Not sure what parenting style best describes you? That’s unsurprising with all the different styles to choose from including, helicopter, free-range, snowplow, lawnmower, and of course tiger parenting.
While these styles are newer labels for subtypes that often align with more traditional parenting labels like authoritarian, permissive, authoritative, and uninvolved, most parents are a combination of different styles.
But what type do you want to be? Well, tiger parenting, in particular, tends to raise challenges and fuel debates as much as any other method of parenting.
Coined by Amy Chua in 2011, “tiger parenting” is a term she spent hundreds of pages defining and describing in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.”
In her book, Chua, a Yale Law School professor, claims that her strict and openly controlling method of parenting (aka tiger parenting) led both of her daughters to be successful in life. She goes on to state her opinion that her method of parenting is the “Chinese way,” according to a
Chua was the first to introduce herself as a tiger mom. But since the publication of her book, organizations such as the American Psychological Association (APA) have adopted the term and referred to this style of parenting as tiger parenting.
Tiger parents, according to Chua’s definition, are mothers of Chinese (or other ethnic) origin who are highly controlling and authoritarian. This style of parenting is seen as harsh, demanding, and often emotionally unsupportive.
Children in this environment are sent the message that high levels of success — especially academic — come at any cost, which often means no free time, playdates, sleepovers, or other kid activities.
“Success is the first and foremost goal in the tiger parenting style, and children often comply with their parent’s demands out of fear of punishment and acceptance,” explains Souzan Swift, PsyD, a psychologist at Heal.
Children need acceptance and love. And with tiger parenting, Swift says the intent seems to be positive — to make your children highly successful — however, children may tie their self-worth and acceptance to their level of success, which Swift says can also create a lot of pressure and stress.
While Chua’s focus is on tiger moms,
Kim and her team discovered that as children grow older, the role of the tiger mother is more likely to diminish, but the role of the tiger father is more likely to increase.
This shift, they discovered, had to do with kids being more tied to the home and mother during their younger years. But as children get older, and more engaged with the outside world, their father tends to take a more active role.
Tiger parenting draws inspiration from the authoritarian parenting style, but it also has some characteristics of helicopter parenting. Authoritarian parents have high expectations but offer very little support.
Helicopter parents, on the other hand, hover over their children and rescue when trouble arises. Some helicopter parents will go to great lengths to prevent obstacles for their children, often interfering, so their child does not have to deal with disappointment.
“Tiger parenting is very similar to a helicopter and authoritarian parenting style because it can be overprotective and restricting for children,” says Alex Ly, AMFT, a therapist at Clarity With Therapy.
However, Ly does point out that tiger parenting can be a better alternative to an absent or permissive parenting style since it can offer structure and direction for children. In permissive parenting, children live with very few rules and expectations. Some people consider this style of parenting indulgent since parents have a difficult time telling their children “no.”
But a better option, says Ly, is authoritative parenting because it offers the child the ability to respect their parents but still allows them to make choices and learn to be an individual.
Authoritative parents are able to strike a balance between being too strict, like tiger parents, and too lenient, like permissive parents. This style of parenting provides kids with a lot of love and support while setting clear guidelines for behavior.
All parenting styles “work” to some degree, but that doesn’t mean they are entirely effective or positive.
“Tiger parenting may work in the short term, but it can stunt a child’s ability to grow and be an adult,” says Ly. Often, adults who had tiger parents growing up, have low self-confidence and experience difficulty making choices, he says.
Swift says whether or not tiger parenting works is difficult to answer because there are many factors involved, such as culture and ethnic background. She also says you need to consider moderating factors such as the child’s temperament and their beliefs and perception of love.
“With tiger parenting, you may produce a successful, productive adult, but that adult may also have a lot of anxiety, depression, or health issues as a result,” says Swift.
According to Swift, tiger parenting can lead to many problems in children including:
- high levels of pressure to succeed
- increased anxiety and depression
- decreased self-worth and self-confidence
- feeling that self-worth is linked to success
- difficulty with social skills
- unrealistic goals
However, most experts, Swift included, say there are some potential pros to tiger parenting, including:
- increased productivity
- more self-discipline
- increased responsibility
- eagerness to succeed
- highly goal-oriented
If the goal is to produce a happy, healthy, well-adjusted adult, then Swift says being an authoritarian or tiger parent may not be the best approach. “We know that unconditional love is the basis for healthy relationships later in life, so if a child feels their love is conditional on their success, it may lead to increased anxiety, overall unhappiness, and depression,” she explains.
What the research says
And when it comes to the research, most of the data shows that tiger parenting is not better than other styles of parenting.
According to a
Based on the sample of 444 Chinese American families, the study also found that tiger parenting is not a common parenting profile. Parenting styles were categorized into four groups and classified based on four negative parenting traits and four positive parenting traits.
What they found was that tiger parents scored high on all eight traits (both positive and negative), while supportive parents scored high on all four positive traits including warmth and low on negative traits including berating and humiliation as a means of motivation.
Ultimately, the authors found that supportive parents made up the largest percentage of parents in the data they collected and reviewed. These findings helped challenge the stereotype that most Asian American parents are tiger parents.
Some of what is attributed to tiger parenting may stem from cultural differences. A different study, published in 2014, found that Asian American high school students and European American high school students see their moms differently.
According to the study, Asian American children have an interdependent relationship with their mothers that often motivates them to do better after experiencing failure.
European American students, on the other hand, are more independent of their mothers and not influenced by pressure from their mothers to do better, especially after experiencing failure.
Parenting styles, just like most other things involved with being a parent, are unique to each family. While Chua’s form of tiger parenting may be extreme, and according to some research, not as common or effective as previously believed, there are some positive features we can glean from this style.
Hard work, discipline, dedication, high expectations, and a focus on success are all qualities most of us would like to instill in our children. But we can accomplish all of this, and much more, by taking on an authoritative approach to parenting.