that this demand for excellence is not out of some sadistic desire, but out of a staunch belief that excellence CAN be achieved. Prof. Chua described it well in her book: “Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough.”

Because excellence is constantly within reach, failure to achieve excellence always reduced to a single reason: laziness. And laziness is the greatest sin for Tiger Mothers. Prof. Chua explains: “That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it.” Many people are aghast at this, because they lack the imagination to think that parents who love their children would act this way. But for Tiger Moms, not treating your child this way is a sign that they do not love their children. It means that they quit believing in their children, as there is no more potential to mine. This last point is very important. All the toughness of Tiger Moms is backstopped by love and nothing else. All the pain inflicted is not designed to kill. They are designed to strengthen.

Having said all this, let us ask the million dollar question. Are Tiger Moms superior?

Of course they are. And I will show you why, after the jump.

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Can Any Parenting Method be Superior?

We have to deal with a threshold question first. Is it possible to say one parenting method is superior over another? This is, in fact, one of the most common objections over Prof. Chua’s story I have seen. “Every child is different,” the objection would go. “It makes no sense to have a single hard-and-fast rule for a myriad of different children and a myriad of different situations. Discussing what method is superior is pointless -- individuals must be treated like individuals.”

This objection seems to make intuitive sense. It also feeds right into American society’s desire for individuality. We all want ourselves, and our children even more so, to be the “special snowflake” -- different from everyone else, unable to be reduced to a formula.

But this objection is wrong. It is eminently possible for us to decide which method among many is superior. In fact, we do it all the time. Take, for example, the speed limit of 55 miles per hour for most freeways. Let’s have two radically different drivers -- NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon, and my 94-year-old grandmother who, despite being possibly the most energetic nonagenarian ever (still can walk on her own, has clear memory and carries a conversation without any problem,) would be unbelievably dangerous behind the wheel. Now, suppose Gordon drives on the freeway at 85 mph, my grandmother at 55 mph. Jeff Gordon makes a living by routinely driving faster than 100 mph without causing any injury to himself or others. He is far safer at 85 mph than my grandmother at 55 mph, who might be driving straight but may doze off and cause a fatal accident at any moment.

But if Jeff Gordon and my grandmother were both on the road, there is no question that the police would pull over and ticket Gordon for speeding while my grandmother gets a free pass. In doing so, the police failed to take into account Gordon’s individual brilliance at driving, or my grandmother’s miserable lack of it. The speed limit just caused a suboptimal result because it failed to take individuality into account.

So, is the speed limit pointless? Should we get rid of speed limit, which holds Jeff Gordon back from getting to where he wants to be as quickly as he can, while failing to eliminate the ticking time bomb that is my grandmother on the road? (I should tell you at this point that thankfully, my grandmother has never driven anything in her life -- except for her children, who respectively turned out to be school principal, successful businesswoman, professor, nurse and doctor.) Is it futile to discuss whether having a speed limit is superior to not having it, because individual results may vary?

Of course not. Whether or not you are a fan of a 55 mph speed limit, you can still rationally and reasonably discuss whether having a speed limit is superior to not having it. And the reason for your ability to do so is simple: superior systems create superior results. They may not create superior results for every single individual instances. Occasionally the Jeff Gordons of the world might be shortchanged. But the overall trend is undeniable -- having a speed limit is superior to not having one, because the speeding cars are generally more dangerous. Our streets are safer with speed limits. That makes having speed limits superior.

Truly, this is how it works for assessing any system in the world. Winston Churchill famously said, ““It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government -- except all the others that have been tried.” Churchill’s point is that while democracy may not be perfect in all situations, it still does a better job approximating perfection than all other governing systems thus tried. (And history proved him right.) Assessing any system or method -- public policy, dieting system, medical treatment method -- all depends on assessing the overall results, not individual results. It makes no sense to say that all such assessment must stop because they fail to take individuality into account. If we were to demand that every system and method cater to every last one of our individual quirks, we would paralyze ourselves from even following a cooking recipe. (“The recipe calls for a stick of butter, but I only have half a stick of butter! This recipe is terrible!”)

The Case for Tiger Moms

If we can accept the premise that a system that yields superior results is superior, the case for Tiger Moms becomes clear: Tiger Moms create superior results.

(As I said earlier, I will focus on Asian Americans because Asian Americans form a relatively homogeneous group in which Tiger Moms are prevalent.)

The relevant numbers for Asian Americans might be an old hat for some readers, but staggering nonetheless. Put simply, Asian Americans go to better schools, get better jobs and live a more stable life. Based on 2000 census, nearly 50 percent of Asian Americans have college and graduate degree, double of Caucasians who is the next highest group broken down by ethnicity. Despite being less than 5 percent of Americans, Asian Americans make up 17% of incoming Harvard freshmen. (And 29% of Harvard medical school.) Despite being less than 15 percent of Californians, Asian Americans make up 45 percent of incoming UC Berkeley freshmen. Asian Americans are most likely to be in a high-skill occupation -- the quintessential Asian doctorlawyerengineer. The median Asian American household income leads all ethnic groups of America. Asian Americans are more likely to be married, and live with their spouses.

This is a great achievement by any measure, but consider the degree of difficulty -- Tiger Moms achieved all this, despite battling still-present race-based discrimination, xenophobia against immigrants, and significant language barriers. And this is before getting into the general state of poverty and dearth of cultural capital of the first generation immigrants. Asian American parents did not have the luxury of sending their children to summer camp or the ability to read and comprehend Dr. Spock’s child-rearing techniques. They were raising their children while often putting in 100-plus hours per week in their jobs. They only had the Tiger Parenthood, and it worked.

(Aside: A commenter on this blog made this very astute observation: “[O]ne of the things about "Asian-style" parenting that I think is overlooked quite often by others is that it is an extraordinary tool for upward mobility from poorer backgrounds. Often people talk about how they're just as successful as someone else even though they didn't have as strict parents, but usually these people come from upper middle-class homes and had access to resources many of their Asian counter-parts didn't possess.” The claim “I was a successful product of laissez-faire upbringing” is modern America’s equivalent of “Let them eat cake.”)

The analogy with speed limits provides insight as to why Tiger Parenting is superior. Having speed limits is superior because in most cases, a car traveling at a high speed is far more dangerous than a car traveling at a low speed. Even Jeff Gordon traveling at 85 mph is more dangerous than Jeff Gordon traveling at 55 mph. Similarly, Tiger Parenting is superior because in most cases, giving relentless effort while squelching own desire to get lazy and quit creates the best result.

This is absolutely not to say that Tiger Parenting is perfect. It is superior, but superior is not the same thing as perfect. In fact, off the top of my head, I can suggest three improvements to Tiger Parenting:

1. I think Tiger Moms should be educated about mental health issues, in particular learning disabilities. Not every mental health issue is the namby-pamby bullshit about self-esteem. Tiger Parenting is about maximizing potential. Then it is a good idea to have a reasonable expectation on where the maximum line is. This can be done at the same time as demanding from children a lot more than what they would demand out of themselves. (Prof. Chua has a sister with a Down Syndrome who was a two-time gold medalist in swimming in the Special Olympics. It is entirely possible for Tiger Moms to maximize the potential of those who are not naturally "gifted.")

2. Tiger Moms could put more emphasis on sports. (And in fact many do, judging from young Asian American tennis and golf players.) Often, physical toughness begets mental toughness. Also, school sports is one of the few remaining areas of American schooling in which competition is encouraged and short-term sacrifice is demanded for long-term benefits. In fact, America’s Sports Dads may well be the last indigenous breed of American Tiger Parents. (Sports Dads are to be distinguished from Soccer Moms, who merely shuttle their children to practice and only give praises. Sports Dads are like Tim McGraw from Friday Night Lights -- they demand perfection from their children and rip into them if they do not achieve it.) This can be done while getting straight A’s, as many Tiger Cubs end up doing.

3. Tiger Moms could put more emphasis on part-time jobs. That American childhood education emphasizes actually experiencing real life as opposed to preparing for the real life in a hothouse deserves attention. (Unfortunately, this proud American tradition is declining. Only 33% of American teenagers -- aged 16 to 19 -- are on the labor force.) Nothing prepares for having a job in the real world like, well, having a job. In particular, working at a service industry gives one a perspective in life that is difficult to gain from any other experience. This can also be done while getting straight A’s.

These suggestions are not “balancing discipline and freedom” like many commentators facilely urge. This is not a 50-50 mixture as the term “balance” suggests. It is a complementary addition to an already superior system. Think of it this way: you can make a sports car go faster by adding an aerodynamic spoiler. But even without a spoiler, a sports car will still go pretty fast. Without a sports car, the spoiler goes nowhere.

Objections to Tiger Moms -- and Why They are Wrong

Other objectors to Tiger Parenting apparently accept that one can determine a system’s superiority by examining the system’s results. Instead, they object on the basis that Tiger Parenting actually does not produce superior results. There are two major objecting arguments -- the first I will call “roboticity” argument, the second I will call “happiness” argument.


Roboticity argument essentially makes the case that Tiger Parenting creates “robotic” children. The argument goes something like this: “Tiger Mom’s excessive focus on academics creates children who might have stellar academic credentials, but lacking in many important intangibles. Those important intangibles include leadership, social skills, creativity or critical thinking. The Tiger Cubs end up being mechanical wonders, performing great feats without joy or passion.”

There are many ways to prove this wrong, but the easiest way is to give the examples of numerous Asian Americans who directly contradict that argument. You want leadership? Eric Shinseki, a former four-star general who dared to stand up against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the number of troops necessary in Iraq was oozing with leadership. So were Chang-Lin Tien, a China-born former chancellor of University of California, Berkeley, and Jim Yong Kim, former director of WHO HIV/AIDS Department and the current president of Dartmouth College. Social skills? I am sure that Connie Chung and JuJu Chang did not become prominent newswomen by being social stiffs. Creativity? Need I remind you that the current face of classical music is Yo-Yo Ma? Or the canons of American literature include groundbreaking works by Amy Tan? Or every bride in America wants Vera Wang wedding dress? Or I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid gracefully decorates the Louvre? You want innovations? How about Jerry Yang, who came up with the first meaningful “web portal” in Yahoo, which served as a model for Google? Or Dr. David Ho, who was the 1996 Time Magazine’s Man of the Year for pioneering the use of HIV inhibitors?

The foregoing are not exceptions to the rule; they are examples of the rule. The examples contrary to the roboticity argument is so numerous (and disproportionately huge compared to the number of Asian Americans) that the argument becomes laughable. (People I did not get to mention: Seiji Ozawa, Far East Movement, Maxine Hong Kingston, Changrae Lee, Jason Wu, Richard Chai, Norman Mineta, Elaine Chao, David Chang, Roy Chung, Preet Bharara, Ken Jeong, John Cho, half of Juilliard School and numberless everyday Asian Americans with creativity and leadership.) Step out into countries that predominantly use the Tiger Parenting method, and the roboticity argument becomes even more ludicrous. Does Nintendo -- a company that made its fortune by telling a story about two Italian plumbers who eat mushrooms to grow big -- lack creativity? Did the students of Korea generate waves and waves of protest, often at the cost of their lives, to topple Korea’s authoritarian regime (implicitly endorsed by the U.S.) because they always listen to authority and lack critical thinking?

In the face of such overwhelming counter-examples, the roboticity argument lives on because of one reason: sour grapes. In the face of obvious success, people feel the need to cut down and find faults. It does not matter that there are a thousand examples of Tiger Cubs’ success. They are all trumped by the argument that starts with, “I know this one Chinese guy...” or “I have been to Korea once...” Again, Asian Americans are not the only Tiger Cubs, but they are the only ones that are obviously visible as Tiger Cubs. And when Asian Americans do everything America has expected from her immigrants -- work hard, get successful and not be a burden on the society -- suddenly, the goalposts are moved. Asian American success is somehow not real, because it is apparently a robotic achievement.

(Aside: The roboticity argument particularly is galling on a personal level because of my wife’s chosen profession as a classical musician. Because Prof. Chua’s story prominently involved classical music, many commentators threw out ignorant observation that classical music involves no creativity, or worse, that Asian American musicians are soulless machines that crank out mechanical music. It smacks of ignorant criticisms of the NBA when basketball was supposedly “too flashy” and “not focused on fundamentals” -- odious code words for “too black.” Now classical music is “too mechnical” and “lacking in beauty," because it is too yellow.)

There are two lessons to be learned from Tiger Cubs’ success. First, not every Tiger Cub turns into a doctorlawyer. A Tiger Cub with true passion is stopped by nothing, including a Tiger Mom. Vera Wang was an Olympic-level figure skater when she quit and went into fashion design. Ken Jeong of the Hangover fame was a doctor before becoming a full-time comedian. Second, and more important, relentless effort works well in every context, including those that require leadership, creativity, innovation, anything. Tiger Moms do not squelch creativity; they press down until the rubber meets the road by cultivating the basic mastery and the tenacity not to quit. In fact, that tenacity is what distinguishes hobbyists from professionals. Professionals pursue perfection regardless of external conditions, while hobbyists pursue something only as long as it is fun to do so. Tiger Cubs are professionals. Hobbyists can only hate from their armchairs.


The “happiness” argument usually goes like this: “There is no way children could be happy growing up as Tiger Cubs. Kids need time to be kids. You cannot force them to follow your idea of happiness, because they will hate themselves when they fall short. They have to be allowed to find what makes them happy on their own, and achieve that happiness.” In essence, the “happiness” argument talks about achieving happiness by achieving goals that are individually discovered and set. Material/outward success matters only to the extent it contributes to this internal self-satisfaction.

But consider this: if internally set happiness is ultimately what matters, what is wrong with being hooked up to a morphine drip and an intravenous tube, and be happy until we die? I personally have no experience with morphine, but a very good friend of mine who underwent a major surgery used to say being on morphine was the most incredible feeling. In fact, my friend liked morphine so much that one day, his wife discovered him lying motionless on his couch. He had waken up in the middle of the night to use heroin, another opiate like morphine, and overdosed. Interestingly, I did not hear anyone say at his funeral, “At least Shaun died doing what he loved,” or “At least Shaun died happy.” Maybe I was too busy crying with everyone who were lamenting the loss of a promising young attorney, husband, son and friend.

If an objector said, “But drug addiction is not true happiness,” she is walking right into my point: a huge part of true happiness is set externally, and has nothing to do with individual desires. It is not nearly enough to float mindlessly in contentment, like a drug addict would. There are immutable, objective and externally-imposed requirements for happiness. Without satisfying those requirements, “happiness” is nothing other than delusion, no different from a drug-induced high that comes crashing down when the harsh reality inevitably intervenes.

What are some of the external requirements? A sense of achievement that will live on beyond one’s own life is a big factor. Meeting an intellectual challenge tackling a sophisticated problem is conducive to happiness. So is a sense of triumph, not necessarily over other people but over your own weakness and short-sighted desire to do only what is easy. So is a sense of feeling helpful and useful to other people.

(Aside: Dr. Jim Yong Kim had an excellent quote on this topic. Dr. Kim said he wanted to major in philosophy in college, but was sternly told by his father to become a doctor instead. Dr. Kim then said: “I find myself giving that advice to students today. You know, it's great to have all these great ideals. But when you go to Haiti, when you go to Africa, they don't ask you, ‘How much do you feel for my people? How much have you studied?’ They say, ‘Have you brought anything?’”)

Also crucial is money, whether people want to acknowledge it or not. A person without money stands naked before all the elements in life. Bad things happen in life, and money wards off much of unhappiness caused by those bad things. If you get injured or fall sick, you have to have enough money to visit the doctor and make yourself healthy again. (And your society has the obligation to make that visit affordable, but that’s a separate topic.) Without money saved up for retirement, your sunset years are guaranteed to be crushingly miserable.

In right situations, money can even buy a bit of happiness -- not necessarily the permanent kind, but happiness nonetheless. Last month, I paid for my parents’ winter vacation to Florida as a Christmas present. I called them every day to make sure they were having a good time in their well-earned vacation. My mother loved the natural beauty of Everglades National Park, and my father enjoyed the scenic drive from Miami to Key West. And I was exceedingly happy that they were having a good time. Now tell me my money did not buy me happiness. I dare you.

When these external requirements are considered, one thing becomes clear: it is actually Tiger Parenting that does the superior job at providing these external requirements for happiness. Opponents of Tiger Parentings have to concede that Tiger Cubs usually end up gaining a sophisticated, professional job and earning above-average income. That much is easily more than halfway toward happiness.

