Are Children of Tiger Parents As Lucky As They Think?

are children of tiger parents are fortunate

Tiger parenting is an Asian style of parental discipline often depicted in contrast with “lax” Western styles of child rearing which prioritize happiness and personal measures of success as the top priorities for their children’s upbringing. A vocal group of tiger parents believes their highly involved and disciplined parenting methods will equip their offspring for success in any area, but research indicates they may not.

Amy Chua popularized the term tiger parenting through her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she details her experience raising two daughters as “tiger mothers”, forcing them to excel academically and musically as well as criticizing other parents for coddling their children. Due to its success, many have come to assume tiger parenting was solely an East Asian cultural phenomenon blamed on Western “culture of mediocrity”. Our research has demonstrated otherwise; rather, there are multiple layers to this tale.

Though our study focused on Chinese Americans, we conducted interviews with parents from a range of ethnic and social class backgrounds across the US. Although some participants who engaged in tiger parenting attributed their behavior to cultural influences, other explained it more generally as an effort to get ahead in a society with fierce competition; some felt that such tactics were necessary in order to secure top universities and colleges for their children while others simply wanted them to be happy.

No matter their background or income level, most participants in our sample reported being supportive parents as opposed to tiger parents. Indeed, our data indicate that tiger parents tend to be less effective at improving academic performance of their child than supportive ones due to factors like stress and anxiety levels experienced by children of tiger parents, which can negatively affect mental health and wellbeing.

Concerns are being expressed over tiger parenting’s potential to cross into familial abuse. Our research into this area has found it challenging for parents to distinguish between valid parenting techniques and abusive ones.

Our findings demonstrate that tiger parenting is more complex than its often perceived stereotype of cultural essentialism and East/West dichotomy. Instead, we should view it as an organic process shaped by various aspects of education and social life, including school admissions procedures, teacher-led factors, examinations, parental aspirations/fear, generational influences etc. As such, researchers and policymakers must move beyond an understanding of tiger parenting as simplistic to fully appreciate its impacts on children’s lives. We are currently conducting a longitudinal study that will compare long-term outcomes of those raised by tiger parents compared with those raised by supportive parents.