Tiger Mom Equals Bitch Mom

tiger mom, tough parenting, abusive parents, tough love

Creative Commons: memegenerator.net

A friend sent me Annie Murphy Paul’s article Is Tough Parenting Really the Answer? about Amy Chua, the self-proclaimed tiger mom who is into disciplining her children and forcing them to learn things into the wee hours, without bathroom breaks. Didn’t I hear about this technique used by countries that prefer torture as a way of breaking and humiliating people, or perhaps getting information from them?

After reading the piece I had one strong feeling about Chua: revulsion. It’s not that I don’t think children should be encouraged and disciplined; it’s just that doing so in a draconian way can cause a lifetime of issues for most people. In fact, my second reaction was, well, she has a point about people being too lenient with this generation. I should point out that I haven’t read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, and articles can slant one way or another when aspects are taken out of context.

When I read this Q&A with Chua, I thought she had some good reasoning for some things, and I’ve heard she’s done a fair amount of back pedaling on other statements. (TIME’s Q&A with Amy Chua.) She also said she wrote a memoir, not a parenting guide book. But she strongly touts the Chinese way/Chinese  Moms (in Paul’s article) as a superior way of parenting, almost to bigoted proportions. And by writing the book she did want to portray her way of parenting as superior though she admitted defeat with one child.

I do believe that children should be given expectations, such as good behavior, politeness, completing and passing school, and chores. This trains them to  take on responsibility, be socially functional, be able to succeed and be self-reliant. I’ve watched some friends raise their children by doing everything for them, and they do neither their children, nor their children’s partners in years to come, any favors. But such phrases as Chua calling her daughter “garbage” after the girl behaved badly seem overly harsh. Or when she returned the birthday card her daughter made, saying, “I deserve better than this. So I reject this.”

Yes, we are raising a generation of coddled and entitled kids where everyone in a class is given a prize, but there needs to be a balance, which, Chua argues, she did everything with compassion. As much can be gained by supporting and encouraging your child and expressing love as in disciplining them with jail like restrictions.

tiger mom, child abuse, tough love, social conditions, raising children

Not all tiger moms are rough. Photo credit: law_keven Creative Commons

I speak partially from experience. My mother taught us responsibility. A punishment or something withheld if we didn’t do our chores would have been justifiable. But sometimes the level of enforcement or lack of compassion didn’t help. I still wish my mother would have kept me at acrobats and tap dance when I was little, something that in my child’s temporal sense of things took someone keeping me on it. But she was sick and couldn’t do it. I still regret that I didn’t continue those classes. I also remember my paper dolls being thrown out in a fit of my mother’s pique. What I did, I don’t remember. We were sometimes punished for imaginary things, or events so small that the punishment never equalled the crime. We were told that “better people than you have failed” and encouraged very little.  That did no service to confidence.

Forcing a child to play an instrument they don’t like, as Chua did, will beat some down and make others rebel as her one daughter did. Giving them a choice to express their creativity in what they like, and then supporting them and making sure they stick to it, is a better way. Yes, too many people let their children do whatever they want and we have a nation of young people growing up with obesity because they only play computer games or watch TV. However, an overly strict disciplinarian style can instill such a case of fear and lack of self-confidence that obesity can result from that too.

Chua’s daughter can now go on dates and only (only!) practice piano for 1.5 hours a day instead of the six she used to have to do. Wow! Six hours a day on top of school and homework, and presumably chores. Of course, practice makes perfect and research supports this, but I wonder if there was ever any time for fun. Chua says,  “Kids who have this well-earned sense of mastery are more optimistic and decisive; they’ve learned that they’re capable of overcoming adversity and achieving goals.” Unfortunately in my family, the tiger mom approach did not give anyone a sense of mastery. Oh, and we’re not Asian either so maybe this isn’t a Chinese way, just a harsh one.

One end of the pendulum is saying your little Johnny is perfect, rewarding him for everything even if he doesn’t finish it or care, doing everything for him, and treating him like a little prince. The other end of the pendulum is treating little Johnny that even second place isn’t good enough, punishing him constantly, leaving no leeway for changes in path or preference and treating him like he’s in prison. In the middle is a parent who is loving and cares and encourages yet set up tasks and responsibilities and doesn’t let the child get away with murder. Paul says in her article, “All that said, however, psychologists universally decry the use of threats and name calling — verbal weapons frequently deployed by Chua — as harmful to children’s individual development and to the parent-child relationship.” Having seen a range I think I’d prefer a cat mom, one who can still use claws from time to time but who can love and relax as well.


