Tiger Parenting Explained (guest article)
Guest article written by Rebecca Li
August 2014 (perspective of an assistant professor)
This is a guest article adapted, with permission, from an interesting email sent to me by an Asian-American high school student. The views expressed are solely those of the author.
The only part of Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother that surprised me was when she bought her child a Samoyed puppy for playing a violin cadenza correctly. Manipulative antics, name calling, and public shaming are far more commonly used and experienced than the media perceives. Rarely are tiger parents as straightforward as Chua; her book was the first true manifesto of this style of parenting, which explains such colossal public outrage and shock. She was the Chinua Achebe of harsh parenting, the first historian for the children subject to this style. Tiger parenting itself camouflages several ulterior motives. Ask any tiger parent why they choose such a challenging route, and they will simply reply, “Because I want my child to go to a good school.” The 'good school' term encompasses four schools: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford, and is used most often to evade judgment and to conceal naive hopes. Many of these parents come from poor countries to the U.S. seeking a college or graduate level education. Of course there are many second generation immigrant tiger parents like Chua herself, and also many third and even fourth generation ones. Often, tiger parents are bred from the competitive nature of their native culture and personal insecurity, thus resulting in the Ivy League obsession that can be seen on CollegeConfidential.com and a cult-like society for their children, who are literally sacrificed, along with time and money, to SAT tutoring centers, in hope of gaining accecptance into HYPS (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford). Spending thousands of dollars on an admissions essay editor, allowing for 'no fun time' after freshman year ends, other outlandish methods, and the HYPS obsession can be explained by two ultimate goals: bragging rights and a spouse.
The native cultures of tiger parents are driven by competition and pride, and here, bragging rights are fundamental for social ascension. Every tiger parent dreams of the day they can employ the humble brag, the day they can reply , “Oh, my kid goes to Harvard.”, to the social-status defining question, “What college does your child go to?” These parents lust over the day their child receives an acceptance letter from HYPS, a tangible, materialistic way of proving that they and their child, are officially the top 5 percent in the U.S. With that acceptance letter, the tiger parent instantly becomes a legend among other cohorts, and a saint in the Ivy cult. Oh the joy of having eyes turn and heads swivel towards you as you utter the name Yale across your lips! The honor of being the sage that other unenlightened parents turn to for advice! The HYPS card is the ultimate trump card in any parenting brag fest. This is a tiger parent's only subtle, socially acceptable way of telling their friends and coworkers, “My child is better than yours, and therefore I am better than you.” Furthermore, tiger parents can boast about how their cub will be offered 100k starting pay from prestigious companies, or about how acceptance into an illustrious graduate program will be a walk in the park. Extreme parenting methods can otherwise be interpreted by the desire to proudly display a Princeton Mom sticker on the back of a Honda Odyssey, or by the need to avoid the stigma associated with telling a coworker that your child goes to a state school.
Admission into HYPS schools also means a pool of wealthy, potential spouses to choose from. Cultured, driven, hard working, and likely to have a high starting salary, these kids are America's prime all packed into 4 campuses. Tiger parents crave Ivy League schools to increase the probability that their cub will stumble upon a neurosurgeon, internet billionaire, or Wall Street investment banker. After all, the greatest love story known to tiger parents is the story of Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan.
Tough-love parenting easily turns into scheming. One day its yelling and no Facebook or Instagram, and the next is reporting 'cheating' during AP exams in hopes of giving their child a chance to retake the test. Writing negative letters about classmates to sabotage their chances at acceptance is becoming the norm. Are these actions really worth impressing an underpaid stranger who will likely spend less than 40 minutes evaluating 4 years of a student's life? Tiger parenting does not account for failure. However, more often than not, all the right steps are taken, the long, arduous hours are put in, yet still a B+ or a 2170 SAT score ensues. Then, the parent shuts down, emotionally and socially, and the student loses confidence and often slips into depression. Increasingly conniving antics and a no-tolerance policy for failure continue to the raise the level of excellence that must be achieved in order to gain social recognition in competitive cultures, and therefore, making parental approval and personal peace of mind more and more impossible to achieve for the tiger cub.
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Last modified: 2014-08-09