The Subtleties of the Parenting Style

“Happiness is not a concept I tend to dwell on. Chinese parenting does not address happiness.” So said author and parent Amy Chua, a Taiwanese American and law professor at Yale, who coined the popular term “Tiger Mom” in her 2011 bestselling book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” This concept attempted to define the Chinese community’s cultural stance in regard to their children’s education. Modern society viewed the parenting style as stressing unreasonably high academic standards, but as Ms. Chua states, Asian emphasis on education has been in existence centuries before her book hit the stands. Although the phrase “Tiger Mom” went on to capture the American imagination, it was also flippantly molded into a racist stereotype. The true “Tiger Mom” parenting style is more complex, resulting in serious drawbacks for some children but meaningful benefits to others based on individual families.


What is a “Tiger Mom” and its Prevalence in the Asian American Community

According to Amy Chua, most Americans believe that “Tiger Moms” control their children’s education in a way that’s “highly controlling, strict, and severe almost to the point of abuse.” In place of watching television or going on playdates, the Tiger Mom has been accused of prioritizing academic excellence above all else. Studies disclose that Chinese households spend ten times longer drilling academics than do Western parents. An online survey of 1800 participants, conducted by the China Youth Research Centre, revealed that 95 percent of Chinese families claimed to know Chinese mothers who fit this parenting style. On the contrary, some experts have noted that the majority of Chinese parents do not identify with this method (He, 2011). This outcome was reinforced by a University of Texas study that revealed only 28 percent of Asian parents utilize the tiger parenting style. In summary, everyone claims to know one, but few claim to be one.

Origin of the Stereotype

Although the phrase “Tiger Mom” was popularized beginning with Amy Chua’s memoir, Chinese cultural history has emphasized education since 1045-255 BC during the Zhou Dynasty. Educational Institutions were divided into either academies for the nobility or village schools for common citizens. The concept that higher education was an upper-class virtue elevated it to privilege. With the Han Dynasty that followed, Confucius’ philosophy became China’s national educational doctrine. Confucius believed that education developed confidence, which ultimately led to peace and that without knowledge, one would be ignorant. He also thought of education as a continual process of self-improvement that could most effectively be achieved through “training.”

Although Confucius unveiled his ideas in China, the methods of “tiger parenting” were also prevalent in several other regions across Asia such as Vietnam. The heavy influence of Confucianism on Vietnamese culture has created a hierarchical structure in society in which the elders are viewed as superiors and demand respect. Historical hardships such as famine and poverty resulted in generations of Vietnamese parents who over-stressed the importance of education over other pursuits (Heymann, 2006).

In recent society, the adoption of the “Tiger Mom” parenting style has sometimes been employed by immigrant parents who struggle to find a balance between their American children and their own parental and cultural expectations (Shin, Wong, 2013).


Racist Roots take Hold

After the popularization of the phrase “Tiger Mom” in 2011, most Americans have continued to use it in the present day as a poor attempt to categorize Chinese parenting. Americans have done little to no research on the diverse parenting styles within the Chinese community.

Furthermore, media coverage has reinforced the stereotype by dramatizing Amy Chua’s story and applying it to an entire culture. Even worse, the “Tiger Mother” has developed from something relatable and humorous into what could be viewed as a racist stereotype. Asian mothers were publicly portrayed to be extremely harsh, but successful, nonetheless. For example, the stereotype paints the “tiger mom” as demanding that her children achieve a perfect score on the SATs and a 4.0 unweighted GPA. According to Peter H. Huang’s Tiger Mom to Panda Parent, the narrative can “reinforce a competent-yet unsociable stereotype of Asians that has been shown to elicit fear and envy.” The caricature is manipulating the anxiety of Non-Asian Americans threatened about Asian students taking over white students’ places in prestigious universities (Poon, Byrd 2013).

A noted social psychologist, Susan Fiske, cogently observed that "envy is harm waiting to happen.” History has indicated that people will react in response to their prejudices under pressure or when seeking support from influential figures around them (Fiske, 2010). The resentment toward Asian Americans from other racial groups has been attributed to the perception of economic and educational success among the Asian community (Hendershott, 2021). Perhaps the harmful stereotype has added to the recent increase in Asian hate crimes.