But Tiger Moms also instill the internal requirements for happiness as well, albeit tacitly and indirectly. One such requirement is mental toughness, the ability to handle difficulties without paralyzing oneself with stress or fear. To this day, it is my source of strength that I survived one year of my hellish high school in Korea, which began at 7 a.m. and ended at 10:30 p.m. (Yes you read that correctly.) Trust me on this -- if and when I go into detail about what I went through at my school, Amy Chua’s parenting will look like a soft cuddly teddy bear. After experiencing that, there was no task too difficult in life -- including learning a whole new language at age 16 and learn it well enough to become an attorney.

Mental toughness feeds directly into another critical internal requirement for happiness: the ability to endure the short-term challenges for the eventual gratification. Prof. Chua made this point very well: "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences." In the post about language learning (which is one of the most popular post ever on this blog,) I made essentially the same point: "[T]here are certain things about contemporary America drives the Korean crazy, and this is one of them: the idea that the process of learning is somehow supposed to be fun. Just drop it. Forget it. What is fun is the result of learning – the infinite amount of fun when you finally put the finished product to use." And truly, the stupid insistence that every last moment of life must be fun and happy could be the greatest reason of the culture of indolence we have in America now.

Tiger Moms also instill the value of the family. Tiger Cubs might hate their parents and hate the work when young, but they almost always recognize the value of effort and sacrifice of their parents as they come to age. After all, it is not a picnic to be a Tiger Mom either. The Tiger Cubs, in turn, end up concentrating on their family, which is the surest source of happiness in all of human history.

At this point, we should take a look at a major strain of the “happiness” objection -- the argument that says “Tiger Moms cause suicide.” A typical response of this kind can be found at the Hyphen Magazine blog post about Prof. Chua’s article: “Oh look, that's my childhood. No, really. Point for point, that is my childhood. And you know, for a long time it worked. My parents had one daughter acing calculus in tenth grade. Another graduating top of her class. True, school's not that hard when you have Nothing Else to Do. That was a number of years before I tried to step off a bridge, though.” This strain often brings up the study by Professor Eliza Noh, who reportedly found that Asian American women age 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide among women of any age or racial group.

But is this right? Here is a presentation by Prof. Noh on the topic. Nowhere does she say Asian American women age 15-24 have the highest rate of suicide among all women. She does say this: “Asian American women, ages 15-24 years, have had the second highest suicide rate across race for the same age group from 1990 to 2003.” And the available data bears this out. At p. 254 of this CDC report, it shows that Asian American women age 15-24 have a suicide rate of 4.0 per 100,000 people, second only to Native American women age 15-24 who have a suicide rate of 8.9 (!) per 100,000. Is 4.0 per 100,000 the second highest rate? Yes. But it is only slightly higher than the next leading group (white, non-Hispanic), which has the rate of 3.5 per 100,000. And this is before taking into account that there are few Asian American women, relatively speaking. Even just a few more suicides from Asian American women cause a huge spike in the ratio.

But before we even parse the numbers, consider -- why do we only care about Asian American women, aged 15-24? Asian American women aged 15-24 are not the only ones who have Asian parents! In fact, when all age groups are considered, the suicide rate for Asian Americans is less than half of national average. (See pp. 202-205.) If parenting causes suicides (which is already somewhat dubious a proposition given the many intervening factors of life,) the greatest culprit for suicides in America is not the Tiger Moms -- it is the parents of white, non-Hispanic Americans, who commit suicide at the rate of 13.2 per 100,000 people, highest among all races in America.

We have to look at the flip side as well, because non-Tiger Parenting is even poorer at preventing other kinds of self-inflicted death, although such death might not be intended. It stands to reason that Tiger Cubs, who are taught self-discipline and boundaries, would not develop bad habits that ultimately kill them. And the available data bears this point out. Take drug overdose, for example. Look under “Poisoning,” which includes drug overdose. Asian Americans poison themselves to death at the rate of 1.4 per 100,000, staggeringly low compared to 9.1 per 100,000 for overall population. If we expand the circle into other undesirable behaviors that might not necessarily cause death, the case for Tiger Moms gets even better. Ever seen a big population of hyper-obese Asian Americans? Or pregnant Asian American teenagers?

Why You Should be a Tiger Mother

To recap: Through their strict methodology, Tiger Mothers are superior because they create superior results. Tiger Cubs go to good schools, get good jobs and live a more stable family life, despite what appears to be emotional abuse. Tiger Cubs do so without sacrificing leadership, creativity or critical thought as stereotypes suggest. Finally, Tiger Cubs are better equipped for happier lives, and are less likely to engage in self-destructive behavior.

But maybe I didn’t convince you. Maybe you still think that all you want for your children is for them to be happy within their own terms. Those terms do not have to be as extreme as getting hooked up to a morphine tube for the rest of their lives, but they do not have to be becoming a doctorlawyerengineer and spend 80-hour work week in exchange for a little more money either. They might end up achieving greatness if they are so inclined, but it is ok if they do not. It's their life, not yours. As long as they are happy, it does not matter.

If you still think this way, I will give you one last reason why you should be a Tiger Mother. And I will do it in a way my rhetoric teachers told me not to -- by finishing with the weakest argument. I say this is the weakest argument because if you are the type of person who is unconvinced so far, you are probably not even thinking about where this argument is going. But I make it here nonetheless, because I think it should be the most important consideration.

So here it goes: you should be a Tiger Mother because your country needs you to.

I can already hear the distant eye rolls. I just put myself in the same place as extremist nutjobs, screeching and hollering about “losing America” while stockpiling weaponry in their basement for the doomsday that only exists in their paranoid imagination. But please, hear me out.

I emigrated from a country that had its own way of happiness once upon a time. Only 150 years ago, when America was finishing the construction of transcontinental railroad, Korea was still living up to its nickname -- the Hermit Kingdom. Secluded from the rest of the world, it had been enjoying 200 years of peace. Founded under Confucian principles, Joseon Dynasty devoted its best and the brightest minds to perfect the sophisticated and esoteric Confucian theories by which the kingdom would be ruled, economy and technology be damned. Did Koreans enjoy “happiness” as we envision the term now? Certainly not. But it was a country satisfied in its own way of life, established over centuries of marching to its own drumbeat. That self-satisfaction was not good enough to prevent Koreans from losing their country. And it took 36 years and a million dead for Koreans to regain their country, only to lose half to a communist dictatorship that again killed another million.

Americans do not know what it is like to lose their country, because they never experienced it. But Koreans do; they lost their country twice in the last 100 years. If you want to get a glimpse of what it was like, try reading the history of the Righteous Army, a volunteer military with tens of thousands of soldiers who battled the Imperial Japanese army for more than a decade with muzzle-loading muskets, rocks and bare hands. Read how desperately they sought to protect their way of life, only to be mowed down by an army with superior technology. Then read about how Korean men were sent to their deaths in wartime forced labor, and how Korean women were conscripted into sexual slavery for the Japanese military.

I am not telling you this story because I fear the permanent decline and disappearance of America in the near future, although I would be lying if I said I am totally unconcerned about the possibility that the generation of my fellow Americans are taking steps toward that direction. No, I am telling you this story because I want you to understand the strength of motivation that propels America’s competitors. China’s story is more or less the same as Korea’s. Who do you think will win in a race -- a person motivated by the desire to be happy, or a person motivated by the desire to fend off death?

You might object, as many on my blog have previously objected: “Our children are precious. We do not want to debase them by making them mere cogs in the economy.” Koreans of mid 19th century said exactly the same thing: “We do not want to debase ourselves by submitting to anything other than Confucian ideals.” Then Koreans were proven wrong. It was not possible to ignore the world. Ignoring the world only brought backwardness, decline, invasion and subjugation. Pursuing their own ideals of happiness only led to the ruination of that happiness. Knowing this, Koreans are desperate not to repeat their past. There is a lesson here, and Americans need not actually experience Korea's level of decline to learn that lesson.

America became the greatest country in the world by generating the greatest wealth and power in the world. We Americans have happiness now, not because we decided to be happy, not because our parents did not abuse us emotionally. We have happiness because our previous generation sacrificed and worked hard in the face of adversity. We are the products of the American Tiger Mothers that came before us. We owe it to them not to piss away their legacy. So for god's sake, please stop being so afraid of hurting your child's feelings. You are an adult; you know better than her. She is strong enough to take whatever you can throw at her, because she is a Tiger Cub.

(And if all this still did not work, maybe this blog post at bigWOWO would work. Please do click and read -- it is a terrific story.)

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  1. Thank you for taking the time to write up this logical defense of Tiger Parenting. While there are some points that I don't agree with and never will, I think for the most part your argument is a solid, rational one. Too many parents were apt to take the original article a little too sensationally, and I doubt they took the time to think through her argument thoroughly.

    I would really, really like to discuss some of the points you bring up, but the truth of the matter is I should be writing my essay on China right now.

  2. In nature, some of the cubs that are pushed down the cliff simply die. But still, this article is way better argued than the previous one on this topic. I won't flood the comments list again.

  3. While my parents were a little more "Western" in their parenting approach many of my friends were raised in "traditional" Korean homes and while it was rough on them at times I think it really helped them to become the people they are now.

    They're intelligent, they're driven, they're well rounded, they're... amazing!

    Obviously it's hard to judge one style of parenting over another but perhaps we just need to look at the results. I'm glad I turned out to the way I am but I'd be willing to have sacrificed a lot of video gaming hours for better grades or camping trips for better job prospects as an adult.

    I for one plan on maintaing this style of parenting. That is, if I ever have kids of my own.

  4. I really liked reading this, even though I was not convinced. And your last reason was a good one, actually, at least as an explanation as to why you are so impassioned about this.

    "Tiger parenting" (still sounds weird to me) involves, first and foremost, paying quite a bit of attention to your children. I can't help but imagine that anyone raised with that much attention paid to them is going to turn out to be a bum, junkie, or freak. Certainly, I cannot think of anyone that had great attention to them growing up that turned out unsuccessful. In fact, a friend of mine did grow up quite poor and non-Tiger parented (although certainly disciplined) and ended up a lawyer.

    That is, of course, anecdata, but so is much of the post to which I'm responding, which is to be expected because of the fuzzy nature of the topic.

    Also, I have to say, surprisingly, I agree that parents would do well to place more emphasis on sports, or at least physical development, rather than just view it as a distraction to studying. I regret (slightly) that I did not learn how rewarding it is to truly exert oneself physically in trying to impose one's will on an opponent until my twenties.

    Finally, I will pick just one (1) nit among your examples:

    "Does Nintendo -- a company that made its fortune by telling a story about two Italian plumbers who eat mushrooms to grow big -- lack creativity?"

    Shigeru Miyamoto, who came up with the plumbers as well as most of Nintendo's other early, establishing successes, has been interviewed many a time. And he always attributes ideas like that to his extensive childhood experiences wandering around forests and neighborhoods, rather than time spent in a cram school. I don't doubt that some tiger-ism was present in his upbringing, but it does not sound like he was thrown out of the house for not studying et al. I'm not at all sure he's a product of a tiger mother.

    I don't believe that people raised by tiger mothers are robots. However, if you are raised to look down upon, say, school plays or drawing or composing, it is far less likely that you will put in the hours to develop the skill and feel to express your inventiveness and creativity.

  5. I don't think one has to be as intense as a Tiger Mom to invest in a child's education. Who says that the choice has to be between Tiger Mom and laissez-faire parenting? How about letting your children demonstrate their natural abilities and then, keep track of their progress? If they are where they need to be, then no intervention is necessary. If they are falling behind just a little, then parents can intervene. Children are not mindless drones that must be pushed at every moment. Parents just need to know their children, understand them, and adapt their approach accordingly. Blindly pushing children is just a waste of time and causes unnecessary stress. Just be involved with your children's education, encourage them, and provide them with the support they need. You don't need to hound your children to make sure that they are on top of things. At some point, children need to be given responsibility for their own grades/performance. And if they show signs of slacking, then parents can take more proactive measures. But parents have PLENTY of time before high school to make sure that kids develop these skills of self-discipline. Parents are responsible for setting a good example, checking up on their kids, and creating an environment that nurtures success. The rest is up to the child.

  6. You have presented an excellent defense, and I agree with most everything you said. I like that you pointed out that Tiger Mothers should not discount part-time work; I've held a job since I was 15, and I think I'm much better off because of it.

    I would say that I was raised by the Italian-American version of the Tiger Mother, and it paid off well - I graduated valedictorian from middle and high school, magna cum laude from Yale University, and am currently living in Korea doing an intensive (and fully funded!) Korean language program at Sogang University before beginning a Master's degree. However, I recall my childhood with distinct unhappiness. I had very few friends growing up and was bullied from a very young age for the very things that Tiger Mothers take pride in - academic success, success in music, success in sports, diligence, etc. I remember a bully in fifth grade who, as one of the "cool girls," managed to get nearly everyone I knew to call me a nerd, a loser, and to make fun of me for every little thing. That girl barely graduated high school and went on to get knocked up at 19, but the damage was done; the reputation followed me for almost the entirety of my pre-college educational career, and it profoundly destroyed my self-esteem and self-respect. I remember telling an older cousin that I would trade every bit of success in academia, every good grade, every award, every accolade, for a day in which I could experience social popularity. I was bitter and often resented my parents, particularly my mother, for her insistence on total success. Didn't she see, I thought to myself, that she was ruining my life?

    Prof. Chua's article (as well as your defense of it) have made me reconsider why I was unhappy, and if my parents were truly to blame. But rather, I'm beginning to suspect that the problem lies in the American mindset, which you certainly touched upon. I've lived in Korea for 9 months now, most of my close friends are Korean, and I've noticed that even young students hold a reverence for intelligence and success. Often the smart kids are not bullied or teased; they are well-liked and respected for their achievements. This does not seem to be the case in America, the land of "just try your best and if you fail, oh well." America's disdain for intellectualism is one of the reasons why people like Sarah Palin are even taken seriously by anyone - she's a regular old American, no fancy degrees and no fancy words - just like everyone else! And if it's gotten to the point where it has led even our children to hold success in similar disregard, then that's the real problem. Your point that America needs more Tiger Mothers is, in my opinion, a valid and not weak by any standard. I believe if there had been more Tiger Mothers around me when I was growing up, I might not have felt like so insecure and ostracized, and I also believe that it would make for a much, much more worldly and intelligent America.

    I will be a Tiger Mother. I just hope dearly that the clime has changed somewhat when my kids face the scrutiny of their peers, because it isn't Tiger Motherhood that destroys a child's self-esteem. And don't think it hasn't crossed my mind that I might have to send my kids to Korea to be educated, either.

    As an aside, kudos to the Korean Wife for being a classical musician - my best friend (Korean) is a cellist, and I have met tons of passionate and talented Korean musicians, some who even play for the Seoul Philharmonic! They are fabulous and successful people who are entirely deserving of their fame!

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  8. Though this sort of parenting would probably produce very disciplined people, are all of the Asian Americans listed successful as a result of being raised by Tiger Parents? It seems possible that first generation parents might not be able to effectively communicate their intentions to their second generation children, resulting in children that dislike their parents and refuse to listen to whatever positive message their parents might be telling them.

  9. I saw this article in the Wall Street Journal, and thought it was pretty interesting at the time. I know you said you were only going to talk about Asians, but I just wanted to offer my perspective as an Ashkenazi Jew.

    I should just start by saying that I am not necessarily representative, though I did go to private Hebrew day-school from kindergarten to 12th grade, so I knew quite a few other Ashkenazi Jews with similar situations.

    I think it's safe to say that, like Asians, we Jews have done well for ourselves since immigrating to the states. To give some stats: Jews are under 2% of the U.S. population, yet make up 30% of Harvard and UPenn's student body. We're less than 0.2% of the world's population, yet received 22% of the world's Nobel Prizes (37% of the US's). We're responsible for the likes of Einstein, Freud, Jonas Salk, etc. Anyway, my point is that, like Asians, the accomplishments of Jews seems anomalous.

    What I think is really interesting about Jews is for us, the Asian form of "TIger Mom" is very difficult. We are always taught to question everything. Torah study isn't based on memorization, but rather based on questioning, which is why most of Jewish law and texts are not dogma, but rather lengthy discussions of what a text means. At my Hebrew school, if you didn't say something in class, there was a pretty good chance that a teacher would want a word with you after class. I guess what I am saying is that I think obedience wasn't as emphasized.

