How To Be A Tiger-ish Mother

Easy Tiger!
Picture Credit: Lisa D

No sleepovers. No TV or computer games. No school plays. Two hours of homework after school. Three hours of music practice every day, even while on holiday. When Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Harvard Law Professor Amy Chua was first published in 2011 it caused instant controversy. Her book described how she drove her children both academically, in their music studies and in their lives in general using what she regarded as pretty standard Chinese parenting methods.

She coined the term ‘Tiger Mother’ to represent not only her Asian heritage but the aggressive manner in which she pushed her children in all aspects of their lives – even the quality of home-made birthday cards was criticised when Chua felt that they had not put in enough effort.

Chua described Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as a ‘memoir’ of how she brought up her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, rather than any sort of instruction manual. But while she claimed later that the book was meant to self-deprecating, she is often deeply critical of western child-rearing and education methods.

Whilst I disagree passionately with some of Chua’s methods – some of the behaviour towards her children is in my opinion borderline abusive - I find it equally hard to disagree with some of her criticisms of the lack of discipline in western education and parenting. In pretty much every parenting book you can read there are lessons to learn, and Battle Hymn is no different. It’s just that I prefer to be a Tiger-ish mother.

So what is a Tiger-ish Mother? It’s a parent (after all they doesn’t necessary have to be female) who knows that children do better when their parents are interested and involved in their education, their hobbies and their life, while realising that a child needs a chance to be a child.

If the only feline that your parenting style could be compared with is a domestic moggy curled up by the fire, here are five lessons that we can all take away from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

  1. You Need To Get Involved With Your Child’s Education. Keep track of whether they are doing their homework (and actually handing it in). And if they are having problems get in touch with the school sooner rather than later.
  2. Music Practice Really Does Make A Difference. If your child is learning a musical instrument you are wasting your money and the teacher’s time if they don’t practice. And they do need to do some practice every day even if they only have time for a few scales.
  3. Criticism Is Not Inherently Bad. I would not recommend that you describe your kid as ‘garbage’ as Amy Chua did. But if your child has an off-day and does not get the expected grade in a test this is not a reason for punishment or ridicule. The Tiger Mother’s approach is about helping a child to reach their true potential and there is no harm in telling a kid that you believe in them and that they are capable of better.
  4. Kids Respond Differently To Pressure. Eldest daughter Sophia has staunchly defended her mother’s approach, even writing an open letter defending her mother and thanking her for the support she received over the years. Younger daughter Lulu eventually cracked at the age of 14 refusing to carry on with violin lessons and took up tennis instead.
  5. Let Them Know You Love Them. In spite of the threats, the arguments and the tears, Chua’s kids always know that their mother loves them. And that security does more for a child’s self-esteem than praising them for the most minimal of achievements ever will.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is available at and

About the Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the Editor of eParenting.

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