The Subtleties of the Parenting Style

Tiger parenting may not lead to the best academic and social emotional outcome for some children. A few studies and statistics express that children with reported “tiger” parents were more likely to have depressive symptoms, academic pressure, and a strained parent-child relationship. The leading cause of death for Asian Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 is suicide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, no other racial group lists suicide to be the primary cause of death. 

In stark contrast, author Amy Chua writes that, “I can’t tell you how many Asian kids I’ve met who, while acknowledging how oppressively strict and brutally demanding their parents were, happily describe themselves as devoted to their parents and unbelievably grateful to them, seemingly without a trace of bitterness or resentment.” Asian parents were shown to express support and love to their children through various samples and methodologies (Huang, 2021). Furthermore, a study that interviewed 24 Chinese mothers of middle school students in Nanjing, China, discovered that most mothers supported their kids’ independence and socialization almost as much as academic success (Way). Tiger parenting is rooted in values of independence, emphasizing a close relationship within the family (Markus). There is a focus on academic accomplishment, but that is not their only concern. Modern Chinese women are equally concerned in encouraging qualities like self-reliance and confidence that they believe would help their kids succeed in a market economy.

Over the course of several centuries, Chinese parenting has evolved and traveled to the U.S. through generations of immigrants. Recently, it has become misrepresented as a highly stringent and invective stereotype that borders on caricature, but much like the nature of stereotypes, labels don’t apply to everyone and individuals react uniquely. The accurate “Tiger” parenting style has both successful and detrimental outcomes for children depending on family dynamics and individual responses. Ultimately, no parenting method is completely effective or inadequate and perfection is an unattainable goal.




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Nuances of a Parenting Style



The term “Tiger Mom” was popularized by Amy Chua in her 2011 book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." Chua describes her parenting style as highly controlling, strict, and severe, with the goal of raising academically successful children. However, the term “Tiger Mom” has since been used more broadly to describe any Asian parent who is seen as being overly demanding of their children.

This paper will explore the nuances of the Tiger Mom parenting style. It will discuss the origins of the stereotype, the research on the effects of Tiger parenting, and the potential benefits and drawbacks of this approach.

    Origins of the Stereotype

The Tiger Mom stereotype has its roots in Chinese culture. Chinese culture has a long history of valuing education, and parents have traditionally placed a great deal of emphasis on their children’ academic success. This emphasis on education is often seen as a way to ensure social mobility and financial security.

The Confucian philosophy also plays a role in the Tiger Mom stereotype. Confucianism emphasizes the importance of hard work, discipline, and respect for authority. These values are often reflected in the Tiger Mom parenting style.

Research on the Effects of Tiger Parenting

There is some research to suggest that Tiger parenting can have positive effects on children’s academic achievement. For example, a study by the University of California,

Los Angeles found that Asian American students who reported having Tiger parents were more likely to attend college and graduate with honors.

However, there is also research to suggest that Tiger parenting can have negative effects on children’s emotional well-being. For example, a study by the University of Toronto found that children of Tiger parents were more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Tiger Parenting

The Tiger Mom parenting style has both potential benefits and drawbacks.


  • Tiger parenting can lead to academic success.
  • Tiger parenting can teach children the importance of hard work and discipline.
  • Tiger parenting can help children develop a strong work ethic.
  • Tiger parenting can help children develop a sense of respect for authority.


  • Tiger parenting can be emotionally demanding for children.
  • Tiger parenting can lead to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
  • Tiger parenting can damage the parent-child relationship.
  • Tiger parenting can teach children that success is more important than happiness.



The Tiger Mom parenting style is a complex and controversial topic. There is some evidence to suggest that it can have both positive and negative effects on children. Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to use this parenting style is a personal one.

It is important to note that the Tiger Mom stereotype is just that - a stereotype. Not all Asian parents are Tiger Moms, and not all Tiger Moms are Asian. It is important to remember that every child is different, and what works for one child may not work for another.

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