    However, it's true that regular American parents are soft. In my Hebrew school, 1/3 of your day was Hebrew/Jewish stuff, and the rest was secular study. I had way more work, especially homework, than my neighbors in public school. It is amazing to me the entitlement mentality that many Americans express with the absolute laziness on the part of American students. You had to do well in school. Someone not graduating my school would have been a huge scandal. Heck, someone not getting a 4.0 was a scandal and it affected you a lot in the Jewish community.

    Though many Jewish parents are like Western parents in that the parents really do encourage you to do things you love. It's true that school is important, but I would say that there is more flexibility among Jewish kids. I've often asked myself why it seems that this seems to work. Don't get me wrong: my mom was absolutely saying I had to get A's all the time growing up. I was never insulted or called garbage for school-related things, though maybe "weak minded" for some act of violence against my sibling.

    I think the reason Jews are able to maintain the ability to emphasize questioning authority, and following your passions, as well maintain school performance is because of the social structure we have set up.

    As I said, I went to Hebrew school; getting a Jewish education is considered very important. But the system of Hebrew schools has been around since the old unit of Jewish living: the Shtetl. The Shtetl was a small village of basically all Jews in Eastern Europe and Russia. It lasted for about a millenium. Within the Shtetl, there was an incentive structure for Jewish boys -- here's how it worked:

  10. There was no class structure within the Shtetl; everyone was pretty much poor due to statutes put up by the countries against Jews. So what happened is that boys would start Hebrew school at around three years of age. From that moment, you're being watched. Your ability and perceived intelligence, particularly in Torah study basically determines your life outcome. If you're smart: you will be encouraged to train for a good job, resources will be spent on you, you have more ability to marry a pretty girl from a family who can pay a dowry (matchmakers, ya'dig?), you'll be encouraged to have lots of kids, and people will seek you out for advice. This, in turn, increases your reputation. And I assure you, this validation feels great and offsets any "meanness" by your mom. It was almost total meritocracy. The town rabbi's son had a slight bit of caché, but yeah, you needed to do well in Hebrew school, no questions asked. The incentives were there, and maybe that's why we can be more laxed.

    It even carries over into the US today. I can remember countless times my mom saying "You have to do X because smart guys get the pretty girls." At my high school, there were jock type guys who would have been the popular guy at a public school, but because they were perceived as lazy and dumb, they usually didn't get very far socially.

    I'm not gonna lie: there is no doubt in my mind that many Jews take on the Western view of Asian intellect: that it is largely rote and not based on any level of substance. Be that as it may, there is one striking similarity between Asian and Jewish parents that Chua points out very well in her article and it's the notion that American parents assume weakness in their children.

    I have never understood this mentality, partially because almost all my friends growing up were Jews. But it's really a self-fulfilling prophecy: if you assume your kids can't be something because they can't do it while they claim they're trying, they really won't be able to improve much. Kids can smell your expectations, and they're going to shoot a little lower anyway; might as well expect perfection.

    And this is something that I always am amazed that a lot of Americans haven't figured out. All of this tough love that Asian and Jewish mothers use isn't about hating your kids. It's about the simple acknowledgement that everyone is always capable of more than they think. That's not so heartless, is it? Even most Americans would admit it. When they think back on the most influential people in their life, it's almost always the person that expected more out of them than they believed they could achieve, the person who really pushed them and tested their metal. Yet for some reason, a lot of Americans don't connect the dots and act as that heroic great influence for their children. My parents did, and I don't hate them. In fact, I love my parents more than anyone for their belief in me, which was undoubtedly what the "tough love" was. In retrospect, calling it tough love even sounds harsh: they just had undying faith in my ability. And it really does make a difference in your skill set. It's amazing how much you can accomplish as a kid, and how many American children are ignorant of that fact, largely due to their parents soft rearing techniques.

    Anyway, I thought the Journal article was hard to read because it did seem sort of cruel from the Jewish perspective, even though there isn't much difference. But yeah, I think the systems are quite similar. Just to give an example: When I graduated my Hebrew high school, there were more Chinese immigrants (in the US for less than a year), than there were non-Jews in the school. No Koreans as far as I can remember...sorry.

    I do hope that the average American kid gets their act together. I really liked your take on this article, by the way. I have no idea if you found this stream of consciousness about the Jewish way interesting, but there ya' go.

  11. Thanks for the props to the Sports Dads! My dad was a total Sports Dad. He made me play goalie in soccer, even though I hated it, because I apparently was "good at it." My response was to spend hours of my free time in fifth and sixth grade kicking a soccer ball against the back wall of the house with my left foot, so I could be good enough to play the midfield. I didn't really want to play the midfield, but anything was better than being a goalie, and no coach of preteen girls can ignore a player who's both serious about the game AND has a good left foot.

    Also, God Help Me if I disobeyed my mom. "Just wait till your father comes home" wasn't just a line from a sitcom in my home. There were lots of other strict ("crazy" by American standards these days) rules my parents had - like a 9:00 bedtime through my senior year of high school.

    Most of my friends growing up were disciplined by their fathers in the "Tiger Mother" way. It seemed expected that Dad was supposed to hold the discipline of the family, and mom was supposed to be the softie. I feel like I understand what Prof. Chua was saying much better now that I think of my Dad being a Sports Dad rather than my Mom being a Tiger Mom. Thank you very much for the article.

  12. A very rousing defense for Tiger Mothers indeed tK. Very well thought out, but I would like to add one more item to the list of possible improvements to the Tiger system of parenting. I think demanding excellence in many different fields including ones that kids may not "like" to start with has merit, but at what point do we give license to kids to make their own life decisions? I'll grant that at adolescent or younger ages it is appropriate to impose the strict discipline of Tiger parenting on kids and insist they do certain activities they may not have particular interest in. My problem I think with *some* Tiger Moms is they do not know when to relinquish their strict controls, which in the end breed a lot of the resentment unhappy tiger cubs have later in life. I don't think it's unfair to say many Tiger Moms will continue to shape a cub's decision making well beyond their 18th birthday.

    In fact I think your Ken Jeong example is actually kind of a illustrative example of a person who was forced to follow his Tiger parenting for too long. He should not have had to go through medical school and become a doctor before he was "allowed" to follow his real passion. I'm not really sure what Ken Jeong's circumstances were if he was kind of "forced" to finish medical school before he decided to pursue comedy, or if he simply decided that he would get his doctoral degree and make that his contingency plan if comedy didn't work out. Either way, I can't help but think if there isn't some better path he could have taken to get to comedy than that... Surely he is quite an exception to the asian american norm...

    So that being said, I would like the improved Tiger Mom 2.0 to be able to determine when a real passion for another pursuit should be followed or encouraged at an earlier age, without having to make kids have such elaborate contingency plans. Who knows how much further along Ken Jeong would have been in his career if he had gone into comedy sooner. We really can't know.. It is hypothetical, but it is possible if not likely many other potential actors and comedians have been forced to become doctor/lawyers without ever following their true passions, because they were not able to cultivate their passions because they HAD to put all their efforts elsewhere.

    It is a pretty hard line to draw, I will admit, no Tiger Mom will believe that entertainment/comedy would be a viable career path and of course Tiger Moms being so pragmatic would have a hard time encouraging that pursuit. I myself do not know exactly when the appropriate age would be to let someone start determining their direction. 13? 16? 18? 21? I think if we force them along a path too long it may be too late for them to change paths like Ken Jeong did. I really really hope there is some way to fuse the practicality of encouraging the pursuit of certain career types and finding a way to encourage kids to follow their passions earlier in life rather than later when you in some cases can miss a crucial window of opportunity.

    In this vein, I'd like to mention among your other examples of asian/american excellence: Jeremey Lin, if you haven't yet, who this NBA season became the first Asian/American drafted to an NBA team. He also happened to be attending Harvard at the time. I'm certain his parents were Tiger parents as well, but they let him pursue basketball, a sport asians are not particularly known for, and a sport with VERY low potential for being successful in. I think he is a good example of Tiger Cub 2.0 in that he was allowed to pursue his passion early enough to be successful in something typically not considered to be an area Tiger cubs are allowed to pursue seriously. Props to him and his parents..

  13. Good argument, but flawed (in my humble opinion) in a few areas. First, I generally agree with 'itissaid' parenting viewpoint. But, I also support the Tiger Parent model (to a limited, selective degree).

    Regarding your argument, it proceeds well until your paragraph on Roboticity, which is grossly misleading due to biased samples. First, you assume all your samples are brought up via the Tiger Parent model because of their Asian heritage. Furthermore, because (or despite) of this assumed Tiger upraising for all these samples (which is not 100 definite, say in the unique childhood of Eric Shinseki) they have these positions and characterists, which smacks of Post Hoc. Yet, you site these as "overwhelming counter-examples."
    I agree the persons are overwhelming only insofar as their achievements.

    To take it a step foward, I support the Roboticity claim in the Tiger Parent model -- but only in children. I don't believe robotic (i.e. sufficiently conditioned) children become robotic adults. Tiger Parents produce a certain robotic nature in children. It is not "sour grapes" but simple logic. And since was roboticism was inherently bad? The Tiger Parent directs the Tiger cub with fixed boundaries and 'severe' sticks and carrots so the cub will not stray. Reminds me of the psychology of soldiering. The Tiger Parent demands a certain roboticity to achieve repeated results. Then, as the cub grows, it is up to the cub to keep the baby (the displine, etc) and possibly dump the bathwater (the fixed boundaries). But if one is taught violin from the age of 4 and becomes an accomplished creative musician, that is a valuable acheivement meritable to the Tiger Parent. But at the same time, one cannot deny the habitual (robotic) nature of the musician's path. I'll stop here, but for one more perception. The established boundaries are difficult to overcome. Mr. Gnome said it better than I:

  14. Before I read the post itself I'd just like to say I appreciate the shout out to West-Indian Tiger moms. I'm from Grenada and my mother and father both came from very poor backgrounds, but thanks in part to their parents (my grandparents)they're a doctor and a lawyer today.

  15. Indeed the rhetoric teachers of The Korean did a good job!

    Then I guess I must be stupid for not being convinced after all those strong arguments. Or maybe it is because one's brain always justifies the way it thinks.

  16. Hm, okay I agree with the basic structure and foundation of Tiger Parenting but I feel like it has some dumb holdouts that can and should go.

    Firstly, there are many ways to motivate your child that are just as effective as shaming and degrading him or her or breaking a broomstick on their leg. That doesn't need to be a part of demanding excellence. It may the easiest way, using fear and physical discomfort, but I don't think it's the best way.

    Secondly, the scope of what can be considered part of an excellent child should be broadened. Why must it either be piano or violin? I feel like that's a holdout from older days when those were the really respected instruments. There are many, many extracurricular activities around and mastering one would net you as much respect and personal growth as almost any other.

  17. > The foregoing are not exceptions to the rule; they are examples of the rule. The examples contrary to the roboticity argument is so numerous (and disproportionately huge compared to the number of Asian Americans) that the argument becomes laughable

    This would be a stronger essay if *all* of it had statistical backing, not just a few points like the ones about academic performance or suicide rates.

    People cite anecdotes about robotic or unhappy Asian-Americans they know, and you cite some famous creatives back at them? That isn't a decisive refutation. (With millions of Asian-Americans, even with a soul-deadening process, one would expect quite a few survivors...)

  18. orientalright (formerly Asian of Reason) -- the Korean told you already to get your little racist ass out of this blog.

  19. Henrique, your comments are always welcome.


    If they are where they need to be, then no intervention is necessary.

    Ok, where do they "need to be" then? B+? Honorable mention? Average among every children who try the activity? Why are these things better than excellence?

    The rest is up to the child.

    NO IT'S NOT. Left to their own devices, the child almost inevitably gets lazy and quits. This is true for overachievers also. If you have more room to grow, why leave that growth on the table? "Unnecessary stress"? Handling stress is part of life.


    are all of the Asian Americans listed successful as a result of being raised by Tiger Parents?

    That's a fair point. But there is no other good way of isolating Tiger Cubs unless everyone submitted his/her parenting experience. Even if a few of the listed Asian Americans did not exactly the fit the definition, the Korean is comfortable saying that Asian American parents are generally Tiger Moms, which makes Asian American success generally attributable to Tiger Moms.

    Dan, that was fascinating. Thanks.

  20. brutus,

    at what point do we give license to kids to make their own life decisions?

    This one can truly be flexible depending on the child, the Korean thinks. The Korean's personal rule of thumb is junior year in college, when people start declaring their major.

    The Korean LOVES Lin, but he is hesitant to call Lin a "success" until Lin can get out of D-League.


    since [when] roboticism was inherently bad?

    That's a good point, but people who make the roboticity argument considers it a negative. As you use the term, the Korean thinks it is something like this: when Derrick Rose of Chicago Bulls goes into his killer mode and starts scoring at will, he has been described as "robo-shooting" -- as a compliment. Basically like saying he is so good he is automatic. But that is not the way the critics use the term.


    there are many ways to motivate your child that are just as effective as shaming and degrading him or her or breaking a broomstick on their leg.

    Agreed. But all options must be available.


    People cite anecdotes about robotic or unhappy Asian-Americans they know, and you cite some famous creatives back at them?

    Well, there is no measurement for leadership or creativity. And the critics love saying "Asians Ams are not creative," etc. without acknowledging the many (not some!) creative Asian Ams.

  21. @The Korean stud:

    This has to be the most passionately written piece and the most compelling read in favor or Tiger Parenting I've come across. I am in awe! Great job!

  22. First off,

    "that Asian American musicians are soulless machines that crank out mechanical music."

    Whoever claimed that ought to watch Hanna Chang on her Cello when she plays Haydn. ( :D

    I think one mistaken assumption that everyone make is that 'academic excellence as the sole value' is inherent in the concept of "tiger parenting", rather than excellence in general. "Willingness to push the children to do and achieve their utmost best by any means necessary" is what I would consider a proper definition of tiger parenting, and most of these arguments against it (roboticity, especially) seem misdirected.

    I certainly didn't like it when my parents hit me for not doing my homework or lazing around when I should be doing something else, but that doesn't mean I was unhappy. They were also incredibly nurturing to both my academic and creative side, and never in my life did I doubt that they loved me.

  23. @tK
    Sounds about right, I probably made my career path decision around that time, I would just like more Tiger parents possibly to recognize talents of Tiger cubs in other fields at a younger age and let them develop rather than forcing certain guaranteed career paths that detract from their passions. Also, just to clarify, Jeremy Lin is not in the D-League anymore, he is currently an active player on the roster of the GS Warriors. He has played in NBA games and scored his first points of his NBA career against the Lakers. Sure he's probably not going to be an All-Star in the NBA, but making it to the NBA in itself is very impressive, and he's earning $500k for his first year with a 2 year contract. I think even Tiger parents would have to consider that a success. I should also correct my earlier statement about him being the "first Asian/American drafted by an NBA team", he isn't, rather he is the first American of Chinese/Taiwanese descent to be drafted.

  24. Sorry brutus, but Warriors reassigned Lin to D-League recently. It broke the Korean's heart -- he was hoping like hell that the Lakers would sign Lin. But hopefully Lin will come back stronger.

  25. This describes ANY overly obsessive parents! There are American parents who pushes their kids in sports beyond their skill levels and desires? Making your kids do piano lessons beyond bathroom breaks and late hours, that's extreme! These parents need therapy instead of praise!

  26. Dang, I guess I missed that announcement. It seems he is still trying to turn that into a positive, allowing the D-League to give him a chance to improve himself and show he can play at the NBA level. His achievement is still remarkable, I hope we see more of him, and others see his example and realize Asians can excel at other things besides the usual standbys.

  27. So do Tiger Parents eschew Montessori schooling for being too lax? Or do they allow it to a certain age, when serious school must be started? Is there any respect for the method which relies on self-motivated students?

  28. Cannot agree with you more. My tiger parents with less than high school education manage to put 3 of their kids through college. I made a mistake of not being a tiger parent and of my two kids only 1 will finish college and the other one became a father at age 21Like they say no pain no gain.

  29. I hate the robotic argument. 2 additional comments to this.

    First, don't you need to know the rules before you start breaking them. That's how people become innovative in their field. There is never going to be a great musician if you don't know, backwards and forwards, all your chords, speed, timing, counting, etc. That's rote memorization. Once you learn all the rules then you think of ways you can break the rules. Same in science, sports, law, accounting, writing, etc. Learn the basics then figure out where to toe the line.

    Second, I think this is a prime example of how education is the key to breaking the cycle.

