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Amy Chua, a Yale Law professor, published her infamous memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” five years ago. When it hit the shelves of bookstores, people were shocked by Chua’s parenting techniques as a Chinese-American mother. In the book, she describes how she requires from her daughters hours of drilling in math and music. In addition, she mandates that her daughters are not allowed to attend play dates or sleepovers.
For some, her parenting style is much too harsh and borderline abusive. For others, it offered a different perspective on parenting than traditional methods. As for me, it showed that I wasn’t the only one with “tiger parents.” I remember sitting at the dining room table when my father handed me Chua’s article saying, “See, there are stricter parents than us out there.” I didn’t buy it at first. I thought I had the worst of the worst.
Raised by two Vietnamese immigrants, I experienced a similar upbringing to Chua’s two daughters. Like the author said, it’s not just the Chinese that adopt the “tiger mom” way. Other ethnicities posses the same set of values which influence their parenting styles. Just as many questioned Chua’s methods, I questioned my own parent’s ways of guiding me through life. Just like Chua’s daughters, Sophia and Louisa, I had to play piano and was never allowed to attend sleepovers or earn any grade lower than an ‘A.’
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My parents stressed the importance of excelling academically. In order to ensure my success as an adult, they instilled in me discipline, independence and efficiency from an early age. Like Chua, my parents’ way of encouraging me was not all flowers and rainbows. I was called names and was held to a very high standard – it took years to understand their reasoning for such methods.
Eventually, I understood why my parents had such a strict way of parenting. They always pushed me because they just wanted the best for me. This push and desire for my success stemmed from the fact that they were two immigrants who came to the United States with utterly nothing and worked hard to get where they are today.
Despite what many may think, Asian parents don’t have a special way of producing stereotypically successful children. Their methods are just motivated by a unique situation. In my case, my parents did not spend most of their lives working hard for me to be anything less than successful.
I struggled then – and still do struggle – tremendously with such pressures. Their parenting did not resonate with me during earlier portions of my life. I took falls academically and with my own self-esteem, but the most important lesson that I learned was to always get back up and shake the dust off.
Now, my story is a little different, because I certainly did fail and had to face their immense disappointment. I was not someone who could handle that level of intensity from my parents and it did cause some stress. Although “tiger” parenting can help push kids to be the best they can be, it can affect some kids negatively. It is an extreme tough version of love and not all children will react positively. However, when I decided to embrace the characteristics that my parents were trying to teach me, I became a better version of myself. Instead of seeing their methods as destructive, I used their lessons to become successful on my own terms.
My “tiger mom” has high expectations, but what us “tiger cubs” come to realize is that our parents’ expectations derive from love. They just want the best for best for us. Ultimately, my mom imparted character traits for which I will always be grateful. She taught me to be strong and independent. She showed me to never allow others to bring me down. She taught me how to have a strong work ethic and to never do anything less than my best.
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Even though I wavered with understanding my parent’s way of motivating, I will always be grateful that it made me who I am today. Amy Chua doesn’t have it wrong; she just gave the world a firsthand perspective of the “tiger way.”