Tiger mother

This article is about the concept and term. For the book, see Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Tiger mother (traditional Chinese: 虎媽; simplified Chinese: 虎妈; pinyin: hǔmā; Wade–Giles: hu³ma¹) is a term which refers to a strict or demanding mother who pushes her children to be successful academically by attaining high levels of scholastic and academic achievement, using methods regarded as typical of childrearing in East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia to the detriment of the child's social, physical, psychological and emotional well-being.[1][2][3][4] The term is coined by Yale law professor Amy Chua in her memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.[5]



Harsh regimenEdit

Mothers who set up rules that overstep conventional parental boundaries are regarded as tiger mothers. Tiger mothers prioritize schoolwork above all else and only allow children to participate in activities in order to potentially win awards[1][6] which they believe will increase the chance of the child's acceptance to the best schools. It is said that “Asian American parents provide a constant wind beneath their children's wings”;[7] meaning tiger mothers constantly propel their children towards excellence.

High expectationsEdit

Tiger mothers emphasize excellence in academia and award-winning non-academic achievements such as only performing classical music instruments, particularity the piano and violin while eschewing other instruments such as the electric guitar or drums. Some also choosing to incorporate competitive sports for their children.[8] The exorbitant level of expectation often stems from excessive parental love and care, as well as a strong desire to pave the way for their children’s future success.

Psychological controlEdit

In her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Amy Chua mentioned that she would yell at her daughters as ‘garbage’ in public.[1] It is shown that tiger parents are equally unlikely to compliment their children in public as well.[8] Children raised by tiger parents are met with emotional threats and low-impact physical punishments if they fail to meet their parents' expectation.[9] 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 or have sleepovers with their schoolmates.[1]


Living up to the Asian standardEdit

Tiger mothers have unrealistic expectations and an elitist view towards their children’s academic performance regardless of the child's aptitude or passion for studying. Tiger mothers exhibit harsh and unrealistic expectations for the child's academic performance where "B" and even mid to low end "A" grades are not tolerated.[10]

Tiger mothers put a heavy emphasis on the pursuit of academic success regardless of the child's aptitude and interest. The tiger mother eschews the traditional lax parenting style exhibited by many Western parents. Tiger mothers impose choices on their children as to which interests they choose to pursue without helping their children discover their individual talents and passions thus denying a sense of belonging, self-esteem, and purpose. 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 instructors) and extracurricular activities. Slacking is strictly forbidden.[1]

Exam-oriented educationEdit

Asian countries often adopt a strict exam-oriented approach in teaching, which encourages rote memorization and uniformity while eschewing creativity, questioning, student participation, self-determination, autonomy, diversity and critical or independent thinking. To consolidate and hasten this process, tiger mothers put children in tutorial classes as early as the preschool stage. Throughout the child's academic career, the mother's 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. Another historical explanation for the strict examination approach stems from the Imperial examination system of China for civil service. The civil examination administered by the royal court was that success on the imperial examination was seen as a sure conduit improve the family’s socioeconomic position. Since such places are scarce, competitive and highly coveted, only a select few can succeed. Tiger mothers recognize how crucial self-discipline is in gaining success, so they instil this value of an exam oriented education into their children as early as they can.[11]

Cultural influencesEdit

High education level is perceived as a guarantee of promising career prospects; and a tool to climb up the social ladder or to lift a family out of poverty. Typically in East Asian societies, the Confucian tenets places great value on work ethic and the pursuit of knowledge. Scholars had the highest status and intellectuals were held in high esteem. Thus, tiger mothers pin high hope on their children. Tiger mothers take much pride in their children's academic achievements and flaunt them to other parents as Chinese immigrant mothers believe that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting”.[1]

Views on successEdit

Tiger mothers perceive a definition of success that is rooted in a high level of academic achievement, classical music training, particularly being well versed in the violin and piano, attaining only first place in every competition entered, and a lucrative and rewarding white collar professional career. Tiger mothers look down on careers beneath their expectations - that is a truck driver is often viewed less as a person in terms of respectability than a neurosurgeon.[12]


Advocates suggest a strict approach to parenting produces an exceptionally high proportion of top performers – children who display academic excellence across the board with great musical ability and professional success later in life.[13] A three-part series on competition in Hong Kong's education system by the South China Morning Post, many Hong Kong parents, following a herd mentality and stoked by cultural fears over economic hardship, begin thinking of their children's futures as professionals soon after birth, striving to find the best playgroups, and encouraging competition among children in academia, sports and music, in the belief that this fosters competitiveness and increases their children's chances of entering into a better pre-nursery school and elite kindergarten, and determine their eventual success at primary schools, secondary schools and universities. However, many other Hong Kong parents, psychologists and educators state that pushing children too hard does not work, and can even harm children, with a growing trend of children aged five to 12 seeking psychiatric help and contemplation of suicide. In reaction, some parents have relaxed their formerly strict discipline with their children, and some schools have made their admissions requirements less strenuous.[14]