    My father works with a lot of Chinese factories who he claims are excellent copiers of products (and cheaper). This is where I think the robotic term comes from, if you have 100 Chinese factory workers doing the same thing then yes, it looks robotic. However, the owners of these factories are products of the Cultural Revolution. No education, no stable structure growing up. He gets frustrated when he suggests an improvement to the original and they can't wrap their brain around it. However he is very hopeful that next generation of factory owners are fully educated and we expect them to be able crank out the most creative, innovative and cheap stuff. That level of critical thinking was lost on a whole generation of Chinese.

    Just saying that no matter what you do it might be robots at first, but once mastered then you go to the next level.

  30. [I apologize for the length of this!]
    Reading this, the first post about Professor Chua's article, and the link you provided at the end of this post has really hit me hard.

    I didn't grow up with "Tiger Parents". I mean, they loved me, obviously, and always wanted me to succeed, but I don't remember ever being pushed. It makes me a little sad, and honestly, a bit jealous of “Tiger Cubs”. Who knows where I’d be now if I had been raised differently.

    I’m afraid, at least in the back of my mind, I’ll doubt how much faith they have in me. It’s one thing to hear “We’ll be happy no matter what you do!” after receiving a bad grade; it’s another thing to hear “This is good, but we know you can do better!” after receiving an acceptable grade. I just worry that now I’ll find myself accepting mediocrity more than I used to.

    I love my parents and I know they did what they saw best. I just wonder, "What if they had pushed harder?" I could've handled it. I'm naturally emotional, but a bit of crying has never hurt anyone.

    Obviously I'm old enough that I'm responsible for my own future now, but what about when I was a child? Of course I didn't want to do my math homework when I was a teenager; of course I hated playing the piano; of course I didn't want to try out for softball again after not making it the previous year. It sucks to feel like a failure, and my thinking was: if I don't try again, I won't have to fail. Not a good mindset. But I was a child, that's what made sense to me.

    I loved math and I was good at it... until I wasn't good at it anymore. I hated feeling stupid, so I gave up. Somehow I managed to pass the AP Calculus exam, but after that, I stopped taking math classes. I felt like I was behind everyone else [I attribute that, in part, to teaching style]. I decided to focus on history, my other favorite subject. But I have never felt the same while studying history compared to how I felt while working on math.

    Sometimes I if I'd enjoy college work more if I was majoring in math or engineering. I find that it's hard, even at 19, to motivate myself to read for these classes. Maybe I should have been smarter to realize that my passion truly was (and is still) math before I entered college, but here I stand. I'm a senior who is graduating this spring, working on completing a major in my second, not my first, favorite subject. And that sucks. I'll be happy when I graduate, sure. But I wish I was working on a math problem right now, instead of falling asleep reading about some historian's theory.

    Of course I realize I'm partly, maybe even completely, to blame. I'm lazy, I know it. I have a hard time finding motivation and it's difficult for me to stay focused on any one thing. I have anxiety problems and even knowing that, I still don't do my homework in enough time. This is all my fault. But at the same time, I think, like I said before, "What if my parents had pushed me? Would I be like this? Would I be at a different college, majoring in a different subject? What if, what if, what if?"

    I have a lot of plans for the future. I want to really improve my Korean; I want to take math classes again; I want to go to school so I can be a better ESL teacher in the future... I only worry that these things will all become "dreams" instead of "plans", just like my engineering major has become a "dream".

  31. Now, instead of rambling about my life more, I wanted to touch on some of the points that the Korean made.

    -I think that most people in general need to be a bit more educated when it comes to mental health issues. I don’t know if you would classify my anxiety disorder as “namby-pamby bullshit about self-esteem”, but I know that it’s a real disorder that can affect my ability to perform at school, and has nothing to do with my self-esteem. It’s hard to concentrate on a lecture when you’re having a panic attack that seems to have come out of nowhere. When it comes to mental disorders like depression and anxiety, it’s best to find ways to work with these disorders (in addition to counseling), not try to ignore them and shrug them off as “self-esteem” issues. [Not saying that’s what you’re doing or suggesting, I just know that it’s easier for many people to ignore real problems because they don’t understand.]

    -Part time jobs. It’s not as easy to get one anymore. Most places (at least where I live) won’t hire teenagers because 1) there are enough out-of-work adults to take these hourly jobs, 2) these adults have more skills than teenagers just entering the job market, and 3) it can sometimes cost the businesses more money to employ teenagers. Many places simply are not hiring. Personally, I’m a fan of volunteering. It’s a good way to spend your time and you still gain important skills. I volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club in my neighborhood and learned how to work with other team members to facilitate learning activities for the children, how to manage my time, and how to respond to certain needs. Learned more there than I ever learned making sandwiches at Subway. I think the most important part is learning the responsibility of showing up on time, performing required duties, and doing it all with out showing your frustration.

    -Mental toughness is something I personally could use more of. I get bored easily, I get frustrated easily, I’m an “instant gratification” kind of person. And that’s a little difficult to change as a young adult, but I’ll sure try. It would be easier if I had learned that as a teenager, at least, but it is what it is. I’m honestly going to repeat this line in my head when I want to give up on a Korean lesson / history reading / history paper / etc.: “The idea that the process of learning is somehow supposed to be fun. Just drop it. Forget it. What is fun is the result of learning – the infinite amount of fun when you finally put the finished product to use.” I won’t always have “fun”, that’s not possible, but I know just from experience that I have fun when I am able to use something I learned in Korean consistently, or I’m able to share an interesting fact about history with my friends. That’s something I’ve seemed to have lost since graduating high school and I really want that feeling back. I just have to realize that the road to that feeling isn’t all sunshine and daises, but it sure does feel good in the end. Fighting through the frustration, headaches, and tears (like I said, I’m emotional) will just show me that I am capable in the end.
    Anyway, thank you for this post and the others. It’s made me think critically about where I am in my life, how I got here, and what I can do moving forward. Sorry about anything that doesn’t make sense in either of my comments because I’m a rambling fool sometimes.

  32. Despite my attack against the Tiger Mom approach on the previous post, I'm actually fully in agreement with it in terms of overall philosophy. I very much believe in pushing kids to be the best that they can be, by setting the standard at perfection. It's just that I think the methods by which you push this philosophy are best served by the taking into account the context of the individuals involved, both parents and children.

    And that's why I rail against a one-size fits all approach to parenting--even Chua herself discovered that her approach failed with one of her daughters and led her towards a suicide attempt. I definitely believe it's important to set the bar as high as you can, but once you establish a baseline, I think it's important to make adjustments in approach and expectation based on the individual. For example, if my child were born blind, I would strike any expectation of them becoming a driver. Would I still expect them to excel at anything else they would reasonably be able to excel at? Yes.

    And as I notice problems with the approach and a child, I would adjust the approach accordingly. The moments my parents took off the micromanagement approach and only left me with the expectation of academic and extracurricular excellence, I actually started excelling, but until then, I languished. The philosophy of the Tiger Mom was intact--in terms of expecting nothing less than excellence--but the micromanagement aspect, where you say "YOU MUST STUDY CALCULUS 90 MINUTES A DAY" and "NO GOING OUT WITH YOUR FRIENDS UNTIL YOU DO X" was gone and as long as I was achieving that excellence, they stopped trying to interfere in how I got there. I aced school, got into multiple prestigious schools and have done pretty well for myself.

    I think imposing some structure is necessary as children are younger, because they have to learn the structure at first, but as they develop, I feel like the micromanagement aspect becomes less important for the self-directed and remains important for those that aren't. Also important is to never let your children believe (note: not *feel*, but believe) that you don't love them or only love them on the condition that they are succeeding.

  33. TheKorean,

    Ok, where do they "need to be" then? B+? Honorable mention? Average among every children who try the activity? Why are these things better than excellence?

    You're projecting. I think where children need to be is doing THEIR best even if that is a C in the end. As long as they put in the effort to do their best, that is all that matters. Of course, if they do get B's, parents can work with their children on those areas to help them improve. Parents need to understand that learning is a PROCESS and some things may take longer than others to master. Everyone has different natural abilities. Do not limit your children, but acknowledge the process, helping your children as needed.

    I said that "The rest is up to the child," to which your responded:

    NO IT'S NOT. Left to their own devices, the child almost inevitably gets lazy and quits. This is true for overachievers also. If you have more room to grow, why leave that growth on the table? "Unnecessary stress"? Handling stress is part of life.

    I said that parents should intervene when their children start to slack, but in general, parents should nurture independence and self-discipline skills. Learning does not have to be stressful. Yes, stress is part of life and one needs to know how to handle it. At the same time, there is no reason to make activities more stressful when they are inherently not.

    I agree with a previous commenter. I think you are so pro-Tiger parenting because it worked for you, but that doesn't mean that it is right for others. I think what works about Tiger parenting is the active involvement of parents. But one can have the active engagement of parents in children's learning without being cruel or harsh or unnecessarily demanding. All that is required is that parents care and get involved in their children's learning. Learning without the trauma.

  34. I think Tiger Parenting also works best in an environment in which the need for achievement, and strict measures to reach it, is common. Here, the line might be drawn between those who later appreciate such a disciplined upbringing, and those who come to despise their parents/ activities they were pushed into/ life at the time. What I mean is a social environment encompassing not only home, but school and the general community. This type of environment is created by the predominantly Asian American communities that crop up in the wake of immigrants. Another form of it was seen in a previous commentator's Jewish school and community. This is where advanced academic programs come into play to create this environment that might not otherwise exist in American schools. The surroundings of the all support a good work ethic, discipline in all things, etc.. As other commentators pointed out, in many American school situations, exceptional grades and achievements are seen in a negative light. Not to say that a child can't excel without this context of hard work and strict parenting, but I dare to say this might be where Tiger parenting becomes unfortunately, developmentally difficult for the child. or something.

  35. Tiger parenting probably affords children an advantage as long as most parents aren't doing it. When EVERYBODY does it, though, you start to have problems. For example, I think it is safe to say that tiger parenting is fairly common in modern day South Korea. Certainly, Korea's passion for education has probably served it well over the years. But, these days, it's really becoming too much of a good thing, I think. South Korea has some of the world's best standardized test scores, but also its lowest birthrate and one of its highest suicide rates. When people aren't willing to bear children into a society... that's a pretty damning critique. Now, I'm sure the educational system isn't the only reason for these societal ills, but that's where Koreans themselves often seem to put the blame.

    I don't mention this in order to denigrate Korea or Korean people. Rather, I mention it precisely because America DOES need to have a dialogue about how to improve its educational system. For the reasons cited above, though, I don't think importing the East Asian model lock, stock, and barrel is a good idea. But, if most people embrace the parenting methods that the Korean seems to endorse, that type of educational system seems to be the logical end result.

  36. So many words, so many comments... A few admittedly random thoughts:

    @Henrique: "In nature, some of the cubs that are pushed down the cliff simply die."

    What of the children that get pushed so hard, do only as much as they have to, then slough off the rest once they're free? Should Tiger Parents simply let some kids die because they can't hack it? Make that kid study for 12 hours straight, beat him with a broomstick if he gets up, and come back to find a dead, malnourished kid.

    @Dan's thoughts about Jew and Asian parents strike me as two approaches to the same problem - and both work.

    @brutus's question on when kids become adults seems especially appropriate. At what point does a Tiger Parent let go? Can they? Ever? Even they have to accept that simple biological fact of adulthood; their child is no longer a child. Saying 'the junior year of college' is just as arbitrary as any other time. It works, but it wouldn't for everyone - and some may never let go.

    @Karen's point of starting off as a robot makes sense - one does need to master something - but not every innovator was a master in their field. Indeed, some of the most revolutionary ideas weren't created / produced by Ph.D scientists.

    Let's start with the assumption that 'tiger parents' are doing everything they possibly can to make their child(ren) the best they can possibly be. Let's also assume that the parent isn't projecting their own needs and desires on the child (Tiger Mom: I always wanted to learn how to play the violin, so I'll make my child take 3 hours of lessons a day)

    "The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it."

    OK, it's a belief. Is every kid that strong? What happens if they're not?

    Can every child be first? First in something, perhaps, if enough categories are created.

    It is possible to be so ambitious that other stuff gets cut out completely - relationships with friends, personal interests, your stamp collection, etc.

    The disproportionate number of Asian-American in high / well-known positions is a result of that effort and hard work ethic - but what of the millions of others?

    "Vera Wang was an Olympic-level figure skater when she quit and went into fashion design."

    And at what point did her mom stop shaming her for her decision?

    “Tiger Moms cause suicide.”
    The bigger question seems this: can you push a child so far, so hard, to the point where they're so exasperated that ending it all sounds appealing? Let's get away from Asian-Americans for a second and look at the natives. Korea already has a very high suicide rate (I don't have figures off-hand). People who are happy - externally and internally - don't commit suicide.

    Raising children is much like exercising - there may be good ways and bad ways, but no one absolute best way.

    "Who do you think will win in a race -- a person motivated by the desire to be happy, or a person motivated by the desire to fend off death?"

    Assuming that it's a zero-sum game, of course the latter. Is the human existence a zero-sum game?

  37. I propose that the "Tiger Mom" (akin to the tiger than pushes her cub down the cliff to allow it to undergo the struggle to rise) is NOT the typical Asian mother like Prof Chua. Rather, I say it is like the majority of Western "laissez-faire" parenting. Where the Prof Chau parent holds the cub to a strict standards, ensuring it climbs the cliff in the proper manner, the "laissez-faire" parent has less influence and more burden of responsibility on the child. If you don't succeed then oh well, it chose your own path. The cub is truly left at the bottom of the cliff. Which is better? I don't care, nor do I think they should be the "Pepsi vs Coke Taste Test Challenge." As a product of the "laissez-faire" parenting, it's terrifying and uplifting. I learned some tough lessons on my own. I had little direction and thus, all directions were open to me. I figured out the system and chose for myself. Sometimes I wish my parents forced me to study medicine/law/etc. It would have made my path easier. Any child can study X under the right sticks and carrots. But it mayhap be more difficult for a child to choose for himself.

    @ AAK

    Roy likes your example (and typing in 3rd person) about the benefits of roboticity. That is truly keeping the baby while discarding the bathwater.

  38. I loved this blogpost! I loved Amy Chua's book and thought it was delightful and she and you are very right about a lot of things. I'm a 32 yr old Korean-American, and although growing up, I was soooo tired of being compared to every other Korean kid that got perfect SAT's or went to some big ivy league school, I realized that it only gets harder when you become an adult and if you don't have the focus, dedication, and discipline (learned from when you are young from countless hours of studying), you will not succeed in achieving whatever your goals are in life. Whether it be a doctor/lawyer/engineer or entrepreneur or a stay-at-home mom, you will not be able to achieve the goals you made for yourself, your family, or your kids if these traits were not instilled in you when you were young by your parents.
    also, it was either Rush Limbaugh or Lou Dobbs or some radio show similar to that I was listening to the other day and I was INFURIATED at a caller that commented on the WSJ article. It was some typical American middle aged mom that called in with her critique. First of all, I highly doubt she READ the book and is just justifying her argument based on her personal knowledge solely and the WSJ article. She probably did not take the time to read the book and do her research before forming an opinion b/c they don't teach that in Americanized schooling.
    She said that it's important for her kids at 8 or 9 yrs old to attend sleepovers so that they know what the other kids talk/text about and can grow up to have boyfriends/girlfriends and a normal social life. WHAAAAT??? First of all, if I have children, I do NOT want other 8 or 9 yr olds to be their role models and attending sleepovers is no way a necessity to have a "normal social life." It is at these sleepovers where kids probably learn to cave in to peer pressure and start taking their friends' word as gold and stop listening to their parents. In any case, Tiger moms rock and America is on the decline b/c we are spoiling our kids and they grow up feeling they are entitled to so many things and working hard, I mean real hard, is becoming a foreign concept to many Americans. That is why so many Asians are grabbing all the good jobs, and I'd like to see the unemployment rate amongst Asians in the US. Probably not nearly as high as the total unemployment rate.

  39. I see a whole nation, South Korea, where parents believe they must push their kids to study very long hours and always get 'A's; but I cannot say I see a country where everyone is devoted to excellence in education. In fact, South Korean universities are rated quite low, and many students spend large amounts of money studying abroad.

    Something doesn't add up.

    I think The Korean is showing us a rosy-tinted version of 'Tiger parenting' with only the positives and not the negatives.

    I also note that this is not a case of either/or. One commenter described Jewish-style education and parenting; perhaps The Korean would like to include that in his definition of 'Tiger parenting' too? - although I doubt many Jews would accept the appellation.

