I haven't been able to peep into SFGate, NPR, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or even Entertainment Weekly without running into the tale of self-proclaimed "tiger mother" Amy Chua, a Yale Law Professor who decided to raise her kids in accordance with strict Chinese standards and wrote the resultant memoir "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."
My close circle of friends break down between Vietnamese, Taiwanese and Korean but we are undoubtedly bound by similar upbringings within our "tiger" families. Different values were emphasized for each of us, but the takeways were identical.
1. You get A's. No other grade exists.
2. Schoolwork first.
3. Approved (e.g. piano) extracurriculars second.
4. Family duties, church and chores third.
5. All the above gets done. All of it.
6. More school work next.
7. Other extracurriculars follow.
8. Then maybe a social life.
9. Elders are right.
10. No whining.
Punishment for violation of these terms is likely physical, sometimes financial, and definitely punitive to any sliver of social life you might have.
There is no such thing as a "hard" teacher. You never blame the teacher.
There is no such thing as an "unfair" system. You never blame the system.
There is no such thing as a "wrong" adult. You never blame an adult.
There is no such thing as a "bad" day. You never blame your mood or health.
Of course, as children, we knew teachers could be unduly difficult, systems were sometimes unfair, adults could be wrong, and days could be sucktastic. We huddled up, lamenting how cruel our parents could be. How distant. How completely medieval.
We also learned it's not the point. In life, you will always run up against difficulty, unfairness, and injustice. You should not go running to mommy. You should not let it paralyze you from doing your best. You find a way to deal with it and still pull out perfection. YOU ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST.
If I came home with a bad grade, I had no one to blame but myself. It did not matter if the teacher did not cover the material. It did not matter if late construction kept me up the night before. It did not matter if the bus driver was late to school, thus frazzling me. It did not matter, if I was robbed at gunpoint on the way to school and someone stole my pencil case and I had nothing to take the test with but my own blood. Really.
I will admit, I wish everyone followed this philosophy.
If I'm on a surgeon's table, I don't want the person cutting into me to let bad days get to them. If I'm being defended for a crime, I don't want the lawyer preparing my argument to be distracted by the unfair assignment of my case. If I'm preparing for retirement, I don't want the investment professional preparing my portfolio to blame the wrong analysis they received.
Does it really take Tiger parenting to yield this result?
I don't know.
I was raised in Asia, and thus was raised like everyone else. Some of my friends were raised in the US, and thus were aware that another type of parenting existed. Parenting where kids were encouraged to have fun, to enjoy their days, and to do their "best" but "best" didn't have to be an A+ or a gold medal or first place. Parents protected their kids interests. "Went to bat" for them with parents or principals.
This completely baffles me and my friends. Not because it's wrong, just because it's different. In the same way these parents are baffled by our upbringing, we are baffled by theirs.
I don't have kids, but I assume the end result of any parenting gig is to produce a happy child. To the Western mom, how could you be happy if you haven't been given the freedom to discover what makes you happy? To the Tiger mom, how could you possibly be happy if you aren't doing your best?
Lemme tell ya, I'm the best at a lot of things, and it's pretty effing awesome. But it also took me decades to realize that I could be happy doing something as "frivolous" as writing.
Now that I live in the United States (and I admit this is based purely on anecdotal evidence, the bane of the progeny of any tiger family), I'll admit I don't see that my friends raised under one method or another are any happier or smarter or nicer or more well-adjusted or less worrisome.
There are differences.
Oh yes, there are.
I'll not raise controversy by noting them here. But they have nothing to do with paycheck size, the number and quality of our friends, or how often we smile.
So I guess that's good news.
We're all functionally dysfunctional.
No matter the type of family.
(On a postnote, the author's eldest daughter wrote a letter defending her mom in which I gleaned a lovely piece of advice I am going to co-oped for writing: "Everybody seems to think art is spontaneous. But Tiger Mom, you taught me that even creativity takes effort." So there you have it - EFFORT! I'll get right on that...after this nap.)