I like to rile people up by calling myself a Tiger Mother! It is a term that people have a physical reaction to, mainly because of the misconceptions of the term.
The book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua caused such a stir when it came out. I loved the book as it was so funny, she was clearly laughing at herself (reflecting on her parenting) at the same time as making some valid points about parenting styles & attitudes in America. Chua was a Suzuki parent to her two girls, one learning piano and one violin.
The Wall Street Journal wrote an article, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” which really caused a furore. Many people read this article, completely missing the self-deprecating humour and irony in the book, and took it seriously – that Chua was actually saying she was superior and that Chinese mothers were superior. Chua’s book is actually a coming of age story as a parent, and I love it. It shows you don’t have to know it all, all the time, and sometimes the hardest thing to do is admit you got it wrong (especially when it comes to parenting) whilst still having the absolute best of intentions.
My summary of the key qualities of a Tiger Mother (apologies to Amy Chua) parent IN MY OPINION are:
1. A parent with higher expectations of, and belief in, their children than anyone else in the world, including the child
2. A parent who is prepared to sacrifice their own time and desires to support their children, willingly and lovingly
3. A parent who believes that self-esteem is built not through empty praise from an external party, or external benchmarks.
4. A parent who believes that self-esteem is built in a child when s/he knows that they did something they thought they couldn’t. The child must experience the discomfort of failing at first, and again and again, if need be.
During that difficult time, the parent will be there every step of the way, but not doing it for them (remember the high expectations). Self-esteem then skyrockets when intrinsically the child realizes they did it what they thought they couldn’t. And over time they learn to raise their own expectations of themselves. The key here is the discomfort of failure. This includes the looking stupid bit too. And also the bit where you think you will never get it. Many well-meaning parents can’t bear to see their children in discomfort. Tiger parents savour it!
5. Tiger parents have “growth mindset” as their middle name.
A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are carved in stone – who you are is who you are, period. Characteristics such as intelligence, personality, and creativity are fixed traits, rather than something that can be developed.
A growth mindset comes from the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through effort. Yes, people differ greatly – in aptitude, talents, interests, or temperaments – but everyone can change and grow through application and experience.
Non-tiger parents may mistakenly just tell a child, “Oh don’t worry I’m tone deaf so you are probably just the same as me”, and inadvertently set the child up in a fixed mindset not a growth mindset.
In my view, a Smart Suzuki Tiger Mum is not:
1. A parent only interested in the outcomes of achievement versus what can be gained from the process
2. A parent who withholds praise or affection if outcomes are not high or up to standard
3. A parent who is not prepared to give up their time and interests to be part of the process with the child
4. A parent who is not adaptive or flexible based on the child’s unique personality or needs
5. A parent with fixed ideas about what their children should do or become (doctor, lawyer, etc)
6. A parent who gives their child everything they want financially or other, breeding an entitlement mindset
7. A parent who doesn’t give their child their time or show real interest in them as individuals only how good or not they make the parent look