  40. Christina, based on the Korean's observation, Tiger Parenting seems to start at around age 5-6. So Tiger Cubs do attend Montessori-type kindergartens.

    Sarah, very nice to hear that the Korean is being helpful.

    refresh_daemon, very much in agreement. It is the high expectation and pushing toward that expectation that really characterize Tiger Parenting, not the precise method of the pushing. People often seem to lose sight of this.


    I think where children need to be is doing THEIR best even if that is a C in the end.

    Here is a truth the Korean finds over and over again: what children think their best is is far short of what their real best is. This is a basic premise of Tiger Parenting.

    Parents need to understand that learning is a PROCESS and some things may take longer than others to master. Everyone has different natural abilities.

    That sounds nice until you start hitting reality. It is obviously true that everyone has different abilities. But setting that as a baseline is to condemn the child. Basically, you are telling the parents to think that their child is dumb (or at best, not a genius,) and can only achieve so much. Tiger Parenting rejects that.

    Learning does not have to be stressful.

    Sure. But no learning is stress-free all the time at every stage. Insisting that it be so is the straightest path to mediocrity.

    I think you are so pro-Tiger parenting because it worked for you, but that doesn't mean that it is right for others.

    The post spent a huge time explaining how it is not about individual results but overall results (which is undeniable,) and you talk how it's just me? Please.

  41. Ri, Agreed that Tiger Parenting will be easier if majority of America accepted Tiger Parenting.

    J.B, the Korean is not worried that America will get close to Korea in terms of education nuclear arms race in the near future. We can cross that bridge when we get there.

    Chris in SK,

    Just to give a reply to a few of your thoughts...

    At what point does a Tiger Parent let go? Can they? Ever? Even they have to accept that simple biological fact of adulthood ... some may never let go.

    If they don't let go, what are they going to do about it? Their children are adults.

    Indeed, some of the most revolutionary ideas weren't created/produced by Ph.D scientists.

    Like the way Leo Da Vinci had no Ph.D., right? :) But in all seriousness, AT LEAST college degree is required in the modern world for any sort of revolutionary ideas to germinate and grow. The Korean cannot think of no example in modern history where a person with no secondary education came up with revolutionary ideas. People's favorite example seems to be Bill Gates, but no one mentions the fact that his father is a named partner at AMLAW 100 law firm (K&L Gates) and was a multimillionaire who could pay for anything Bill wanted to try.

    Is every kid that strong? What happens if they're not?

    Usually, that kind of strength is nurtured, not born with.

    Can every child be first?

    No, but every child can try his damned best. Then the entire school will be better.

    The disproportionate number of Asian-American in high / well-known positions is a result of that effort and hard work ethic - but what of the millions of others?

    You mean the millions of others who have higher than average income, professional jobs and more stable families?

    Is the human existence a zero-sum game?

    Not all of it, but a huge part of it yes.

  42. Roy,

    The cub is truly left at the bottom of the cliff. Which is better? I don't care ...

    The Korean cares. The bottom of the cliff sucks. The Korean Family moved to America to be at the top of the cliff.

    Glad you enjoyed the Derrick Rose example.

    bigWOWO, thank you, thank you.


    Something doesn't add up.

    Insert "centuries of backwardness," "brutal colonial rule," "total modern warfare," "only two decades of real prosperity" into the equation and it will add up.

    I think The Korean is showing us a rosy-tinted version of 'Tiger parenting' with only the positives and not the negatives.

    Ok, what are the negatives? The post spent a lot of time dispelling the most frequent objections. Are there more objections to be made?

  43. Korean,

    Nice, articulate article. I mostly agree that hard work and education excellence should be held in a higher regard, and that children could use a little push from their parents.

    I have, however, a thought; the Tiger parenting is seen to be working in an American setting, as shown by many successful Asian Americans. However, would the same hold true for Tiger parenting in modern Asia?

    You would very well know that the American-style education system (before college) is practically playtime compared to the Asian education system, provided that there is no language barrier. In a "playtime" setting, I wouldn't be surprised if Asian Americans who are raised by Tiger parents DIDN'T excel in academics. I myself had little to no trouble getting A's in my school prior to college, and I didn't even live in Korea for that long. It was just that easy.

    However, Korean schools (and other Asian schools in general) are much more hardcore with their education, not to mention the two dozen cram schools that the average student attends after class.Yes, they are taught to work hard, which is a good thing, but when the environment is much more hostile than the American school, some do seem to break.

    One of the most common complaints that Koreans have is that the children is pushed from too early an age to compete and get the best grades that the parents overlook teaching them other crucial qualities, mainly strict moral codes and consideration for others. In short, as long as the kid can bring home a perfect score, the process in which they do it doesn't matter. And some kids do resort to frighteningly amoral methods to obtain grades.

    In my (non-Korean) high school, there was a Korean kid who was caught plagarizing the math project of his classmate, the "math genius" in school, and had the balls to accuse the original student of plagarizing HIS work. He had also stolen my brother's science homework on occasion so that he would be the better student. Thankfully, he was suspended for what he did. What is frightening here is that he was not a slacker at all; in fact, he had one of the highest GPA in his grade, and could have easily been the best student in the entire high school (like he so wished) if he put more effort. Instead, he chose to intentionally damage the reputation of other excelling students, because he couldn't accept not being number one.

    In addition, I don't know if you have heard this, but there has been numerous cases of Korean cram school teachers taking SAT tests abroad and extracting the questions and answer key to mail to the students so that they can essentially cheat on the SAT. In fact, the GRE test is no longer available in South Korea and you need to go to Japan to take it, due to such cases.

    Trying not to be anti-Korean here (hey, I'm a citizen, I love my country) but the students in both cases relate to Korean students. I am NOT saying that all Asian students under Tiger parenting will end this way. However, I wanted to ask if Tiger parenting in Asia would be different from those in America, or if these are considered the side effects of Tiger parenting, or if they are simply doing it wrong. I do not doub that many would end up being upright, successful people, but perhaps the few bad cases as noted above are what gives fodder to people criticizing Asians as being robotic or inhuman. Raising kids to do well in school is fine and dandy, but they should really teach them manners, too.

  44. As with the original "Chinese Mother" article, I agree with certain points made in this post, and disagree with some others. I agree that the "Roboticity" argument is fairly weak, though I do see some merit in the "Happiness" point of view. Let me explain: I have two very good friends, both second-generation Americans. One is Indian-American, the other Chinese-American. All three of us are freshmen at one of the toughest private schools in our state (maybe even in the whole of the South). Both of these friends undoubtedly have Tiger Mothers. The Indian friend is one of the cubs which crawled back up the cliff - she is intelligent, pretty, driven, and will never be anything but successful - but the Chinese girl, I would say as a direct result of Tiger Parenting, has not made it up the cliff yet. In Lower and Middle School, this friend made the best grades in the class, won all the awards, got the most praise. But now that we're in high school, the years of constant pressure have gotten to her. Her grades are not as good as they used to be and though she is passionate about photography and wants to pursue it by taking classes, her parents won't let her do anything but violin (which she despises because of it). Her parents force her to take the hardest classes and scream and yell if she comes home with anything but 100 percent on a test, quiz, anything. I once asked her, "Anna, what's your favorite subject in school?" She looked at me blankly. "School?" she asked. "I hate school." (Incidentally, my Indian friend says the same thing on occasion, and in both cases that phrase is almost always followed by "But I hate going home much more."). So yes, in general, Tiger Parenting produces superior results. I don't doubt that - I see its results every day. But here are two questions I present: how good is Tiger Parenting if the children are miserable getting to be successful, and what about the cubs which don't make it back up the cliff? Lastly, I have a suggestion to Tiger Parents: if you've been pushing for years on end, probably your kids have learned to be motivated (both of my friends certainly have), and they are capable of pushing themselves. If they drop everything and fail, then they certainly need the pressure, but I think many Tiger Parents would be surprised to find that their children can generally motivate themselves. Probably if the parents of my Chinese friend would let up a little bit, give her some breathing room, she would do better knowing that there aren't two pairs of eyes watching her every move. From someone who's been with these girls since we were five, I know that they can handle themselves, and I just wish that their parents - and other Tiger Parents whose children are similar to my friends - would see that too.

  45. I'll probably have more to add later, but when it comes to tiger parenting as we seem to be referring to it there are two important things: 1) high expectations and 2) being there for the child.

    Children will do fine to have high expectations. If and when they fail they need to learn to brush it off, and do it again with.

    A parent should be there enough to realize if the child was really trying or not. When I tutor usually I can get a feel for who is really trying and who is not in the hour or two I see them during the week. As TK brought up it is a good idea to have an understanding of mental health problems and learning disabilities to learn how to adjust. I myself would add burnout on top of that. A parent should be there enough and aware enough to understand when a problem comes up.

  46. Here is a truth the Korean finds over and over again: what children think their best is is far short of what their real best is. This is a basic premise of Tiger Parenting.

    Who said parents should let children limit themselves? As long as YOU know that your child has done their best, you can at least give them credit for that and then, help them get BETTER.

    Sure. But no learning is stress-free all the time at every stage. Insisting that it be so is the straightest path to mediocrity.

    I never said that. You're saying that just because learning can be stressful SOMETIMES justifies a stressful approach by parents? That doesn't make sense. Making learning stressful does not make it more effective.

    The post spent a huge time explaining how it is not about individual results but overall results (which is undeniable,) and you talk how it's just me? Please.

    Yes, you may know how some of your friends were raised, but I don't think you can necessarily extrapolate that to ALL Asian parents or even ALL Korean parents. Many Asian parents are involved in their children's education. That is what we know. But how they approach it is not something we can speculate on. We just see the results. We're not there for the journey, the process, and there are many involved parents who raise successful children WITHOUT using the Tiger approach.

  47. Initially, I was appalled at this article by Amy Chua. I am a high school student of Chinese decent in Canada, and my high school happens to have a 90% Asian population, many of whom are “FOBS” (Fresh Off The Boat.)

    Most of my peers and I are seriously opposed to this type of parenting because we see the results of its failures every day. If we don’t, the counselors tell us how much of a problem these parents can be.

    However, Chua does bring up some positive PRINCIPLES, that may work at least in theory. Her children managed to grow up well, but that was HER children, so this type of parenting most definitely should not be said as a kind of “best for all."

    I've known people with Tiger moms who end up depressed and just give up when they're nearly adults, and the parents can't do anything more. I've known people that grow up ok but end up distant from their parents.

    Learning music is a really good thing. I know because I do it and there are many benefits to it. But you don’t have to be a Lang Lang to see the good results of music-learning.

    From my 16 years of life experience, my most educated guess for the ideal type of parenting is a strict one that will allow kids to have fun, when it’s time to have fun. I agree that American kids have too much freedom, but I believe freedom is necessary for a kid to find his independence, his interests, and have room to THINK, for crying out loud. I also think a certain strictness should be expected of the parent, but corporal punishment? Degrading? I still classify these things as crimes against the law and the UN Rights of the Child.

    Children need to be pushed to reach their potential, but a child’s own interests must also be listened to! Parents don’t “own” their children. A child is his own person, and this must always at the back of a parent’s mind, in my opinion.

    Anyways, another bad result of Tiger Mom parenting is that many parents tend to use their children as TOOLS to show off themselves among other parents. Like, “Look, my child has a 4.0 GPA. Now our children are in the same standards, and now we are equals.”

    It is worth noting that my parents, immigrants from Hong Kong, disagree mostly with Amy Chua. Yet, I am an honour roll student with many ambitions and a diploma in music. Okay, so maybe I’m a kid that can take care of herself, but kids are not totally helpless.

    Nevertheless this was a good post with very good points and you do very well arguing your rational ideas. Thank you.

  48. Something doesn't add up.

    Insert "centuries of backwardness," "brutal colonial rule," "total modern warfare," "only two decades of real prosperity" into the equation and it will add up.

    I guess time will tell.

    I believe the idea of academia as a place where people of broad, liberal education pursue ideas is in danger everywhere (not just in Korea) of succumbing to the pressures of a mass education system.

    But it seems to me that the emphasis on high grades as a means of material advancement - rather than as indications of excellence - kills this very idea of academia stillborn. And there's a danger that 'Tiger parenting', with its too narrow a focus, can tend that way.

    I think The Korean is showing us a rosy-tinted version of 'Tiger parenting' with only the positives and not the negatives.

    Ok, what are the negatives? The post spent a lot of time dispelling the most frequent objections. Are there more objections to be made?

    I think the negatives have all been discussed at length already. You just seem to be ruling them out by definition: so, for example, if shaming isn't backed up by love, it's not true 'Tiger parenting'; or if the emphasis is on high grades only and not on excellence, then that's a caricature of real 'Tiger parenting'. I'm talking about abuses of the system, of course, but why deny that the system lends itself to certain kinds of abuses? The self-esteem movement was never *supposed* to be about turning our children into a bunch of slackers either, but that doesn't stop people criticizing it.

    I think another commenter made a very valid point when she said children need to be pushed (they thrive on competition and both need and want direction for their energies!), BUT there also must be time to relax, and to think. Parents need to take some time to think before they accept unquestioningly this 'Tiger parenting' precept that the answer for their kids is always more work and more work.

    By the way, this is obviously a great topic for discussion. Everyone's interested in parenting.

  49. Oh, that 'other commenter' was Char. Loved your post, Char.

  50. Hmm, I don't really know if I totally agree with you, but your argument does make a lot of sense.

    The parts I can't totally agree with is when you name all those celebrities and refer to yourself as examples.

    I don't think that's really painting an accurate picture at all. For one, we don't know that those people (and by extenstion all Asian-Americans) have Tiger-moms, what we do know is that they are Asian-American, and are succesful.

    You give Nintendo as a proof of Tiger-momming, and I think that's just totally misleading. First of all, I think that Japanese parents in Japan do anything BUT tiger-mom their kids. I say this from an experience as a former high school teacher in Japan. (then again I could be talking specifically about the high school I was in, which was in the upper 1/3 in ranking of high schools, but by no means elite.)

    I think that those celebrities AND you yourself ARE exceptions. You my friend, are brilliant. Tell me that you know any other person who replicated your quick mastery of the English language. I know nobody like that, and everyone I know who came to the U.S. from Korea at the same age as you did STILL has trouble with English (and these days, I like to joke that they would have learned more English had they stayed in Korea!)

    Now, I also have to ask about my tiger-mommed asian-american friends from high school. One particular family I know had children who turned out to be an artist and model who barely gets by, a furniture salesman turned IT technition with no social skills, and a covicted felon auto mechanic. Now, are these people the exceptions and not the rule? I think the average results of tiger momming lie somewhere between.

    What about Cho Sung Hui, was he Tiger-mommed?

    What about all those dudes in Korean gangs? Are they tiger-mommed?

    I'd think that certainly tiger-momming has its merits, and sometimes I wish I myself had been tiger-mommed.

    I realize you didn't exactly say so in this post that you think it solves all problems of rearing children, but I think there are plenty of examples where excessive tiger-momming has had negative results.

  51. my parents were Tiger parents I should say (not asian though) and they were hardcore, but I'm happy they were because now that they are no longer in my life, all I care about is my education and getting my MBA. All my friends are the laziest shits you've ever seen. I have a million hobbies (friends are constantly amazed when I finish a project) and have an amazing work ethic (co workers constantly bitch about their job and don't do anything all day). Life is hardcore, we need to prepare our children for that.

  52. I'm sure to a certain extent, you've chosen to continue the string of calling Tiger Moms superior in order to be incendiary and I know that you have mentioned many times before that Tiger Moms are not just Asian parents, but that there are many examples of Tiger Moms across cultures, however, I do think you are seeing so much controversy over this topics because of the use of the word superior. I think, and I could be wrong, if you spoke about Tiger parenting outside of its culture context, which I know is difficult to a certain extent because it seems to be very ingrained in the Eastern culture, then people could look at in a more logical fashion and may be even able to glean from it that it does have its benefits. I would dare to say even that though Black Americans were not included in the list as Tiger Moms, that we tend to be Tiger mothers also. It's just that in some cases (the ones that get a lot of press) our priorities are not in the right place to encourage say our child's education. But any successful black person I know, has had that black mother over their head making sure they were succeeding in school and pushing themselves 100%. But that is a bit off topic.

