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Tiger mom? 虎妈

中国日报网 2018-08-17 14:46


Reader question:

Please explain “tiger mom” in this:

The phrase “tiger mom” is defined as a strict disciplinarian mother who demands high achievement from her children and maintains control of their activities. The phrase was first coined in the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” a 2011 parenting memoir written by Yale law professor Amy Chua.

My comments:

Tiger mom seems to be quite well explained in the above. I guess the question is why “tiger” mom instead of, say, a sheep mom or a dog mom.

This may have to do with the fact that in China, fierce and tenacious middle-aged women are sometimes called tigers – or tigresses, to be exact.

Tigers being the king of the mountain, tiger women are so likened because they share similar dominating traits with the big cat. When we talk about tiger women in China, we understand them to be thus, domineering and snarling-ly relentless.

All timid husbands married to such women understand what I’m saying. Plus all children who are born into such families.

Amy Chua being Chinese in ethnicity, she must have had this in mind when she coined this phrase for her book.

Anyways, in relation to sons and daughters, tiger moms share similar traits with real tigers nurturing a cub, in that both are fiercely protective of their little baby.

And, being tenacious in nature, neither the female tiger nor the human mom is immune to the occasional snarl or shout at the young one.

At any rate, tiger moms, the human kind, are strict parents who demand the very best, academically, from their child or children.

As Chinese, I feel for Amy Chua and I feel even more for her children. And I understand where they come from. Traditionally, by this I mean throughout history, opportunities for ordinary Chinese families have been few and far between, to put it bluntly. And the best chance usually lies in children reading books. By reading books and getting high remarks, children have the best chance of getting ahead in society – whereby changing family fortunes as a whole.

That is, in a nutshell, why parents invest so much in the child’s study and education. For many families, it’s been the game changer.

Today, education is not the game changer, at least not the only one any more but deep in the Chinese psyche it probably is still considered thus, to be the only game changer.

Anyways, tiger moms and tiger parents in general push their children to academic extremes, demanding nothing but perfect grades.

They may overdo it, too. Of course. In extreme cases, they literally drive their beloved children mad.

That’s why tiger moms are, in fact, very controversial nowadays.

Here are a few discussions about or allusions to tiger mother or mom or parent in the media:

1. The lesson Tiger Mother teaches us is that Western parents are signed up to the idea that all stress is bad for children and the thing that matters is self-esteem, a nebulous concept which was unknown when this country won two world wars. “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to over-ride their preferences.”

Chua reckons Western parents give up too easily because we are scared of making our children unhappy. Yet how many adults – myself included – now say, “I wish I’d never stopped piano lessons”? Every week, the Small Boy tells me, “I wanna quit choir”. (“I wanna quit” is the mantra of my son’s generation; they are of the view that homework, turning off the X Box and other outrageous demands are “too stressy”.)

Trying to be a Tiger Mother for a change, I insist that he continues choir, which is laying down a terrific work ethic and a storehouse of pleasure for the future. As if to prove the point, Ashes hero Alastair Cook says he believes that his years as a St Paul’s Cathedral chorister helped give him the patience and endurance for those long hours at the crease. I don’t know if Alastair has a Tiger Mother, but a demanding, self-disciplined childhood produced one hell of a cub. You can just imagine Tiger Mother’s bloodcurdling roar at the league tables, published yesterday, which showed that fewer than one in six pupils gained five good GCSEs in traditional subjects, the equivalent of their great-grandparents’ school leavers’ certificate. Schools have switched to “softer” topics to boost results.

I would bet my house that not one Chinese-British pupil, whether rich or poor, failed to get five good GCSEs. Amy Chua’s philosophy of child-rearing may be harsh and not for the fainthearted, but ask yourself this: is it really more cruel than the laissez-faire indifference and babysitting-by-TV which too often passes for parenting these days? Millions of failing British children could use a Tiger Mother in their tank.

- Why we all need a Tiger Mother, by Allison Pearson, Telegraph.co.uk, January 13, 2011.

