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The Tiger Parenting Approach -- More Harm Than Good

Angry mother scolding a disobedient child“Tiger Parenting” is a term coined by Amy Chua’s 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. It’s a style of parenting that involves strict expectations of a child’s performance, both academically and with music or other activities chosen by the parent. This often also involves shaming or belittling the child if he doesn’t live up those expectations. Tiger parenting does not encourage loving emotional support or communication. Chua herself is known to have said that she emphasized her daughters’ academic and musical achievement over their happiness and self-esteem.

So how effective is this at raising well-adjusted and successful kids? In my opinion, not very.

And I’m not the only one. There have been recent studies done on tiger parenting that show that instead of creating healthy, successful kids, it can have quite the opposite effect. According to, Su Yeong Kim, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas did a study that followed more than 300 Asian-American families for a decade.

Her studies found that: “Children of parents classified as “tiger” had lower academic achievement and attainment—and greater psychological maladjustment—and family alienation, than the kids of parents characterized as “supportive” or “easygoing.”

This doesn’t surprise me at all. As much as we want our children to succeed, we have to remember that self-esteem is vital for any well-adjusted person. Our kids need to feel loved and encouraged and at the same time they need to try hard and live up to their potential.

Sounds pretty challenging from a parenting point of view, but I have some tips that I believe can help achieve this.

1.  Don’t Overschedule

I just don’t believe in keeping our kids ridiculously busy and juggling too many sports and art classes and dance classes. How can we expect our kids to do well at all of these things when they’re exhausted from being driven from one thing to the other and not getting any down time? One or two extracurricular activities is enough. I see way too many young kids burning out from all the demands of their busy schedules.

2.  Expect the Best

High standards are important, no doubt about it. But they should also be based on ability. My daughter informed me the other day that a C she had received on her paper was a “good mark.” I said, “If you had studied really hard and tried your very best and got a C, then I would be proud of you.”

But was that the case?

She thought about it for a minute and said, “You’re right. I can do much better.” To which I replied, “I know you can.” I expect my children to get high marks because I know they are capable and they just need to try. I never lower my expectation around that. The encouragement comes from me and my husband, but the motivation comes from them. They want to do well because it makes them feel like they achieved something.

3.  Be a parent, not a friend

Although I disagree with “authoritarian” parenting, I am not a fan of wishy-washy parenting either. Too many parents today are trying to be “friends” with their children. There is a lot of fear around upsetting our kids, and therefore they are given too much power and don’t have the skills for dealing with it. We need to have rules, and we need to be consistent and occasionally do the tough stuff and give consequences.

In short, high standards are important when it comes to our kids, in all aspects of their lives: manners, how they communicate with people, how they do at school. As parents we need to nurture them, love them and hold them accountable for their behavior. We need to remind them that we expect them to work hard and try their best, and tell them they are worthy and capable of achieving great things in their lives.

KTM box white background (4)If you’re having challenges with your child’s behavior — and you’re looking for a way to deal with them WITHOUT resorting to “tiger-parenting” — have a look at Kids: The Manual. It offers common-sense solutions to common issues like fighting, whining, not listening, etc. in kids aged 2 – 12.

And now I’d like YOUR thoughts! Are you a “tiger mom?” How do YOU strike a balance between discipline and compassion with your kids? Share your thoughts in the ‘Comments’ section below.

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