Filed under Culture, family, home, life, people

6 responses to “Tiger Mom Equals Bitch Mom

  1. karma-Doc

    No, sorry you’re wrong. When or if you get the chance to visit an American classroom and an Asia classroom you will see why the Asians are far better scholars. They are polite, prepared, and attentive… the fact is they will always dominate the sciences, the arts, and music at the highest level because of their parents forcing them to succeed.

    American parents, like myself, should be required to read this book before having children.

    • colleenanderson

      Umm, that’s a pretty blanketing statement. Are you saying I’m wrong about my childhood and the outcomes, or that we are raising children to be entitled or that the Chua is too strict, or one of the other statements I made? Which part am I wrong about in your all knowing opinion? Or am I wrong altogether, which of course makes you wrong too because then we’re on equal footing.

    • Carmen

      Actually- you don’t have to be a complete, self loathing psycho nutjob to get your kids to achieve in class. IF you resort to that, you’re a really bad parent.
      My dad wasn’t. I am Asian and typically always the best behaved kid in class (with good grades).

  2. Karma Doc


    Umm, I think you’re playing, and I think you know what I was referring to. Oh, and please read the book, it will probably change your opinion of this lady.

    The title to your original posting was “Tiger Mom Equals Bitch Mom” this statement is what you are wrong about, as well as her methods of making sure her children can compete in this world. I stated, in my first posting, that you should go see the difference in students, asian vs other nationalities at all levels of education; there is a profound difference, and the asians win.

    My opinion is that parents are afraid of their children and of the structure of education. I firmly believe that parents should be held accountable for their children’s learning, and if this means forcing music, math, english, etc… upon their children then so be it.

    I wonder, do you have children? If you do how do you handle their studing? Yes, I have little ones, six by two marriages, all grown productive adults. I wish I would have had the opportunity to read Chau’s book while they were in school.

    I have had first-hand opportunities to work with young people in classrooms and can tell you that we, parents, are doing a disservice to our children by not making them study and learn… there will be plenty of time later for them to go on sleep-overs.

    We need more “Tiger Moms and Dads.

    • colleenanderson

      LOL, well thanks for believing I have super powers but I really couldn’t tell what “this” you were referring to. You might notice that I didn’t say I was completely against her approach and I did in fact state that I haven’t read the book and articles can give a slant, as well as saying that I think we’re raising an entitled generation. However, from personal experience, all discipline and no compassion does not make a balanced individual. And would you have really forced your child to practice 6 hours a day on top of school and homework?

  3. Jean

    (In New South Wales, Australia were I live). My Mother at my period of schooling from Primary to High School was very much a “Tiger Mother” and she is of Asian Espanic descent from Cebu. I had no computer as she wouldn’t buy one, although I could watch TV sometimes, but I had to get a “A” every time at school and it was expected of me especially good behaviour all the time. However, when I didn’t get a good mark my Mother would be extremely insulting calling me “dump, stupid child” and allways make comparisons of how good she was at school. I played the Piano and my Mother had extremely high expectations in that area as well, my Mother also expected hours of practice on the piano, which was also forced apon me by my Asian Espanic piano teacher, the same ethnicity as my Mother. Thus, my piano teacher would get violent yelling and screaming at me were at times he would grab the finger I made a mistake with when I played a wrong note on the piano and press hard apon my finger, on the piano which would hurt and my Mother knew about this and believed it was correct, as naughty children should get punished. I loved learning to play the Piano then I started to hate it and desperately wanted to leave this teacher but was frightened. When I was badly behaved or didn’t make my Mother happy she would be most extreme in her punishment, were I would be belted many times which I would consider now being 36 years old as being given a bashing. Further, other punishments were placing pepper on cotton balls and forcing them in my mouth, being given a slap, pinching twists, grabing my hair and pulling it to even chasing me around the yard with large sticks trying to hit me. My Mother expected me to be at school No 1 and to behave very well. However, I was desperate to do well and behave well, because I knew what would happen to me if I didn’t, but I had a problem noted in my school reports “LEARNING DIFFICULTIES”, which landed me in some special classes to help me out while at school. No matter how I tried and studied I knew at times I could not get a A, B nor even a C. On another note I would do nice things at times and felt brushed off by my Mother. Once my cousin danced better than me, my Mother yelled and screamed at me as she wanted me to do better and I couldn’t and she threaten me. The result, I started to grow a “deep hatred” for my mother’s behavior and attitude and when I started to become the same height as my Mother and was able to look her in the eye, I played up and began to verbally abuse her, as well as being critical of her behaviour. “I was sick of her and her behaviour”. I turned into a rebel against her attitude towards me and would not put up with none of it anymore! She showed me what a “Tiger Mother Bitch” she could be and as her daughter I learnt well that I could be a “Tiger Daughter Bitch” too!

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