2. When Chua’s book first hit the transom, Su Yeong Kim thought, “Oh my God! I actually have data for this!” An associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, Kim had been following more than 300 Asian-American families for a decade when the book came out. In March, she published her results; they will no doubt surprise Chua and her admirers. Children of parents whom Kim 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.”

For Kim’s study, parents and children answered questions during the children’s adolescence about their parenting styles. The vast majority of parents were foreign-born in Hong Kong or southern China, with relatively low educational attainment and a median income of between $30,001 and $45,000 in each of the study’s three phases, spaced out equally over eight years. Three-quarters of their kids were American-born. The study controlled for socioeconomic status and other potentially confounding factors.

Kim wanted to look at a particular paradox that had emerged in the academic literature regarding Asian-American parents. When she began, of course, the term “tiger parent” didn’t exist, but scholars had the same impression as average Americans, that “Asian-American parents are more controlling, yet their children are also doing very well academically,” Kim recounts. This was somewhat of a mystery because it contradicted the experience of European-American children; overly strict and unresponsive white parents typically produce messed-up losers.

Since the 1960s, academics have separated parenting styles into three categories, or “profiles”: permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian. Authoritative parenting—a combination of high responsiveness with the exercise of power that’s open to negotiation—has been found (in white families) to produce higher-achieving children with fewer symptoms of depression. Authoritarian parenting combines coercion with less responsiveness, and leads to higher depressive symptoms and lower self-esteem. Permissive parenting is characterized by high warmth and low control and demandingness. (Negligent parenting, added in the 1980s, is both cold and undemanding.)

Kim did not feel that any of these descriptions quite matched what she had experienced growing up. “Whenever scholars compare European-American and Asian-American families,” she said, parents among the latter “almost always score higher on controlling and lower on warmth, which means they’re more likely to be classified as authoritarian.” Yet, their kids were outperforming whites in school. This gave rise to the “achievement/adjustment paradox”: kids doing well by external measures while feeling torn apart inside.

Kim decided that for her study, she would both parse further the different dimensions of the Eurocentric profiles and create new ones that better fit the styles of the East Asian families. The responsiveness that’s considered an aspect of “authoritative” parenting, for example, was broadened to include both positive and negative attributes: warmth and hostility. Control, she would write, has “multiple facets … positive control is measured by parental monitoring and democratic parenting; negative control is measured by psychological control and punitive parenting.” Kim also added inductive reasoning, which is a measure of effective communication, and shaming, which had been established in the literature as a significant aspect in the rearing of Chinese-origin kids.

Adolescents and parents rated the parents on several qualities, for example, “act loving, affectionate, and caring,” “listen carefully,” and “act supportive and understanding.” Warmth, reasoning, monitoring, and democratic parenting were considered positive attributes, while hostility, psychological control, shaming, and punitive measures were considered negative. These characterizations would be combined through a statistical method known as latent profile analysis to determine Kim’s four parenting profiles: Those scoring highest on the positive dimensions were labeled “supportive;” those scoring low on both dimensions were deemed “easygoing;” “harsh” parents were high on negative attributes and low on positive ones, and “tiger” parents scored high on both positive and negative dimensions.

Despite the popular image of Chinese-American parenting that Chua’s book bolstered, fewer “tiger” parents emerged from Kim’s analysis than did “supportive” parents. “Easygoing” were similar in number as “tigers,” and the fewest parents were deemed “harsh.”

Kim also measured the outcomes for each of her categories. Supportive parents had the best developmental outcomes, as measured by academic achievement, educational attainment, family obligation (considered positive outcomes), academic pressure, depressive symptoms, and parent-child alienation (considered negative).Academic achievement and attainment were purely data-driven, while the latter four came from different assessments developed by academics over the years (the academic pressure rating is Kim’s own), which, while considered reliable, are inherently somewhat subjective. Children of easygoing parents were second in outcomes, while tiger moms produced kids who felt more alienated from their parents and experienced higher instances of depressive symptoms. They also had lower GPAs, despite feeling more academic pressure.

