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Children of parents classified as “tiger” have worse grades, are more depressed (slate.com)
179 points by nostrademons on May 9, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments

I was under the impression that Amy Chua (the woman who wrote "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother") gave up the "tiger mom" strategy after one of her children had a breakdown:

"What brings the situation to an end is two horrifying incidents. First, Lulu hacks off her hair with a pair of scissors; then, on a family holiday to Moscow, she and Chua get into a public argument that culminates in Lulu smashing a glass in a cafe, screaming, "I'm not what you want – I'm not Chinese! I don't want to be Chinese. Why can't you get that through your head? I hate the violin. I hate my life. I hate you, and I hate this family!" Her relationship with Lulu in crisis, Chua, finally, thankfully, raises the white flag."


> "I'm not what you want – I'm not Chinese! I don't want to be Chinese. Why can't you get that through your head? I hate the violin. I hate my life. I hate you, and I hate this family!" Her relationship with Lulu in crisis, Chua, finally, thankfully, raises the white flag."

I started crying when I read that. I literally have tears in my eyes right now. I'm hardly surprised, though.

I expressed my opinions years ago here on HN, about this tiger mom horseshit and how it's basically child abuse, to me, even though I'm into my 30s it's still with me.

My mom did this shit to me and I had a couple of good, solid breakdowns. Constant pressure, college resume padding horseshit, extracurricular activities that I don't care about (kudos to you if you enjoyed them but most of the people at these things aren't enthused about it). NOthing I ever did was good enough, impossible busy work, constant comparisons to so-and-so kid's, being paraded out to brag about the family name, etc.

Then I did the unforgivable. I flunked out of college. I got FAT -- the worse! And grew a beard. She told me I was a complete embarrassment and she didn't want me around. Because of a beard. I guess I was about 25 when she said that, and I've seen her a three times since then.

At least you're still alive.

I am reminded of the tragic case of Mengyao "May" Zhou, an MIT grad and Stanford grad student, whose death in 2007 was ruled a suicide. (While there was no clear evidence of foul play, the evidence for suicide was not overwhelming either -- in particular, she left no note.) While she was clearly very successful in her studies and was thought to be happy, some of the details that came out at the time left me with the distinct impression that she killed herself to get out of a life she had not chosen and could see no other escape from. Her father in particular seemed to have a habit of stating flatly how she had felt, as if he didn't have to ask her. That struck me as a big red flag that suggested that he related to her as an extension of himself rather than as a separate person -- a common pattern in "tiger" parenting.

I emphasize that this is only my impression; I didn't know her and have no privileged information about her. But the father's subsequent behavior -- insisting she was murdered and making rather wild suggestions about who could have done it and why -- did nothing to change that impression (even making allowances for understandable grief). Instead of stopping to wonder whether he really knew her -- who wouldn't wonder that after an unexpected suicide? -- he dug himself into his position. I think that in his denial that she could have felt any other way than how he wanted her to feel, he is still refusing to hear the message of her suicide.

It is bad enough to be living a life designed by someone else, where you know it's not your choice but you feel compelled to do it anyway. But to have had your own desires and feelings so rigidly unacknowledged for your whole life that you can't even imagine living your own life for your own reasons -- that seems to me unbearably painful. I have a feeling that is the place May Zhou was in.

I was at Osaka University for an exchange program once and I was staying at a dorm with all the other foreign students. On my first day there I went around the place to introduce myself to everyone and I one of the people I met was a really friendly Chinese guy.

Fast-forward a couple of days, I come back from the Uni and I see the guy sitting in the common room with a blank stare looking really white. When I go over there to find out what's going on, he tells me he found his Chinese roommate that morning. He had hanged himself because he couldn't stand the pressure anymore.


Seconding the "still alive" sentiment. A great friend of mine growing up was able to dodge the more abusive aspects of the parenting style. His parents would occasionally back off. Why? Because he was born after his two older cousins, one of whom committed suicide in college and the other who broke down permanently and has been institutionalized off-and-on ever since.

I remember reading this NYT article on Elizabeth Shin's tragic suicide:


It's a sobering read, including interviews with the parents, Shin's classmates, etc.

A sad story. Thanks for the link.

I have a feeling that there's a certain crop of high-school overachiever who, upon finally being free, ends up failing for the first time and in a spectacular fashion after they go to college.

How has your life evolved since 25? Did you end up losing the weight and the beard? Did they finally leave you be to pursue your own goals?

>> Did you end up losing the weight and the beard?

What if he didn't?

Hopefully it's by choice and he doesn't blame his parents for his beard and fatness anymore. I don't know anyone with perfect parenting and we all have our demons.

It may not work to raise your kids like you live in China, when you actually live in a western country. Of course this is a great exaggeration as an example, but picture Kim Jong Un as prime minister of Britain. How do you think that would work out?

