Ever since Professor Amy Chua released her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (Penguin Press, 2011), there has been increased research on “tiger parenting” and whether it is beneficial for children. Asian parents have also, to a certain extent, been stereotyped as tiger parents while other parents have wondered if they ought to enforce stricter parenting, especially with respect to academics. Let’s first examine certain aspects of tiger parenting.
A Mix of Parenting Styles
Traditionally, three broad parenting styles are identified – permissive, authoritarian and authoritative.
Permissive style is whereby parents tend not to enforce boundaries, less strict and nurture the child mainly through love and friendship.
Authoritarian, on the other hand, are parents who are very strict and often disciplines without much reasoning and by fear (of punishment).
Authoritative is a balance of both, whereby parents set clear boundaries and enforces them. but also show warm affection to their children.
So what is tiger parenting? It is mostly a harsh parenting style with the following
– More focus on the “negative”, of what the child is not doing well enough
– Extremely high expectations of child’s work, whether in academic, music and/or sports
– Associates parenting success with child’s academic excellence
– Encouragement and praise is not readily shown; it is seldom given as the expectations set for the child are very high
– Blunt remarks may be used when the results fall short of expectations
– Warm affection is seldom shown although there is much time spent with the child
While children of Asian descents typically fare better at academics, there is no clear association that this is a result of parenting style. It is also not true that Asian/Chinese parents practice tiger parenting as several studies indicate that they are largely supportive parents and do not shame their children when their work fall short.
Tiger Parenting’s Outcomes
Since 2011, several studies have been published to understand the potential outcomes of tiger parenting. While several studies define parenting styles differently, or may not have the term tiger parenting, the results are consistent in that the best outcomes are associated with a supportive parenting style (closer to authoritative parenting). On the other hand, parenting styles that do not include much affection seem to negatively affect the child’s self-esteem, and lead to children growing up feeling stressed and depressed.
On academic excellence, studies have shown that having high expectations for your child is not a problem as long as these expectations are communicated with love and warmth. Imposing high expectations in a harsh manner may lead to increased anxiety in children as they work hard to avoid being shamed or punished by their parents, rather than for the love of mastery of a skill/ art.
As internet opens up new career opportunities and the children see others pursuing less traditional career paths, there may be a reduced concern on academics but more on pursuing a vocation. However, should there be a conflict within the family on how much to focus academically, it is also more likely to lead to poorer behavioral outcomes, both in school and at home.
In general, instead of enforcing tiger parenting, a parent should note that across studies, the characteristics of a parenting style with the best outcomes in children are
– Supportive and involved parents – be aware of how the child is doing at school, and making sure that the child makes the best effort on his/ her homework
– Setting realistic expectations with the child and getting the child to spend time on the task, whether it is school work, or time on after-school lessons such as sports, music or arts
– Helping to inculcate good study habits for the child, and insisting that the child takes study seriously and concentrates on it
– Giving warmth and affection even when the results fall short as the emphasis is on the effort; this will help the child not to have a sense of fear over failure but instead improve his/ her resilience
No matter what parenting style you use, it is important to discuss this with your spouse and come into an agreement on what is important in your child’s upbringing. Set clear boundaries and expectations, and enforce these seriously but with affection. There is likely to be fine-tuning needed along the way and do not be too hard on yourself, nor let your child’s outcome determine the success of your own life.