According to numerous studies and other sources, children raised under a strict, controlling, punitive tiger mother has taken a chronic negative social and psychological toll on young Asians as well as children from immigrant families of Asian ancestry who live in other parts of the world outside Asia. Children raised with less supportive type of parenting have developed chronic mental health and psychiatric problems such as anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, and contemplation of suicide especially if the tiger mothers have enormously high and unreasonable expectations for their children regardless of their aptitude. These mental health and psychiatric problems creates psychological problems that make these children's feel like "failures".[15] When parents do not provide coping strategies to their children and guide alongside to manage negative feelings, such loneliness may transition into depression and suicide.[16]

Extreme ramifications of strict tiger parenting has caused high rates of suicide in Asia, particularly South Korea, where it has some of the highest suicide rates in the developed world.[17] In South Korea, the stress from constant study and limited social life pressured by harsh demanding parents on a student has taken a major psychological and social toll on young South Koreans causing an increase in aggression, mental health problems, impaired cognitive development, and drug and alcohol abuse. Other adverse effects, such as depression, anxiety, antisocial behavior, and increased risk of physical abuse, have also been linked to the increasing amount of academic pressure placed on young South Koreans.[18] The stress resulting from mounting academic pressure has contributed to an increase in the national suicide rates, particularly for children aged 10 to 19 years old. Suicide is now the second most common cause of death in the country.[19]

The enormous stress and pressure placed on academics by tiger mothers[20] on its students is considered by many to constitute child abuse but is seen as acceptable from an Asian parenting perspective since the culture of parenting is different from a Western one.[21][22] Many have described their traditions as including physical and emotional closeness that ensures a lifelong bond between parent and child, as well as establishing parental authority and child obedience through harsh discipline.[23]

Balancing disciplinary responsibilities through corporal punishment within parenting is common in many Asian cultures, including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam.[23] To some cultures, forceful parenting may be seen as abuse, but in other societies such as these, the use of force is looked at as a reflection of parental devotion.[23] Severe forms of corporal punishment include spanking or slapping the child with an open hand or striking with an implement such as a belt, slipper, cane, hairbrush, paddle or bamboo feather duster.

According to the sources cited by the website Parenting Science, children from authoritarian families may find it more difficult to fend for themselves and make friends.[24] Studies published by the Handbook of Child Psychology have shown that children under tiger parenting were rated as less helpful and less popular by their teachers and classmates.[25][pages needed] Also, they are more likely to show aggressive behavior towards others when they are forced to learn without recess. They were rated as less self-reliant and are not able to be independent thinkers since their life is organized by their parents.[citation needed]

In popular cultureEdit


TV seriesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f Chua, A. (2011). Battle hymn of the tiger mother. Penguin Group. ISBN 978-1-59420-284-1. 
  2. ^ "Tiger Mums: fierce or foolish?". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 
  3. ^ "A tiger mom's tale". Vietnam News. Vietnam News. 
  4. ^ "Testing times: selective schools and tiger parents". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 
  5. ^ Kim, S. "What is "tiger" parenting? How does it affect children?". American Psychological Association. 
  6. ^ Mann, D. "16 Signs you're too strict with your kids". WebMD. 
  7. ^ Prigg, M. "The tiger mom doesn't know the best: Researchers find Western parenting methods are just as effective". Daily Mail. 
  8. ^ a b Rende, R. "Evaluating "Tiger Mom" parenting: What's the take-home message from research?". Parents. 
  9. ^ State, A. "Anxious kids: Why the 'tiger' mom tactic fails". Futurity. 
  10. ^ Marquez, L. "UCLA sociologist zeroes in on what motivates 'tiger moms'". UCLA Newsroom. 
  11. ^ Carey, T. "How Chinese success in education comes at a high cost". NewStatesMan. 
  12. ^ "Peaceful Song of the Panda Mom". New Idea Publishers, LLC. 5 May 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2016. 
  13. ^ Maxwell, K. "Tiger Mother". Macmillan Dictionary. Macmillan Publishers Limited. 
  14. ^ Zhao, S. "Hong Kong parents say pushing children too hard doesn't work". South China Morning Post. 
  15. ^ "Tiger Parenting Works, But At What Cost?". Medical Daily. 2014-09-23. Retrieved 2016-11-14. 
  16. ^ Markham, L. "What's Wrong With Strict Parenting?". Aha! Parenting. Retrieved August 13, 2015. 
  17. ^ "South Korean students wracked with stress". Al Jazeera. 8 December 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2016. 
  18. ^ "We don't need quite so much education". The Economist. 2011-05-12. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2016-11-10. 
  19. ^ Cite error: The named reference koreatimes_Goh-Grapes was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  20. ^ Kang, Yewon (March 20, 2014). "Poll Shows Half of Korean Teenagers Have Suicidal Thoughts". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 6, 2016. 
  21. ^ Koo, Se-Woong (August 1, 2014). "An Assault Upon Our Children". The New York Times. Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  22. ^ Ravitch, Diane (August 3, 2014). "Why We Should Not Copy Education in South Korea". Retrieved November 25, 2015. 
  23. ^ a b c Lau, A. S., Takeuchi, D. T., & Alegría, M. (2006). Parent-to-child aggression among Asian American parents: Culture, context, and vulnerability. Journal of Marriage and Family, 68(5), 1261–1275. Retrieved
  24. ^ Dewar, G. "Authoritarian parenting: How does it affect the kids?". Parenting Science. 
  25. ^ 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.