1. Tiger moms in America are far more permissive, they swing back and forth - providing an unstable and inconsistent environment for their children. 2. The kids are inundated with the highly permissive hippie culture of the west even though the tiger mom tries on and off to limit this. The kids eventually rebel.

>The book bares all about how the parenting model worked for her older daughter Sophia, now 17 and heading off to an Ivy League college, but backfired dramatically for her younger girl, Louisa, or Lulu, who is now 14

Why do we associate attending an Ivy League institution as a 17 / 18 year old for an undergraduate education as some sort of metric for success?

I mean, I'm not going to be naive and insist that the worthwhile life doesn't look at results and instead only looks at the journey, but to consider one's parenting model as "working" at age 17 because one's child is going to Ivy league is hilariously short-sighted (unless you're planning for your child to die a lot sooner than most people).

My TL;DR point is follows:

17 years is too short to draw any conclusions on how successful a person's life is so the jury should still be out on Tiger Mothering.

Why do we associate attending an Ivy League institution as a 17 / 18 year old for an undergraduate education as some sort of metric for success?

Because, by all accounts, it is one of the most reliable indicators that the child is going to be successful.

but to consider one's parenting model as "working" at age 17 because one's child is going to Ivy league is hilariously short-sighted

Well, at some point you- as a parent- stop being responsible for your child's life. Many would argue that occurs when the child goes away to college and makes their own choices.

> Because, by all accounts, it is one of the most reliable indicators that the child is going to be successful.

I don't know of any way to phrase this. What you said is profoundly stupid and factually incorrect, even if you judge success by salary alone:


Your own link shows that 5 of the top 10 mid-career median salary schools are Ivy League schools. Only Brown (more arts-focused), Columbia (no clue why this isn't there), and Cornell (only Ivy with public ties, and the largest Ivy) aren't included.

From the parent:

> Because, by all accounts, it is one of the most reliable indicators that the child is going to be successful.

Clearly, it isn't. If it were, the only schools there would be Ivies. They are not.

> Because, by all accounts, it is one of the most reliable indicators that the child is going to be successful.

Successful as in working for a Fortune 500? Or successful as in growing up to be a self-suficient, happy human being?




1) Accomplishing an aim or purpose: "a successful attack on the town".

2) Having achieved popularity, profit, or distinction.

Attending an ivy league school fulfills both definitions, depending on why you went.

Oh good, someone brought out their dictionary.

I could be mistaken, but I do believe the answer to 'successful as in' refers to the definition of the word successful

> Because, by all accounts, it is one of the most reliable indicators that the child is going to be successful.

Happy ≠ successful. Which is more important?

successful. With the fruits of early success you can spend the remainder of your life figuring out what makes you happy, and it wont be limited to the things you can do in your home town for $10.

Hey, if you know the Path to True Happiness...well, quit hogging.

It's pretty easy...stop caring about success!

Attending an Ivy League school as an undergraduate is one of the most reliable indicators that a child is going to be successful?

Are you serious? A student of mine, who is not only exceedingly capable but also very pleasant, with many interests outside college (yes, he is a serious musician) applied to several Ivy League schools for his graduate degree but somehow none took him on. He is now going up to NYU, and he will enjoy it.

I think he will go far in life.

While your student may be headed for success, be aware of the the implications of using anecdotal evidence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence

This is the wrong counter-argument, I think. Top schools get such a number of applicants that they have to turn away a fair number of qualified candidates, and once you are in and are not totally socially inept you can't help but make the connections that will get you set for life. Luck plays a great part at this stage, even though it's anathema to say.

If anyone wants to test the tiger-mother theory they should perhaps look at people who got into decent schools and follow up how they did.

untog didn't say that being successful and going to an Ivy League school are mutually inclusive. Untog said that attending an Ivy League school suggests the individual will be successful. This says nothing positive or negative about other schools.

Does mutually inclusive just mean the same? E.g. If A includes B and B includes A then A = B.

Mutually inclusive means: A implies B, therefor if A, then B.

> Why do we associate attending an Ivy League institution as a 17 / 18 year old for an undergraduate education as some sort of metric for success?

Because, statistically, they're going to earn a lot more money over the course of their careers (especially when you factor engineering students out of the state school equation).

I think you are wrong. Smart people have high earnings regardless of Ivy League or state school.


That's great, assuming your kid is actually smart. What if he isn't? If he can pretend to be smart (and all the other things Ivy League schools look for), then his path through life will be much easier by going to a prestigious school.

Completely agree. I find it difficult to comprehend how moving your lifetime earnings potential from 2M to 20M is seen as a horrible thing. You could work 1/10 the amount of your life, have the same amount of money, and figure out what makes you happy with the other 9/10.

