Tiger Mom: A good role model of who NOT to follow

So recently, people have been blowing up about the whole Tiger Mom controversy, linked here for your convenience: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

It is very offensive, to say the least. Initially, I had a good laugh, thinking this was tongue-in-cheek, and her interview recently had her confirming this to be partially true–but she’s actually quite serious about her method. Her “parenting” is abhorrent because it doesn’t treat the children like individual human beings, but as accessories for herself. Attempting to domesticate and train animals is far more humane than her parenting methods.

As a result of her book excerpt, it’s generated a lot of responses. Some of the responses, I have to agree with, because it definitely does damage you more than it helps you, which you can see here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/01/20/lac.su.tiger.mother.scars/index.html?hpt=C1

Two things that I find far more appalling than her parenting are that 1) she tries to speak for all Chinese–all Asian parents even, and 2) by asserting this, the other ignorant people associate her abusiveness with Asians, reinforcing negative stereotypes that many in the community have been trying to shake for years, from the Model Minority to the Dragon Lady stereotypes that fall under the umbrella of the Forever Foreigner stigma that many Asians in North America face.

Hopefully, this will be shaken soon enough and people will dismiss this episode as a self-important woman’s opinions to be dismissed on the grounds that they are impractical and ignorant. After all, in the United States, the Bill of Rights guarantees that she can be as openly-pompous as she is, no matter how offensive her opinions are. However, the court of public opinion is far worse than any prosecution, public stoning, or lynching that some fantasize about can ever be.

But in my practical experience, here’s the best advice for men that was written coincidentally and conveniently at the same time as the excerpt from Amy Chua’s book:


Regardless of what kind of relationship one has with his or her mother, ultimately, at a certain point, we no longer need her permission or approval before we make any decisions or regarding our choices and actions. This applies to our fathers, peers, and partners as well.

What I’ve noticed, amidst all this, is how much power we give to people. Sometimes it’s their title, because they are our professors, our CEOs, our presidents, and our parents; other times it’s because we don’t trust ourselves or love ourselves enough to put value into our own opinions and self-worth. In line with the role model of Tiger Mom, she’s just that: a role model of whom not to follow.

My father, for example, is only human. I hold him in high esteem, but objectively, he wasn’t perfect, even if I feel he was many times. There were many things that he could have done better, and, conversely, many more things that he could have done worse, too. So I end up cherry-picking what I admire and have found efficient, while weeding out what I disliked and found inefficient, synthesizing what has suddenly become what defines me as an individual. Ironically, some things I disagreed with that he did ended up being very efficient too, which I also ended up adopting and adapting to suit my character: his competitive nature to be the best and believe he was the best, which fueled his ambition. May he rest in peace.

In general, we inadvertently and subconsciously make almost everyone else around us role models–because trying to get approval on if you “look sexy” or “fit in” can make a small street scene your reference point for what the norm is. But personally? Define yourself and run with it. Don’t let where you came from become the be all, end all–otherwise, you end up like Amy Chua. It’s where you are going and where you want to go (ironically something that Third Culture Kids should follow too), not where you are from–however you answer that.

So basically, don’t let the circumstances you were born and raised in, the passport you carry, the degree you have or don’t have, from whatever school you could have been in, or anyone else be your obstacle, your judge, your jury, or crutch–because eventually they will become your executioners, too.

If you’re not having fun, ask yourself why you’re doing something. If you think getting this degree, this paycheck, this approval from your own tiger mom, or this new car will get you what you want, the real question to ask is what you can do with it. If I had a tiger mom, or if I had Tiger Mom, I wouldn’t be bitching about what she did to me beyond venting–I’d be using the experience and knowledge I took from that upbringing to show people how it does not work and find ways to be efficient instead. She may have had her book published, she may teach at Yale, she may have a large paycheck, but what is she doing with it? Forcing an idea down people’s throats like poisoned Kool-Aid to the children of Jonestown and expecting them to thank her for it. It’s not what you want to do or how you do it–but how well you understand why you think in a certain way and want to act in another. This is otherwise known as awareness.

One response to “Tiger Mom: A good role model of who NOT to follow

  1. I just read the article and it is unbelievable how this lady raises her children.
    She is too controlling and her way of parenting is conditional love. Because the children are given praises based on performance and called “garbage” also based on performance, they are likely to have self-esteem that fluctuates based on their own performance. If they think they excelled in let’s say, piano, they will have high-esteem. If they think they weren’t as good as they wished to be, or have to be, they will have low self-esteem.

    I do think that there is the danger of people creating stereotypes of Chinese mothers because of the way Chau generalized her parenting as the “Chinese parenting” but also for the stereotypes to be applied to other Asians.

    I think the way Chau was raised was based on strict conditions and it will be difficult to get out of the conditional mindset. I really hope that there will be psychological healing for her and her family.

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