Comparing the Then And Now of Tiger Moms

In 2011, Amy Chua released “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, a book about Asian parenting that blew up globally. Some praised her while others criticized her.

But from there grew the popularity of the term, Tiger Mom — a parenting style that pushes children to achieve academically through strict rules and discipline.

As a Chinese-Canadian Millennial who was born and raised in Vancouver, I share with the Asian community that our tiger parents were incredibly hard on us, often joking that they traumatized us with issues no amount of therapy could resolve.

However, as more North American Asian millennials grow older and become parents themselves, we start to ponder, “What do we need to shed for future generations given the knowledge we have about best parenting practices? And what are some things we want to preserve culturally despite our bittersweet childhood?” When I became a mom, those were the questions that I kept thinking about. 

Photo: Katharine Chan

We are a generation who finds comfort in venting online, such as on Reddit or Facebook groups, while also using humour to address our issues, such as with High Expectations Father memes.

Although these channels helped validate my concerns and made me feel less alone, they offered no real insight into how I was going to make day-to-day decisions that affect my daughter’s life or why I would sway towards one style of parenting over another.

So by self-reflecting, writing down stories, and comparing and contrasting what I experienced versus what I know now, here’s what I’m shedding and keeping as a parent:

THINGS I’M SHEDDING

1. Disciplining By Hitting

Slipper? Feather duster? Take your pick. Although we joke about our emotional scars, as a mom, I will not use physical violence towards my child. There are numerous studies that show how this form of punishment is detrimental to a child’s well-being. My parents resorted to “corporal punishment” because that’s how they were disciplined. It’s a cyclical behaviour and it’s up to us to end it for the next generation.

2. Discouraging Crying

Growing up, I barely saw my parents cry. And if they did, it was for something huge; so I associated crying with weakness. It’s something I’m working on even to this day — fighting to let those tears fall as I watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. However, we know crying is a completely necessary and healthy response. So whenever my daughter cries, I validate her feelings and acknowledge the pain she is feeling instead of minimizing it.

3. Comparing Kids

“Your cousin got straight A’s this semester, why didn’t you?” When we were compared, how did we feel? I remember feeling inadequate, angry, and then indifferent, driving me away from an actual conversation with my parents. To foster self-confidence and self-motivation, and to ensure I have a healthy relationship with my daughter, I will not compare her to another child.

Photo: Stock

THINGS I’M KEEPING

1. Valuing Family

Spending time with my family and taking care of each other is ingrained in my Asian blood. In this big, bad, and ugly world, having a trusted support system (blood-related or not) that you can lean on and give back to is incredibly important. And I want my daughter to have these family values: to appreciate her parents, to know we will be there when she needs us, and to willingly want to help us when the time comes.

2. Enjoying Food

Having dim sum with my parents is one of my fondest childhood memories. I don’t know many Asians who aren’t foodies. I want to inspire my daughter to appreciate food and preserve my Asian values that food is the glue which brings families together.

3. Participating in Extracurricular Activities

Do you know any Asians who don’t have at least one hidden talent? Exposing kids to different extracurricular activities is incredibly beneficial for developing their independence, exploring their passions, and improving their self-confidence, work ethic, resilience, social, physical, cognitive, and motor skills. Playing the piano was mine but I’m excited to see what my daughter gravitates toward.

There will be many more decisions for me to reflect on as my parenting journey continues.

Ultimately, it’s important for our generation to appreciate the experiences we had growing up — whether they were negative or positive — taking into consideration that our parents did the best they could with the knowledge and abilities they had.

At the end of the day, it’s about using these experiences to learn and grow as individuals and to have the autonomy to choose what we want to preserve when we ourselves become parents.

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