I get the feeling most of the people that say money cant buy you happiness have never been dirt poor. I'm not saying money buys happiness, but its damn hard to be happy when you r stressed out over how to pay the rent.

I seriously doubt that graduating college 3-4 years before your peer group results in an $18mm advantage very often.

Also anything above $2mm is gravy where happiness is concerned.

Over 2m? I did some quick extrapolation, which is probably wrong.

Current rent: 1595/mo ~= 19k/yr

Add 2% each year for inflation(probably wrong, but gotta start somewhere) and sum up 42 years (25 to 67) comes to just shy of 1.3M, merely paying your rent. Take taxes out of that 2M and rent+food+retirement is about the only things you can pay for and thats cutting it close.

2M to live in the place I was born just isn't going to cut it. There are of course optimizations, you could buy a condo or marry someone who also works to up it to 4M, but for a quick back of the envelope calculation its close enough.

My original estimation of 20M is probably off by a factor of 2 to 4, depends who you brown nose it with in the ivy leagues.

But basically, every time i think about my current costs and inflation, i realize that the estimated 2M average lifetime earnings potential of my education doesn't get very far.

Sorry, I confused myself. I was thinking of having $2mm net worth upon retirement, not $2mm lifetime earnings. You're right that $2mm lifetime isn't super awesome.

I definitely agree that your estimation of the benefit to graduating 4 years early is off by a few factors, still.

Or when you factor engineering students out of the Ivy school equation.

Prior paragraph:

>But the cracks beneath the surface begin to show. [...] Lulu becomes rebellious, openly defying her teacher and her mother and bitterly complaining in public about her home life. By the age of 13, writes Chua, "[Lulu] wore a constant apathetic look on her face, and every other word out of her mouth was 'no' or 'I don't care'."

Looking back, I think I had a breakdown at 13, too.

It is hardly unusual for a young teen to be rebellious, but there seems to be a wide variety in degree.

That behavior is fairly common in that age group. It's a bit hard to say what it means without more information.

I'm so very surprised that the media didn't put as much energy into her retractions that people heard about this.

What is the infatuation with violins? Why not a Chinese folk instrument? Why are violins and tiger parents so closely related?

It's not violins specifically, it's any western orchestral instrument that you can carry to and from school (or piano lessons).

My mother and I were frequently at odds about my violin lessons and practice habits but she was also a nurturing person and tried to explain the benefits of deliberate practice and musical training, which as an adult I now recognize.

Full-on "tiger" parents may be more fixated on western instruments because it's meant to be a status symbol not a means to enrich the child.

> western orchestral instrument that you can carry to and from school (or piano lessons).

Explaining why piano is even more stereotypical an instrument?

I've always assumed that the violin and piano are favoured by tiger parents because they are high-status instruments.

(Please excuse this off-topic rant: it dismays me that the violin is so high-status. The damn things are so shrill and squeaky they make me cover my ears. Meanwhile, the viola and the cello sound exquisitely resonant, yet they, especially the viola, are the ones who got second-class status. It is a tremendous musical injustice. I wonder if it has something to do with violins having been more suitable for virtuoso performance and thus more likely to be written for by primo composers.)

> I've always assumed that the violin and piano are favoured by tiger parents because they are high-status instruments.

Pretty much. There's a concertmaster, and the piano is situated prominently. Harps, cellos, and flutes are also preferred, but less favored.

I'm reasonably sure that my parents picked the piano because they had learned it themselves when young. (My mom still played a little; my dad had lost too much finger flexibility from sports.)

Because they're associated with high status, culture and sophistication. It's a way to signal that you are part of the affluent, upper class.

And no, I don't agree with the value/emphasis placed on it either.

Funny that, my mum put me in piano lessons as well, but she absolutely hates me practicing because I spend 2-3 hours at a time when I get really focused. But fair enough I practice the same few bars continuously until they're perfect :P she also hates orchestral music and finds it all rather boring when I've grown to indulge in it.

Because orchestral music is high brow. The melody in orchestral music, for cultural, acoustic and agility reasons, is usually written in the soprano range, and therefore it is given either to violins or woodwinds in that range.

Unlike woodwinds, a violin doesn't drip on the floor: if you are playing an instrument for social status not having a puddle of spit (or a damp cloth) at your feet is important.

I'm not a fan of the Tiger Mother method of parenting, but the description of the incident hardly sounds like a breakdown. It describes Lulu when she was 4 years old, so it's more of a child's temper tantrum than a breakdown.

It was when she was 13, not 4. At 13 she is certainly capable of understanding her environment, how she's being raised, and realize she's being raised differently than her friends.

>and realize she's being raised differently than her friends.

I think this is an underappreciated point. It's not that this style of parenting is inherently flawed (aside from the emotional abuse), the biggest factor is that she can see that she's not like her friends and the comparatively easy life that her friends have leads to resentment. I'm sure she would be much better off if she were immersed in the Chinese culture where this style of parenting is typical.