In the end, then, Kim finds that Chinese immigrant moms and dads are not that different from American parents with European ancestry: three of Kim’s types correspond to the parenting styles in the prior literature derived from studies of whites (supportive/authoritative, easygoing/permissive, harsh/authoritarian). What’s different is the emergence of the “tiger” profile. Since “tigers” in Kim’s study scored highly on the shaming practice believed more common among Asian-Americans, it seems that, pre-Chua at least, tiger parenting would be less common among whites. (The moms rated themselves more highly on shaming than even their kids, suggesting tiger moms—like Chua, who recounted such instances in her best-seller—feel no shame in their shaming)

And although Chua presented her own children as Exhibit A of why her parenting style works, Kim said, “Our data shows Tiger parenting produces the opposite effect. Not just the general public but Asian-American parents have adopted this idea that if I’m a tiger parent, my kids will be whizzes like Chua’s kids. Unfortunately, tiger children’s GPA’s and depressive symptoms are similar to those whose parents who are very harsh.

“Tiger parenting doesn’t produce superior outcomes in kids.”

- Poor Little Tiger Cub, Slate.com, May 8, 2013.

3. Asian America! You wanted representation? In Crazy Rich Asians, there is representation galore.

Not only did the movie feature that rarest of rarities, an all-Asian cast, in front of the camera, but just as important, Asians were behind the camera too — from the director, Jon M. Chu and Kevin Kwan, the author of the novel on which the movie is based to scriptwriter Adele Lim, — to ensure that the Warner Bros. project would not resort to stereotyping or whitewashing.

From the colorful graphics, split screen and jaunty music — reminiscent of the openings of the I Love Lucy TV series and other TV sitcoms such as the 60’s Dick Van Dyke Show and Bewitched — the audience is instantly put into a joyful mood.

Chu has managed to create a fun romp through the glitz and clamor of fantastic Singapore high society with all the cultural tripwires to make things interesting even though the ending was never in doubt.

The movie is not perfect and it doesn’t attempt to be more than what it is — a romantic comedy — but at the same time, it is so much more.

Awkwafina is a revelation as Rachel Chu’s girlfriend. The Asian American comedic actress dominate every scene she is in with her bubbly energy and comedic timing.

Awkwafina, along with Nico Santos, who tempers his characterization of Nick Young’s cousin Oliver T’Sien just short of a stereotype, get their roles expanded beyond the novel, a wise decision by director Chu because they help maintain the comedic side of the equation to balance off the straight-arrow characters of the main leads of Rachel Chu and Nick young, who essentially play straight man and woman to the comedic pair.

All the controversy surrounding the casting of Henry Golding as the male romantic lead should be cast by the wayside. It’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role of Nick Young, the bachelor scion of an uber-rich Chinese-Singaporean family. Whatever “it” is, Golding has it. The role doesn’t demand too much for him in his first movie role, but he makes up for it in exuding a Cary Grant-style charm and charisma onscreen.

Constance Wu, free from the Taiwanese American accent she uses in Fresh Off the Boat, is a surprise as she reveals a side of her we haven’t expected of her. As Rachel Chu, she is innocent, sexy in a girl-next-door kind of way and ultimately, a toughness that isn’t revealed until near the end.

Michelle Yeoh as Eleanor, Nick Young’s overbearing mother who constantly considers the social strata consequences of Nick’s romantic choices, is another perfect casting. Before she accepted the role, Yeoh made it clear she didn’t want to resort to a Tiger Mom image for her character and she was able to pull it off. Overbearing, yes. Meddlesome, yes, Icy, definitely. But everything she does as Eleanor is for love and family.

- Review: Crazy Rich Asians is a Groundbreaking, Yet Playful, Fun Journey, August 13, 2018.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Few and far between 彼此相距很远


Went straight over my head 不知所云


Paving the way 铺路


Striking out 完全失败


Fly on the wall 墙上的苍蝇?


On a loop? 循环往复

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