Tiger mother (or tiger mum, Chinese: 虎媽) is a strict or demanding mother who pushes her children to high levels of achievement, using methods regarded as typical of childrearing in China and other parts of East Asia. The term is coined by Yale law professor Amy Chua in her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which gave some Asian Americans and Asian parents the “license” to be as strict in order to ensure the success of their children in today's competitive global economy.
Advocates suggest a strict approach to parenting produces an exceptionally high proportion of top performers – kids who display academic excellence across the board with great musical ability and professional success later in life.
- 1 Characteristics
- 2 Causes
- 3 Effects
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 See also
- 6 References
Tiger mothers prioritize schoolwork above all else and only allow children to participate in activities in which they could potentially win medals, which boost their chances of entering into a high-standing school. Mothers who set up multiple rules that overstep parental boundaries are regarded as tiger mothers. It is said that “Asian American parents provide a constant wind beneath their children's wings”, meaning tiger mothers constantly propel their kids towards excelsior.
Tiger mothers emphasize excellence in academia and award-winning non-academic achievements such as performing instruments and playing competitive sports. The exorbitant level of expectation often stems from excessive parental love and care, as well as a strong desire to pave way for their children’s future.
In her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Chua mentioned that she would yell at her daughters as ‘garbage’ in public. It is shown that tiger parents are equally unlikely to compliment their children in public as well. Children under tiger parenting style will be met with emotional threats and low-impact physical punishments if they fail to meet their parents' expectation. Moreover, tiger parents seldom allow their children to make decisions on their own, whether in academia or daily life. For instance, Chua's daughters were not allowed to watch TV at night nor have sleepover with their schoolmates.
Living up to the Asian standard
Asian parents tend to have an elitist attitude towards their children’s study. Even if their children manage to get mostly A’s in school, tiger mothers will not be easily satisfied nor impressed since "A is for average, and B is an Asian fail." 
Tiger mothers, particularly Asian expatriates, recognize the lax parenting style which Western parents tend to adopt puts less emphasis on the pursuit of academic success, so children may not put forth their utmost effort in schoolwork. Seeing this, tiger mothers take the opposite approach and educate their children to exercise self-control and self-discipline. They fill up their children’s schedule with tutorial classes (taught by private tutors and/or cram school) and extracurricular activities. Slacking is strictly forbidden.
Asian countries often adopt an exam-oriented approach in teaching, which encourages rote memorization. To consolidate and hasten this process, tiger mothers put children in tutorial classes as early as preschool stage. Throughout the child's academic career, his/ her primary goal is to obtain outstanding results in exams to secure a seat in prestigious schools, with the end goal of entering a top-notch university in mind. Since such places are scarce and highly coveted, only the crème de la crème can succeed. Tiger mothers recognize how crucial self-discipline is in gaining success, so they instil this value into their children as early as they can.
High education level is perceived as a guarantee of promising career prospects; and a tool to climb up the social ladder or lift a family out of poverty. Thus, tiger mothers pin high hope on their children. Also, tiger mothers take much pride in their children's achievements and flaunt them to other parents as Chinese immigrant mothers believe that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting”.
Kids under a controlling, punitive, and less supportive type of parenting may develop psychiatric problems such as anxiety, low self-esteem and depression, especially if tiger mothers have enormously high and unreasonable expectations for their kids. When parents do not provide coping strategies to their kids and guide alongside to manage negative feelings, such loneliness may transition into depression.
Kids from authoritarian families may find it more difficult to fend for themselves and make friends. Studies have shown that kids under tiger parenting were rated as less helpful and less popular by their teachers and classmates. Also, they are more likely to show aggressive behaviours towards others when they are forced to learn without recess. They were rated as less self-reliant since their life is organised by their parents.
Tiger mothers stimulate competition among children in academia, sports and music, in the hope that their kids will achieve more in their future. They strive to find the best playgroups, which foster competitiveness and increase their chances of entering into a better pre-nursery school and elite kindergarten. To tiger mothers, securing a place at elite kindergartens is equivalent to securing a place at prestigious primary schools, secondary schools, and top local or overseas universities. Tiger mothers do everything within their ability to make sure their kids will become successful professionals in the future.
In popular culture
- Tiger Mom (2014)
- Chua, A. (2011). Battle hymn of the tiger mother. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-59420-284-1.
- Kim, S. "What is "tiger" parenting? How does it affect children?". American Psychological Association.
- Maxwell, K. "Tiger Mother". Macmillan Dictionary. Macmillan Publishers Limited.
- Mann, D. "16 Signs you’re too strict with your kids". WebMD.
- Prigg, M. "The tiger mom doesn’t know the best: Researchers find Western parenting methods are just as effective". Daily Mail.
- Rende, R. "Evaluating "Tiger Mom" parenting: What’s the take-home message from research?". Parents.
- State, A. "Anxious kids: Why the ‘tiger’ mom tactic fails". Futurity.
- Marquez, L. "UCLA sociologist zeroes in on what motivates 'tiger moms'". UCLA Newsroom.
- Carey, T. "How Chinese success in education comes at a high cost". NewStatesMan.
- Markham, L. "What's Wrong With Strict Parenting?". Aha! Parenting.
- Dewar, G. "Authoritarian parenting: How does it affect the kids?". Parenting Science.
- Damon, W.; Lerner, R. M.; Eisenberg, N. (2006). Handbook of Child Psychology, Social, Emotional, and Personality Development. Google Books. ISBN 978-0-471-27290-8.
- Zhao, S. "Hong Kong parents say pushing children too hard doesn't work". South China Morning Post.