    When you associate superiority with a race or a culture, no matter what you are talking about, you will upset and threatening someone else's way of life. For instance, if I was an American, in another country, say Korea, and speaking constantly of the superiority of the American parenting, I'm sure that word superiority would incite passionate, nationalism and cultural pride in the Korean's (other that culture's) ability to raise their children. I could be wrong, but I have even see you get upset with people who comment suggesting that your culture's way of doing something is 'inferior' to how we do it.

    I understand that you are trying to say that statistically Tiger parenting style produces more successful people than not and I can definitely see that and can agree with some aspects of this style of parenting. But the USA is still a World power run by the people you suggest have come up with 'soft parents'. So, by some measure that could make us superior. However, I don't think that would be productive to state, either.

    I think to each his or her own. If you think Tiger parenting will give your child a head start, then by all means, be a Tiger parent. But if people want to be 'soft parents', let them do that too. Because quiet as it's kept, everyone can not be a lawyer, engineer, doctor. Some people need to take out the trash. And I'm not attesting to which style will produce which results, I'm just saying that each person must determine their lot in life...and their children's lot in life.

    I apologize for the length of my comments, I am a wordy person.

  53. A tough, and lengthy read... as another commenter said, 'superior' did immediately set me to defensive mode. But it's an effective way to capture, and hold, interest.

    For now, I'd like to highlight an oversight not yet discussed:

    1. Your sample.
    And this includes you. Am I right in assuming most Asian Americans are descended from people who were not refugees? (Please let me know if I'm wrong.) Is it not true that most were able to immigrate to the US because their parents were hard-working, ambitious, successful, smart, and/or wealthy enough to do so?

    This affects the whole sample -- you've limited your selection to the fruit of these select few.

  54. Y's, actually, the Korean REALLY hates those Korean kids without manners these days also. What Korea has right as of now (as opposed to even 10 years earlier) is not Tiger Parenting either -- it is self-indulgence, just in a different form from the same in America.

    Claire, the answers are:
    1. Tiger Cubs need to be at the stage in their lives to see what fruits of success are. All the external requirements for happiness, discussed in the post, are nothing to sneeze at.

    2. Things are bad for cubs who do not make it up the cliff. But things are bad for people who fail in any other parenting method. The strength of Tiger Parenting is not that it gives perfect results, but that it gives the good results most of the time.

    J Man, Your point “A parent should be there enough to realize if the child was really trying or not" is excellent and crucial.


    Who said parents should let children limit themselves?

    Ok, then what precisely is your disagreement with Tiger Parenting?

    You're saying that just because learning can be stressful SOMETIMES justifies a stressful approach by parents?

    Carefully parse out what the Korean said: “no learning is stress-free all the time at every stage.” This means, alternately, “All learning is stressful some time at some stage.” What Tiger Parenting does is to push the child over that stressful part, which is present in all learning. Maybe the child just doesn’t feel like studying one day. Maybe the child wants the material too hard and wants to quit. THAT’s when Tiger Parenting kicks in and pushes the child, stress be damned. What, you thought Amy Chua would make her daughters play music while juggling flaming swords at the same time just for the sake of stressing them out?

    We're not there for the journey, the process, and there are many involved parents who raise successful children WITHOUT using the Tiger approach.

    Two responses to this:

    1. Do you want to try making your case with more concrete descriptor than “many” and “not every”?

    2. For measuring just about any system, it is impossible to be at the process. Again, go back to the post’s example of speed limits. The ideal way of enhancing traffic safety is to put a camera inside every single car and observe every moment of the driver, while factoring in the driver’s driving experience, health, and any other factors that affect driving ability. But this is obviously not possible.

    Process makes the result. That is obviously true. But the process is rarely available to us in full. It is not possible to get what ALL Asians do or ALL Koreans do, and it is not reasonable to demand it. The best we can do is observe the results and make a logical causal connection. And we do that all the time. If you call that a speculation, you are denying the validity of pretty much all social science, and quite a huge chunk of natural science. As the post pointed out, you are paralyzing yourself. Actually, you are not paralyzing yourself -- you are paralyzing others who want to engage in a serious effort to find out what works by taking potshots and demanding impossible things.

    I have seen you operate on the comments section of this blog, and frankly my patience is wearing thin. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, as long as they are serious and earnest in their position. For example, Chris in SK and I have disagreed on virtually all education issues I discussed on this blog, but I never fail to engage him cordially because I know he takes his positions seriously and defends them seriously. You, on the other hand, do not. You are only focused on “not losing” by playing word games. If you take your positions seriously, defend them seriously. Otherwise, get the fuck out and let the adults run things.

  55. Char, your point on “the ideal type of parenting is a strict one that will allow kids to have fun, when it’s time to have fun.” is excellent, with heavy emphasis on “when it’s time to have fun.”


    I'm talking about abuses of the system, of course, but why deny that the system lends itself to certain kinds of abuses?

    Fair point. The Korean’s response is -- there is no way to control what the parents do. Foundation of any parenting is love for the child and putting the child ahead of the parent’s own ego. When the foundation goes away, there is no parenting that succeeds. Even the best recipe means nothing if a person following it doesn’t know how to boil water. Does Tiger Parenting MAKE parents more susceptible to unloving and un-sacrificing on the part of parents? It seems as unlikely as a recipe causing ignorance at cooking.

    Eugene, you are mixing up two different parts of the post. The examples of Asian Americans are used to show that Tiger Parenting does not make robots, not that Tiger Parenting is unsuccessful. The numbers bear out that Tiger Parenting is pretty damn successful. But nice play on using “Tiger Mom” as a verb.

    f-a-h, good to hear.

    bellanera, absolutely true that there are tons of black Tiger Moms also. Heck, the Korean lives in the capital of successful black people, crowned by our black commander in chief. Absolutely true that there are tons of black Tiger Moms. And don’t feel bad about being wordy.

    schplook, sample error is a fair point, but the Korean does not think it affects the analysis all that much. Even supposing as true that Asian Americans were a self-selecting bunch, doesn’t the fact that the self-selected bunch overwhelmingly choose this one method (that has a proven track record) mean something?

  56. I have seen you operate on the comments section of this blog, and frankly my patience is wearing thin. I don’t mind people disagreeing with me, as long as they are serious and earnest in their position. For example, Chris in SK and I have disagreed on virtually all education issues I discussed on this blog, but I never fail to engage him cordially because I know he takes his positions seriously and defends them seriously. You, on the other hand, do not. You are only focused on “not losing” by playing word games. If you take your positions seriously, defend them seriously. Otherwise, get the fuck out and let the adults run things.

    Who said I was not taking this argument seriously? I think you could take a little bit of your own advice. You could do without a bit of bellyaching yourself. Of course, I am going to criticize your argument because that is all I really have to go on.

    But the process is rarely available to us in full. It is not possible to get what ALL Asians do or ALL Koreans do, and it is not reasonable to demand it. The best we can do is observe the results and make a logical causal connection. And we do that all the time. If you call that a speculation, you are denying the validity of pretty much all social science, and quite a huge chunk of natural science.

    Social science requires more than speculation. "Observing the results and mak[ing] a logical causal connection" is not social science because you are making a correlation. Correlation is not causation. That is a basic tenet of the social sciences. We can get a general idea of how parents raise their kids through interviews, surveys, etc. Not by just looking at the results and speculating on how they were achieved.

  57. itissaid, what you are doing is bordering on trolling. Be careful.

  58. I think people need to calm down a bit -- and I'm including the blog author. I think you overreacted there.

    But I also think that when arguments descend into arguments about arguments, we start to get lost down a fruitless path.

    However, it is important to examine one's arguments to check that they are sound. Personally, I think AAK would benefit from this process just as he did with the Fan Death post. He started with a well-researched position, but was in error on certain points. The comments section helped to clarify this and, I believe, helped him to refine his argument.

    AAK: please let the same process happen here. Social sciences may not meet the same standards of proof as physics, but I would appreciate if you allowed the discussion to continue without it turning nasty.

    Thank you.

  59. I don't even know what itissaid's objection to the post is anymore. He just seems to goes off on nitpicking tangents without any real coherent argument. Borderline trolling imo.

  60. I just wish my students' Korean not-quite-tiger moms would put as much effort into pushing their kids to do their homework as they do into pushing them to get "A" grades and awards. And then they might get some. I love those kids to pieces, but when they are cornered, I know they are going to steal, lie, and cheat to avoid a swipe of the tiger paw.

  61. My own mother mentioned this story just a couple of days ago, and even without having read it, I remembered the Korean's point about the benefit of rote memorization. I truly enjoyed the original article, as well as this defense. If I do decide to have children, I think I will be a Tiger Mother. I'm not sure how good at it I will be, since I've had no example in my own life, but I think I may have some potential... While walking my little brother home from school one day, he repeatedly annoyed me and would not quit no matter how many times I told him to stop. When I finally became very frustrated and said "what part of 'stop' do you not understand?!" he replied "The S-T-O-P". When we got home, I immediately grabbed a dictionary and forced him to read the definitions of "stop" and "quit" out loud. He was only 7 or so at the time, the writing was very small and a bit complicated for his age, and, as you can imagine, the definitions were very long. I sat with him and made sure he read every word, corrected his pronunciation, and explained anything he did not understand. For months, he didn't dare backtalk anyone who told him to stop. Just the threat of getting out the dictionary again was sufficient in getting him to stop. And even now, a good 5 years later, we both remember it. It's even become a fond joke between my brother and I.

    I'm sure this is but a drop in the ocean of Tiger Mothering, but hopefully I can learn to be a good Tiger Mother. It seems to be a very difficult job! For now, I intend to try to become a sort of Tiger Mother for myself, since I'm still only 20 years old. I know I could achieve so much more if I would just work at it.

  62. Have you read this, though?

  63. Schplook, noted, but itissaid deserved the nastiness, not just because of this post about based on his behavior in other posts as well.

    ramblingperfectionist, Interesting article, but ultimately too facile and too glib -- which is often how the Korean finds economists to be.

  64. "For the record, I found exactly nothing wrong in Prof. Chua’s methodology. It is hard to be outraged at calling a child “garbage” when I had several mop handles broken into my legs by the time I was 16, when I emigrated from Korea. The reaction of my wife was equally nonchalant: “I used to be thrown out of the house in a T-shirt in the middle of the winter if I didn’t practice violin. It didn’t scar me. People need to get over themselves.” But you don’t have to agree with us to buy into the rest of the post. Please read on."

    Science says your wife is scarred. You too. Even a grad student versed in cultural psychology like me can tell you that. I wouldn't dare say that Western parenting styles are perfect (they certainly aren't), nor would I assert that Tiger Mom parenting is without its merits. But the overwhelming evidence is there for direct causal relationships between tiger parenting and depression, general anxiety and social anxiety disorders (or their culturally salient equivalents).

    It's laughable that you would laud binary, absolutist expectations of perfection, and then justify "lesser" offenses, like calling a child "garbage", because you had it far worse as child. It's a lose-lose situation for you - if you don't beat your own children with a mop handle, you're a hypocrite. If you do, you're a criminal.

    I couldn't be happier that your wife wasn't scarred by her experiences as a kid. I will assume that she will risk the law and pass on to your children what was imprinted into her. Otherwise she's just lowering her standards...right? It's tradition, after all!

    That's what one should expect, though. Those with the lowest self-esteem often feel the greatest need to self-validate.

    It's textbook.

    The actual meat of your defense is meticulously researched and I applaud your efforts - for I know there are a great, great many rewards for successful parents. But ignoring the caveats can be harmful to your (children's) health.

  65. Patrick,

    It's textbook.

    You should read this post about how Americans universalize their own value when it is no more than a result of our own historical accident.

  66. I'll amend what I said earlier - to provide clarity and soften my response.

    I agree with you in theory in that making sure you don't hurt your child's feelings shouldn't be your top priority. I also agree with the idea that we shouldn't treat children (to a point) like mini adults - you were right on in that letting a small child decide their own happiness isn't always the best tack (sometimes it is! It's just by no means guaranteed). Children need some forceful guidance to show them what their potential is. You may even be correct in your assertions about ensuring the progress of one's country, though I don't feel learned enough to make a judgment on that.

    My previous post was specifically in response to your aside about physical abuse. Which still makes me laugh.

    And of course, this entire essay completely sidesteps the negative ramifications of tiger parenting on their children.

    You get an A.

    For effort.

  67. And of course, this entire essay completely sidesteps the negative ramifications of tiger parenting on their children.

    I spent a significant portion of this essay to address and disprove the "Tiger Moms cause suicide" criticism, and I "completely sidestep[ped] the negative ramification"? Ha. If you have such "overwhelming" evidence of tiger parenting causing depression, give the evidence.

    But then again, softness has become a part of the American mainstream, so the social science results coming out of America are distorted. For example, there is this widespread idea that corporal punishment lowers intelligence, except Korea (with VERY liberal application of corporal punishment) is one of the world leaders in national IQ. So I am not sure if you can find an objective piece of evidence uninfected by America's preference for softness.

  68. Wait. Let me clarify something.

    I'm one of the last people to universalize Western values. I don't pretend that what the US does is "right" and what foreigners do is "wrong" - or that I can assume foreign nations hold the same equivalent values as Americans do. Trust me, I know this. I do not pretend that my cultural values are universal, nor my perspectives infallible.

    I also never disagreed with you on the rise of Asia. I would agree that tiger parenting most likely plays a large part in the rise of Korea, China, and much of the rest of East Asia.

    I will assert though that physical abuse is not a valid element of cultural parenting practices. It's not acceptable. If you don't like it - with all due respect - you can go back where you came from, and prove America wrong.

    The post you link only serves to illustrate the singular focuses of tiger parenting. Are Americans self-centred, assuming, and perhaps even downright ignorant of global impact and cultural differences? Pretty much.

    Does the rise in economic power and technological advancement of East Asia, relative to the West, mean that the methods that got them to that point are infallible? Absolutely not.

    There are great benefits to tiger parenting. And there are great weaknesses. The choice of many tiger parents to ignore the latter is only a further systemic indictment of what they preach.

    For the record? I'm not American.

  69. Firstly: not that I addressed the IQ thing at all before, but I will now. I'm not well read enough to agree with these many, many studies that assert a link between corporal punishment and IQ, but I'm honestly a little astonished. To say that since Korea practices corporal punishment freely while maintaining leading IQ standards, ergo, these studies are false...that's just ridiculous. That's just not how the scientific methods works. I'm not even proving to you that corporal punishment lowers IQ (though many scientists say it does). I'm simply saying that it's comically silly to provide an alleged outlier in order to disprove a heavily supported direct correlation.

    As for providing evidence. I wrote a term paper entitled "Cross-Cultural Variation in Adolescent Depression". Let me pull up some of the journal articles.


    Adolescent self-esteem in cross-cultural perspective: Testing measurement equivalence and a mediation model.

    Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, Vol 35(6), Nov, 2004. pp. 719-733.

    Theorists and researchers have raised the question of whether self-esteem has similar meanings and correlates in individualistic and collectivist cultures. This study examined the cross-cultural equivalence of the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale in four countries and compared its association with parental warmth and acceptance and depressed mood. Participants were 11th graders in the United States (n=422), the Czech Republic (n=490), China (n=502), and Korea (n=497). Cross-cultural similarities in the factor structure of the self-esteem scale and in the relations of self-esteem to other variables were more striking than cross-cultural differences. Across cultures, parental warmth was significantly related to both positive and negative self-image, each of which in turn was related significantly to depressive symptomatology. There was little evidence for the hypothesis that self-esteem would more strongly mediate the relation between parental warmth and adolescent depressive symptoms in the more individualistic (as opposed to collectivist) cultures.


    But that was a "tainted" American study, right? Let's pull up a Korean one.

    The effect of perfectionism and self-efficacy on depression and task performance.

    Korean Journal of Clinical Psychology, Vol 17(1), Jun, 1998. pp. 211-222.

    Investigated the effect of perfectionism and self-efficacy on depression levels and task performance levels. A total of 359 undergraduates in Korea participated: 232 males and 126 females (Exp 1); 91 males and 57 females (Exp 2). Ss were administered the Multidimensional Perfectionism Scale (R. D. Frost et al, 1990) and the Self-Efficacy Scale (M. Sherer & N. E. Adams, 1982). The data analysis results on Study 1 showed that there were significant positive correlation of personal standards, concern over mistakes, and parental criticism with depression. However, there was no significant correlation between depression and organization and parental expectation. In Exp 2, Ss were divided into 4 groups by concern over mistakes (high, low) and self-efficacy level (high, low). A 2-way ANOVA was used for the data analysis. The results show that in the high-perfectionism and high self-efficacy group task error rate was low, but the high-perfectionism and low self-efficacy group showed the highest error rate. The result of analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) on post-task depression showed a significant interaction effect between the 2 independent variables. The findings suggest that self-efficacy can intermediate when perfectionism is affecting depression and task performance.

  70. And here's the trump card:

    A retrospective survey of childhood corporal punishment and emotional maltreatment by their parents in students.

    Chinese Mental Health Journal, Vol 22(12), Dec, 2008. pp. 922-927.

    Objective: To investigate the prevalence of childhood corporal punishment and emotional maltreatment by their parents in students. Methods: A convenient sample of 528 students from a college and a technical secondary school in Hebei province were surveyed by wsing the self-administered questionnaire anonymously. Results: 0-verall, 36. 2% of students reported having been corporal punished or/and emotionally maltreated at least one time, one of eight forms of maltreatments by their parents before age of 16. The eight forms of maltreatments were hitting/kicking/pushing very hard with an open hand/fist/foot/other part of body (21.4%), beating with an object (16.1%), locking in a small place/tying with rope (2.8%), choking, burning, or stabbing with sharp object (0.4%), insulting in front of other people and trying to make the child feel bad, stupid or worthless (4.2%), forcing to give away money or possessions the child owned to other people (0.9%); being told that they wish the child had never been born, or were dead (7.2%), and threatened that they would be abandoned or banished from the house (7.2%). Compared with their peers who had no childhood parental corporal punishment or/and emotional maltreatments, the students with two or more forms of the maltreatments by their parents showed significantly higher mean scores of psychological symptoms of somatization, obsessiveness, interpersonal sensitivity, depression, anxiety, hostility, paranoid ideation and psychoticism (the total average score; (0.75 ± 0.53) vs. (1.02 ± 0.48), especially the factor scores of hostility (0.77 ± 0.68) vs. (1.25 ± 0.80), and showed significantly higher rates in suicide ideation and being drunk in the past year (5.1% vs. 20.8%; 22.5% vs. 42.1%). Conclusions: The problem of corporal punishment and emotional maltreatment by parents is common and has a significant correlation with adolescents' mental health problems.

    [bolded for emphasis]


    I won't even get into Attachment Theory. Despite Ainsworth's and Bowlby's works being one of the most celebrated triumphs of social and family psychology in the last fifty years, you might disregard it as "affected by American preference for softness".

    I also have an exam to study for, so, there's that too :)

    It has been nice debating with you. I'll say once more: I've never doubted the ample benefits to tiger parenting. I simply want you to acknowledge the potential risks, or even better, say outright that you don't care about the risks as long as the results are satisfactory.

    I also hope you will be professional enough to not delete this. It's important that people see it. We're currently discussing your defense in the Penny Arcade forums and I'll keep a copy up just in case.

    Have a good evening.

  71. Patrick, the fact that I would rather go watch a movie with my wife on a Sunday night doesn't mean you "scored a solid win" like you juvenilely claimed.

    I have better things to do right now, but I will come back to it some time.

  72. Alright Patrick, I'm back. Let's start from here:

    I've never doubted the ample benefits to tiger parenting. I simply want you to acknowledge the potential risks, or even better, say outright that you don't care about the risks as long as the results are satisfactory.

    OK. The post already discusses how tiger parenting can be improved. In fact, I explicitly stated that it is not perfect. That necessarily means it has potential risks and downsides. And if I didn't care about the downsides, I wouldn't have suggested areas of improvement.

    But the downsides of tiger parenting is not any worse than the downside of non-tiger parenting. And the upside of tiger parenting is incomparable to the upside of non-tiger parenting. That makes it pretty clear to me which system is superior.

    I will assert though that physical abuse is not a valid element of cultural parenting practices. It's not acceptable. If you don't like it - with all due respect - you can go back where you came from, and prove America wrong.

    Ah, the old "If you don't like it here, go home" argument -- which pretty much shows you didn't understand the point about universalizing Western values.

    I will do you one better -- I am already proving America wrong. Myself, my wife and the successful Asian Americans. And the whole population of Tiger Cubs who supposedly went through "emotional abuse."

    Again, I recommend you carefully parse what I said about universalizing Western values, and how in some respects Asia is more cosmopolitan than Western countries. (Some) Asian people accept (some) Western values, which means you can always find research papers from Korea or China that would support the Western worldview -- especially so if that paper is written in English. (Guess where the writer would have learned English!) So when you say "It's not acceptable," you are not making a rational argument -- you are just stating your own value, and that's it. Which is why this statement of yours:

    Science says your wife is scarred. You too.

    is particularly odious. You don't know me, and you don't know my wife. And SCIENCE says we are scarred? Fucking please. Only in your mind that is so terrified of any toughness thinks we are scarred.


  73. [continued]

    And apparently you want me to deal with this statement, so I will deal with it:

    It's a lose-lose situation for you - if you don't beat your own children with a mop handle, you're a hypocrite. If you do, you're a criminal.

    I am an attorney, and I swore to uphold the laws of the United States. I take that oath seriously. So you will not see me breaking any laws. But you can bet anything that my wife and I will do the maximum pushing possible without violating any laws. There's your answer.

    And lastly, this statement of yours:

    I also hope you will be professional enough to not delete this.

    is insulting.

  74. I think the "Tiger Mom" way of rearing children has some great merits. Teaching children to have a great drive to do something and to have belief in themselves is one of the most important parts of success.

    But how do you define success? The Tiger Mom way of defining success is getting good grades and having a good job.

    However I think there are a couple problems with this method. This method greatly pigeon holes its children. You dont need a 4.0 GPA to have a successfull career.

    School is stressed too much. The only purpose of school from grades k-12 is for children to learn how to learn. The amount of useful knowlege they exract from that time period is quite limited. Tiger cub children are incredibly adept at doing well at school. This is a quite usefull skill if your interested in become a lawyer, engineer, doctor - where the qualifications for getting a job in the field are school related.

    However in jobs where schooling is not as important - business, sports, music etc they have no experience. Jeremy Lin is the perfect example of this.

    School and violin/piano are stressed so much in this method that a great many minds who's talents may lay outside that area are not being seen. That is infact doing a lot of harm. This method is great at churning out doctors, lawyers and engineers - but that's largely it.

    Why is this? Because its incredibly hard to become an expert in any field when youve spent 14 years of your life doing math tests over and over again to pull that B up to an A.

    Jeremy Lin is actually the perfect example of this. If he was indeed raised in a Tiger Mom family then he was spending valuable time during his developing period on school work instead of working on what a) brought him happiness b) would be beneficial to his later career of choice. All the work that was required to get into Harvard was actually leaving him further and further behind than his peers in his chosen profession.

    I think the greatest strength of the Tiger Mom method is that it is the most likely to produce adults with above average sucessfull lives (career and education), however it also limits the amount of success one can have.

    I also think its ironic that the method criticizes white Americans for not having enough faith in their children to do be able to get As (which I completely agree with) yet at the same time believes that all children are naturally lazy and quitters and must be pushed to extremes to get their full potential out of them.

  75. Konstantin,

    Actually, Jeremy Lin is a great example of Tiger Parenting's success. Take a look at's profile of Lin. Lin's father loved basketball, so he drilled the fundamentals into his son over and over, like any good Tiger Dad would do.

    The only reason why Lin went to Harvard was because no major basketball school would recruit him. He was the California Player of the Year coming out of HS. By all indications he should have gone to a major basketball school. But he literally received no D-I scholarship offer.

    And now he's an NBA player. Not a great one, but heck, there are only so many NBA players in the world. That's pretty successful, although the Korean hopes Lin would become greater. The Korean is sure that Lin himself is hoping the same also.

  76. found an interesting article on Tiger moms at

    its funny, i'm not sure how accurate it is, but its written by a Chinese woman, I think it offers a different perspective on tiger moms. I do think most Americans are too soft on their kids, but i'm not totally sure the tiger mom route is the way to go.


  77. I just discovered this post through the ESPN basketball blog Truehoop and was surprised to see such a well written defense of the Amy Chua article. So I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading it and thanks for taking the time to write it. I'll definitely check out your other posts sometime.

    But what compelled me to comment is that some of the trolling, ie. Patrick, on here has been pretty ridiculous. His whole tone and his bragging of "scoring a solid win" on the other forum just seems really immature and basically screams douche. I guess some people will always try to take shots at others as a way to elevate themselves. Everyone wants to be the Kobe-stopper.

    Not that I want to get into it with mr. cultural psychology grad student, but just throwing it out there: isn't anyone who works hard and successful at what they do going to "suffer" from some of those symptoms such as obsessiveness and anxiety? Neuroticism probably fits right in also. It's like how they say a lot of geniuses suffer from things such as paranoia, depression or other mental illnesses. To have such a mind that questions everything to the point where it came come up with breakthroughs in a field, that mind is also going to question things outside of technical problems related to work. That mind can't be reined in whenever that person pleases. So similarly, anyone who has hard work as the foundation of their success, whether it be a Tiger Cub or just a successful person in any field, might be prone to some obessive behaviors. They just can't turn it off whenever they want. But it seems to me what would be more important would be the level of those symptoms and whether it affects their ability to be happy or whatever you use to measure mental health. Does it really affect their ability to be happy and contributing members of society in any significant way? The Korean's point about the stability of Asian American family life leads me to guess the answer is no.

  78. Several things that you have forgotten about your defense of the Tiger Mother that I believe that you have left out and makes a much more solid defense.

    For instance, the reason why Tiger Mothers push the magical Asian jobs of lawyer/doctor/engineer is primary because of a general need for these occupations. There will always be a need for these professions and the lack of hard manual intensive work makes these jobs that much more prestigious for Tiger Mothers. However, for those that argue that Tiger Mother-ism stunt growth and creativity and entrepreneurship is deadly wrong. For every Bill Gates, there is 10,000 failed businesses. For every person that decided to open a business, another 10,000 are declaring bankrupcies. Tiger Mothers take these into account. Why have my children work that hard when I had to work that hard to get to where I am? And let's be honest here, being a entrepreneur is hard work with rarely anything to show for it. In terms of rowing the dice, you are better raising a child with the emphasis in those fields.

    Second, in terms of money being the source of happiness, I had an argument with my mom a few months ago when I decided I wanted to write instead of pursue law due to my love writing and history. (let's say I'm still struggling with this decision) I told my mother, "I dont care about how much money I have, as long as I love what I do." My mother, in Cantonese, said, "I would rather cry in a limousine then cry on my bike." That little comeback essentially wrapped up anything you need to say about choosing happiness or a job that pays well but not emotionally fulfilling.

  79. I agree with most points of Tiger Parenting though I was not raised by Tiger Parents myself.
    However, I have noticed after observing my Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean friends that those who are raised by Tiger Mothers in a culture where this the norm, or do not try and emulate Western views, find nothing wrong with their upbringing. On the other hand it seems that it they absorb the Western culture that they begin to view themselves as scarred in some way.

  80. Tiger moms raise cold, heartless, and selfish people. You insult American mothers, but we have raised loving caring individuals who come to the aid of people in trouble all over the world. Where's the compassion in these "American Asians"? The American Army that fights for your American rights...I bet a large percent were raised the Western way. Money isn't everything. My God, could you people be anymore greedy? Tiger Parenting sounds like ABUSE! These mothers need therapy! When did we start advocating child abuse?

    1. While I personally think that the American parenting style permits too much freedom to the children, I absolutely do not agree to Tiger parenting either. There must be a way to balance both, somehow!

  81. Stumbled across your article whilst doing some research for a project. When doing my research, I also found this interesting study: pretty sure that's the one. Anyway, long story short, it showed that in terms of school grades, Western kids respond better to Western parenting, and Chinese responded better to Chinese parenting, whilst second generation Chinese immigrants responded best to a bit of both. So no, there is no universally superior parenting method. It really is a case of each to their own. And there's some hard evidence to support that.

  82. Response to nickol_3
    How do you know tiger moms raise cold/selfish people? Have you met one? No one is insulting American mothers. The insult is pointed at mothers (American and others, including Asians, yes Asians) who are not raising their children right.

    Talking about aid, do you know US is not the only nation sending aid to people in the world?

    And do you know S Korean army sent a large # of combat troops to Vietnam conflict to help out USA and Vietnam? Something like a quarter million S Korean men went to Vietnam.

  83. Generally I find this blog enlightening, but, The Korean, this seems like a cognitive defense mechanism: "Again, I recommend you carefully parse what I said about universalizing Western values, and how in some respects Asia is more cosmopolitan than Western countries. (Some) Asian people accept (some) Western values, which means you can always find research papers from Korea or China that would support the Western worldview -- especially so if that paper is written in English."

    That is a classic confirmation bias heuristic, the same kind of confirmation bias heuristic you often accuse "Westerners" of. In other words, it gives you away out of research that contradicts your cultural confirmed views, just like say, the reaction many had to fan death. While it is a universal human trait, it isn't a particularly useful one for getting to the truth.

  84. "Something like a quarter million S Korean men went to Vietnam."

    I wouldn't say that's the best example, dbagoo, since a lot of Vietnamese really resent Koreans for that even if it was meant well. I still think you have an excellent and valid point, but I would go to troops to Vietnam to support it.

  85. i love your blog. i'm not korean, but have studied the language and culture. I think i should only point out one thing. maybe 2. the term "asian american" - should be expanded to include NON chinese, korean or japanese americans. and then we'd get a better picture of just how "successful" asian americans are.
    2) sorry to point this out but asian americans ARENT the best performing group in terms of education. that would be african immigrants.

  86. Just read this in Stephen King's 'On Writing':

    "When my son Owen was seven or so, he fell in love with Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, particularly with Clarence Clemons, the band's burly sax player. Owen decided he wanted to learn to play like Clarence. My wife and I were amused and delighted by this ambition. We were hopeful, as any parent would be, that our kid would turn out to be talented, perhaps even some sort of prodigy. We got Owen a tenor saxophone for Christmas and lessons with Gordon Bowie, one of the local music men. Then we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.

    Seven months later I suggested to my wife that it was time to discontinue the sax lessons, if Owen concurred. Owen did, and with palpable relief - he hadn't wanted to say it himself, especially not after asking for the sax in the first place, but seven months had been long enough for him to realize that, while he might love Clarence Clemons's big sound, the saxophone was simply not for him - God had not given him that particular talent.

    I knew, not because Owen stopped practicing, but because he was practicing only during the periods Mr. Bowie had set for him: half an hour after school four days a week, plus an hour on the weekends. Owen mastered the scales and the notes - nothing wrong with his memory, his lungs, or his eye-hand coordination - but we never heard him taking off , surprising himself with something new, blissing himself out. And as soon as practice time was over, it was back into the case with the horn, and there it stayed until the next lesson or practice-time. What this suggested to me was that when it came to the sax and my son, there was never going to be any real play-time; it was all going to be rehearsal. That's no good. If there's no joy in it, it's just no good. It's best to go on to some other area, where the deposits of talent may be richer and the fun quotient higher.

    Talent renders the whole idea of rehearsal meaningless; when you find something at which you are talented, you do it (whatever it is) until your fingers bleed or your eyes are ready to fall out of your head."

    It's pretty common for Korean kids to have piano lessons, but I've yet to see any just playing for fun. I realise there may be many reasons for that.

    So, would a Tiger Mom have pushed Owen to continue, or would they only really push if there were signs of real talent?

  87. DJclooney... I have to say, nationwide, that Asian Americans actually ARE the best-performing "minority" group in education, regardless of if they're 1szt or 2nd generation. That's not to say that African immigrants aren't also very high-achieving & hard-working. I've known many Kenyans in my home city who were very noticeably serious with their education, and achieved greatly! But I think number-wise, I have seen Asians performing & producing results at a consistently greater proportion. (Agreeing with The Korean, where he said that for the small actual amount of their population in a given school, they have a bigger percentage of the highest rankings.

  88. Even though you gave so many arguments very positive for the tiger parenting still I am not convinced, maybe never be. I´d rather have a happy kid than a smart kid or disciplined, too much pressure of children are put in my opinion but I respect asian culture

  89. I have such mixed feelings about the whole Tiger Mom thing. My mother had a lot of Tiger Mom traits - she pushed all her kids academically, we all had had some kind of classy extra-curricular thing (I started playing violin at 4). I wasn't allowed to watch TV, play videogames, etc. etc. She had a very narrow set of expectations that she wanted all her children to follow and I rebelled every step of the way.

    I hated her guts and I barely speak to her now. I quit violin in highschool - she railed at me for years for that - and I have barely touched it since because it brings up such awful memories for me. My older sister - who went through a wild party and drug phase as a part of her rebellion - was diagnosed with mental illness in highschool, dropped out, and is now in assisted living. She'll probably never recover and has permanent brain damage. One of my older brothers dropped out of college and lives alone in a beat up trailer and spends most of his time smoking weed. My other brother is doing okay, has a decent job and a kid, but he's by no means any kind of shining measure of worldly success. All of us had top-notch grades in school and did piano, violin, ballet. My life improved wildly after I stopped speaking to my mother. For years I equated academic success with self worth, and would beat myself up over anything less than perfection. Maybe being pushed to excel did help my grades in university, but it sure as hell caused years of depression and social isolation.

    Maybe there's a way to push your kids to excel without being abusive. I would really like to hear about it, personally. But if it comes down to the way I will raise my own children... I will never be a Tiger Mother.

  90. Parenting is one of the things Americans really love to fight about! I am a white American in my 50's and have some opinions based on my experience.

    My parents were strict in some ways, and they did use corporal punishment. I was switched with a branch from an azalea bush for my wrong doings. However, I don't remember what for, so I am not sure it was really useful. I never had to be pressured to study because I liked school. However, I was frequently shamed and yelled at about any sport I ever tried, so I decided that I was useless at sports.

    Based on that experience, I am not sure how shaming and high expectations work together. If you tell a kid he is stupid or garbage, how is that having high expectations? It makes more sense to me to have high expectations by telling the kid he needs to work harder because he can achieve if he works hard enough. I think you can be just as strict by requiring kids to get all their work done before using any electronic media, for example. Hitting is quick and over, but going without the XBox, phone and TV can be torture!

    Another point is "professional careers." My father pushed my to study chemical engineering, which could be considered a "practical" career. However, when I graduated in 1983, it was very difficult for chemical engineers to get jobs. Similarly, kids graduating from law school these days have a difficult time getting jobs. I think that a child should study what they are good at or what they are motivated to succeed in and then they can work hard to succeed in that profession. I was an indifferent engineer, and then I went back and got my masters in Speech pathology. I like being a speech pathologist much better than an engineer and have a better aptitude for it so I am more successful in the profession.

    Lastly, I wanted to describe my experience with a family from Taiwan who brought their teenage daughter to me for language therapy. She was autistic, and had a great deal of difficulty communicating with anyone. Her sister was a Tiger Cub who graduated at the top of her class, etc. However, the family did not have a clue on how to help their autistic daughter. Many families have to be educated on the topic; however, the mom did not seem to understand my explanations of how to help her child. Beating this girl was not going to help her understand anything. Screaming at her to study was not going to help when she had no clue of how to do it. Obviously, these parents had a good idea of how to raise a typical kid, since one daughter was doing so well. However, the Tiger process did not work for a child with autism. What that daughter learned was that violence was OK and she responded with violence to her parents. One size fits all just does not cut it when you are dealing with differences. It's like beating a child who is blind because they cannot see. I firmly believe every child can improve, and I have seen that in my practice, but every child will not improve to the same level. The key is not to define the level, but to bring the child step-by-step into the next higher level of functioning.

    Consistently improving by working hard is really the philosophy that is going to help every child, no matter their ability or disability.

    1. Cool article about parenting. Thoughts:

      Tiger Parenting: A spectrum? Different kinds of tiger-ness? How do I do it?
      -> Shall I Discipline very harshly? Just somewhat harsh? When do I discipline them? How do I deal with individual situations? I think that's a pretty good question to ask. I mean, is there's some book entitled "Tiger Parenting: This is how you do it"? It will probably make some Cha-Ching ($$) 차칭

      Tiger Parenting in Korea: Definitely going to decline.
      -> There's a recent change in Korean culture since Korea got rich. Koreans even buy their own foreigners for English conversation. Koreans are rolling in some serious dough. Not like Dubai-dough, but rolling in dough none-the-less. And wealth is known to decrease Tigerliness. So this wealth is going to bring on a quick decline in Tigerly Parents.

      Also, Nigerians are really happy! And they have like, no money or success, or anything:

      And that's that.

  91. A few points:

    1. We need to distinguish the ideal of Tiger parenting as described by Amy Chua with what actually happens in China, South Korea, and probably many other countries. Just read this article criticizing the commonly observed results of Chinese parenting/education: It points out that Amy Chua is arguing "from that limited, wealthy set" of "privileged, wealthy, driven über-achievers" to "the majority of Chinese moms". What you typically observe in China is students with a "combination of immaturity, a sense of entitlement, and absolute dependency" because they are not expected to do anything but study. The Korean perhaps concurs with these students' parents that study should indeed be their exclusive focus, but then why do you also see many "slackers" and cheats?

    2. They say human beings need time both to work and to play or daydream; to alternate between left-brain and right-brain activity. It's true that if we're pushed we usually find we are capable of more than we think we are, but, at the same time, the answer can't always be to work more.

    3. This isn't to say that the self-esteem movement has the answers. Barbara Ehrenleich here ( talks about the cult of positive thinking in America, and the need to be realistic and determined.

    4. The common thread linking the seemingly opposing ideas of 'Tiger parenting' (by which I mean Chinese/South Korean style mass education) and the cult of positive thinking is that both serve the interests of global corporate capitalism. Companies want people who are willing to work long hours and obey orders without raising a dissenting voice - 'Tiger parenting' trains people to sit inside for long hours working without asking questions, and the cult of positive thinking trains people to think of their natural resentment at poor treatment and doubts at the direction their company is going in as 'negativity'.


    One comment: "I’m not gonna raise my kids like this."

  93. A very interesting read in the support of Tiger parenting. Now there's another term out there - "helicopter" parents that people are being told to eschew. Not the same as tiger parenting, but the backlash against both connotes that people all need to back off and let children do whatever they please. As a second-generation Korean, I am in general agreement that tiger parenting works well, however there really needs to be a way to help children who may be mentally ill or unstable and a lot more empathy from parents could really help if I child is not meeting the parent's "expectations." What comes to mind is Seung-Hui Cho, the Virgina Tech mass shooter, who clearly was not given the support he needed and whatever problems he was facing was probably exacerbated by his korean, fundamentalist, tiger parents.

  94. Few will challenge the importance of parents having faith in their children’s possibilities. However, stating that Tiger Parenting is “superior,” even generally speaking, sounds very dangerous as there are a vast number of victims of excessive parental interference in Korea. Majority of my friends who never left Korea grew up with parents making every decision on behalf of them; they either suffered from identity crisis as adults, or still are unsure of what they really want. (Could there be more cultural influence than parental to this? That would be another topic to discuss.)

    I cannot thank my parents enough for never forcing me to go to hagwons, never imposing their values, and never pretending to know what is best for me. Instead we had lots and lots of discussions to understand one another. I have made most decisions by myself ever since I was 3-4 (extreme, I know). On occasions, my parents would of course make suggestions as to what new things I can try, some of which I accepted and others I declined (again, through discussions where everyone has a say). Throughout my school years I was a straight A student, academically surpassing almost all Tiger Cubs around me, and most importantly, by far I grew up to be the person I wanted to be.

    I do not argue that laissez-faire parenting is for every child out there, but neither is Tiger Parenting. Children are not blank slates; different approaches should be taken after careful observation of their innate traits.

    1. See for me it's the contrary. I was brilliant at school and although my mom encouraged me to continue on, I was left to do what I wanted and had no challenge. It left me years later being bored, never doing any work (why bother I still had ok grades that my family prasied) and then bad things happened. Bottom of the line, I could have achieved so much more if there was discipline, pushing and challenge. Instead I got a soft comfortable cocoon.

      For that reason, I wish that my mom would have been a tiger-mom. Granted, I still wouldn't have been able to have things similar to piano lessons (no money) and maybe still would have been teased at school but these things wouldn't have mattered *now*, when life really matters. There's nothing as depressing as to realise what a waste all of your childhood was.

  95. As a native Korean, I couldn't agree more with what Matt said: "We need to distinguish the ideal of Tiger parenting as described by Amy Chua with what actually happens in China, South Korea, and probably many other countries." I think the Korean is supporting an imaginary, ideal type of education system which is not existent at least in Korea. A typical Korean mom isn't maximizing the potential of her children; rather, she is forcing them to study more than 12 hours a day just for a good GPA and CSAT score. Individual preferences are rarely taken into account.

  96. After reading this comment thread - or at least part of it - I believe I should contribute something.

    To start off, I agree with the premise of "tiger parenting", which is to help children maximize their potential for success in the long run. However, there is a difference between pushing kids to succeed for their own good and pushing kids to succeed in an attempt to assuage the parents' ego. If the kids get good grades at school and the parents get to brag about it, that's good. However, the ego boost for the parents is a bonus, as far as I'm concerned. The main objective here is to make our children stronger, emotionally as well as physically and intellectually. Personally I would make sure that my kids, for example, apply constant practice and refinement to their subject matters so that the knowledge thereof remains with them in the long run, rather than just push them to raise their academic scores. After all, do we not send our children to school so they can acquire the knowledge they will need to function well in society?

    The word "education" in English comes from a Latin term meaning "to lead out to". That is, education leads one out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of knowledge. This comparison between light - which shows what is around us - and knowledge - which shows what is within us - can be seen in the proverb "Lux vitae ratio", logic is the "light" (guide, in this instance) of life.

  97. In Singapore, we've a lot of tiger mums who also push their kids to do well. What I'm going to comment on is the damage all this pressure does to society, besides my personal account:

    My mother who's a retired school teacher was relentless in making me study endless hours of piano, history, maths, etc., to score top grades. I wasn't even allowed to read a single book for years, unless it was a textbook or reference book. Until now, I haven't touched a single book for the past 10 years. To my younger self who loved reading about the world and fiction and thinking for myself, I guess this would be unimaginable. Yeah, I got hit a lot unless I got a top 100. Anything other than that was unacceptable.

    You know what's wrong with this culture? When you put performance and achievement over everything else: love, compassion, empathy, etc., you're going to create a race of humans who care only about themselves and no one else. That's right: they won't have time nor space to experience personal growth. They'll be uncaring and intolerant of others' suffering. They'll end up viewing their children as "trophies to brandish", not "humans who need to be nurtured".

    In Singapore, we've already children as young as 5, 6 years old who attempt suicide from the pressure to "perform well". Almost everyone who's a teenager and below has attempted suicide at least 2 to 3 times. I won't babble much but I do know at least some of them go on to develop mental disorders like eating disorders, anxiety disorders, etc.
    These kids often go for a lot of tution classes after school, extra activities like ballet, playing the violin, fencing, cooking classes, etc., in order to "nurture personal development" and for their parents to show off.

    Lysher Loh, 10, jumps to death:

    If you put success above everything else, what about society and family ties then? I do know of cases where people just dump their parents in the old folks' home as they're getting in the way. After all, they learnt to value materialism and social status which they in turn impart to their own kids, who're so busy studying they don't see their parents and who're strangers to them. Then, these people, they'll die old and lonely.

    Few may say this but mental issues in Asia, which loves "being the best" , are on the rise. It's a ticking time-bomb which will be incredibly expensive to treat, as advanced mental disorders require highly trained personnel, medicine and excellent facilities.

    1. Vera Wang - born to Chinese parents who are descended from the elite (a warlord). Her mother was a translator for the U.N. and her father owned a medicine company. This was in an earlier period, the late 40s onwards, so by the standards of those times, her parents occupied a higher socioeconomic strata than many Americans born in America to white families. They were definitely not hard-up immigrants with few resources.

  98. How do you know that those famous Asian Americans such as Connie Chung etc.were raised by hardline "tiger parents"? Did you carefully research all of them?
    I met Chang-rae Lee, and got the opportunity to hear him talk about his novels, and during the talk, he made a few references to his childhood, and I did not get the impression that his parents were extremely pushy and focused only on academic excellence/getting into the best universities. On the contrary, it seemed to me that his parents had fostered in him a sense of self and an ability to make decisions for himself, in a rational way.
    And in fact, his parents are not like the immigrant parents you described: people who came to the U.S. with limited education and worked hard,often menial jobs, or scraped by running small restaurants or corner stores. His father was a psychologist and he continued to work as one in the U.S., in Westchester, which is a very middle class, affluent neighborhood. Lee's parents could afford to send him to the elite Phillips Exeter Academy, so they weren't hard up. They could afford the kind of "extra help" which elite white Americans have access to. It's not like he won scholarships and got into Yale despite attending underfunded state schools, having to study long hours without assistance at home in a tiny room. He went to Phillips Exeter. And if you look at Exeter graduates, you'd surely find a good many graduates of Ivy League/famous universities - people who were not of Asian background and not from a "tiger parent" background.

    As for John Cho, from what I have read, I did not get the sense that his parents absolutely opposed his choice of degree (he went to the University of California, Berkeley, but he did a B.A. in English literature - something that is not typically favored by tiger parents). Cho spent some time working as a teacher in high schools, a job that many hardcore tiger parents would not approve of because it's not prestigious nor highly paid in the U.S. Apparently Cho told his father that he wanted to make acting his career, and his father suggested TV newsreader, because it seemed more accessible and more likely that Cho could find success (as there were already newsreaders of Asian descent on TV, and high profile journalists). However, his father seemed to be suggesting that out of concern for his son, to choose something where he could more realistically find success. His father didn't say "no, just become a doctor or accountant or engineer." So I'm sure these things indicate that his parents definitely weren't the kind of hardcore tigers that you hear about, the ones who schedule every minute of their child's day and yell at them if they get an A rather than an A+, or force them to practice piano 5 hrs a day, and dictate what subjects they'll choose, and the university and course they will do.

  99. I had tiger parents. Well, a tiger father. My mother was nowhere near as bad, and didn't pressure us as much, nor did she demean us (which he often did, mocking our appearance, berating us for our lack of height- which was his fault, due to his short genes anyway etc.). They gave us lots of pressure, but they didn't any of the things I see other tiger parents do, like investigate the schools I attended, or what we covered in subjects. Nor did they hire any tutors, or enrol us in any after-school academies,like Korean parents today, or offer any other support, other than taking us to the public library often, and buying us books. They couldn't communicate with our teachers, so they never asked about us, and rarely attended any parent/teacher days (to my great relief, as I was very embarrassed by them and their English skills). My father even misunderstood report card comments and so on, because he didn't have the English skills to read them (they were all excellent, but he misunderstood). But he never apologized or made it up to me for getting angry over comments, which he had not read correctly. He also had a terrible temper and would be in bad moods. We'd never know if he was going to wake up and come out angry and in a foul mood, so we walked around on eggshells, hoping not to disturb his sleep and wake him up. He worked shifts, and I liked it when he was away from home,and working shifts where we would not have much opportunity to see him, or have to encounter him.

    I had an extremely miserable childhood, and a disoriented and unhappy university life. I got into a prestigious university, but doing a degree which he wasn't happy with. I wasn't going to be a doctor or lawyer or anything. But he preferred that I did a B.A. at this top university, rather than one more vocational (leading to a profession) at a "lesser" university that was not "top-tier." The "name" meant a great deal to him. Once I was in university, my father paid little attention to me because he thought now that I was in the prestigious university, he needn't be concerned, since I didn't have to get the highest possible scores, only get through and graduate. Basically, he just paid no attention, although he continued with his nitpicking and micromanagement of my life (like monitoring/criticizing the food I ate, when I ate, what I wore, what I did at home, when I got up or slept, what I spent what little money I got from a government subsidy on, etc.). I was unhappy in university for other reasons, but related to my past, which I was kind of dealing with the after-effects of, in my university years. I also lost my sense of self as I was no longer a top student, as I had been as a child, at the small, regional schools I'd attended, which was in contrast to the huge faculty I found myself in, at this top national university. I was suddenly a very small fish, without teacher support, without any academic glory, and my parents paid little attention to me.

    I attempted suicide twice, which they knew about, since I was living at home (not allowed to leave, you know). I didn't succeed, obviously, so I never became one of those statistics, of Asian immigrant kids who committed suicide. I tend to think whites are just more "successful" at suicide- often, because they have access to say, guns, or powerful drugs, which I didn't have. There just wasn't anywhere to hang myself, that would take my weight -I had considered it and tested out a curtain pole, and it was clearly not going to be suitable.

    I also made some cutting attempts, but it didn't really take hold.

    I ended up moving far away from him, and I do not keep in touch with him. That is how I prefer it.


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