You might think that, but evidence suggests you'd be wrong if the experience of Korean students is anything to go by. As Wikipedia notes in its entry on South Korea's extraordinary suicide rate "In cases of youth suicide, the most common cause is pressure related to the College Scholastic Ability Test."


Indeed, social pressure seems to amplify the pain, rather than minimize it through normalization.

"The obsession with academic success has even given rise to a new expression among young people: "umchinah," or my mother's friend's son – the elusive competitor who excels at everything."


> "I'm not what you want – I'm not Chinese! I don't want to be Chinese. Why can't you get that through your head? I hate the violin. I hate my life. I hate you, and I hate this family!" Her relationship with Lulu in crisis, Chua, finally, thankfully, raises the white flag."

You may be right, but in this incident she's is referring to specific Chinese cultural norms, not the high expectations in her upbringing.

> It's not that this style of parenting is inherently flawed (aside from the emotional abuse)

Uhm... yeah, aside from that.

Heh, the point was that emotional abuse ala Amy Chua isn't a necessary component of being a "tiger mom", so considering it without the abuse angle is reasonable. It's obvious that emotional abuse leads to bad outcomes, its not obvious that tiger parenting necessarily does.

I think you're misreading the article. The first paragraph describes an incident involving a four-year-old Lulu. It's not very clear when the quoted incident occurred, but either way the language used in the outburst would almost certainly not be used by a four-year-old in a tantrum and is much more characteristic of an early teen.

Her daughter is on very good terms with her, and points out a lot of sentences in her mother's book were intended as dry sarcasm


That is the older daughter, not the younger daughter who had the outburst.

As I commented when I shared the link kindly posted here among my Facebook friends, "Like most studies of child-rearing of this nature, it is correlational rather than experimental, subject to argument about definitions, and not yet replicated, but this is food for thought." So if we think about what this means, yes, parents should be affectionate toward their children rather than reserved. Parents should also be open to children pursuing THEIR OWN interests rather than the profile of interests reputedly best for getting into a famous college. Indeed, parents should be open to the possibility that a career in private industry in an occupation in which job applicants show what they can do through work-sample tests and being a "smart and gets things done" worker can be better for a young person than piling on lots of higher education degrees.

That said, letting Junior play video games all day (as contrasted with WRITING a few video games) is not good for Junior either. Maybe Junior won't report being depressed in that case until reaching his twenties and finding out he is unemployable at a living wage that allows independence from Mom and Dad. Maybe Junior, while growing up and having limited life experience, might benefit from some actual adult leadership and guidance. It is possible to do too little as well as too much in parenting.

(Basis of knowledge: I am the father in a "half-Asian" family, although oddly I am probably the "tiger-like" parent as a native-born American, while my Taiwanese wife is more easy-going. We have one child who has grown into independent adult life as a hacker and three younger children still living at home.)

You know, unless Junior wants to go pro.

You know, unless Junior wants to go pro.

Are you talking about the video games? I have local friends who have more children than I have, and two of the boys in that family traveled overseas to try out the professional gaming circuit in one of the countries with serious gaming pros. (That family is very supportive of children trying out their interests, to its credit.) After the boys made the trip, they came back here, and if the last report I heard about their activities is still current information, they are buckling down in their studies and pursuing other careers.

How is being a pro gamer different than being a pro athlete? Lots of people try and some finally make it. I bet all those who tried and failed are happier for trying.

In Japan there is the concept of "amae". The feeling of being loved and "taken care of" is recognized as a valid need, and it is as much the job of the parents to make their children feel safe and supported as it is the job of the children to make their parents proud through high achievement. I don't know what Chinese parents are like back on the mainland, but I suspect that they have similar ideas, as Japanese concepts of loyalty are largely borrowed from Confucius.

Not that amae-based relationships can't be pathological, but they are less one-sidedly authoritarian.

So not only does it not work, I have grave doubts as to whether "tiger parenting" is normal among Chinese, or Asians in general. If anything it's a pathological development among certain first-generation Asian immigrants, who felt the need to produce exceptional children in order to compensate for perceived cultural disadvantages.

> If anything it's a pathological development among certain first-generation Asian immigrants

I was thinking this throughout your comment. I've also observed that it's a trait much stronger among first generation families or those closer to them (second generation instead of fifth, for instance).

I grew up as the children of Chinese immigrants and spent a year in college studying abroad in Beijing. I expected to see a city of 20 million high-achievers. I was in for quite a surprise. The people I met there were more like the non-Asians I knew in America than the Asians I knew.

I have no idea what specifically about immigration causes this behavior, or if it's just correlation. It could simply be the case that people prone to extreme "life optimization" are more okay with the emotional upheaval of moving to another country.

1) Asian immigrants tend to self-select for high achievement.

2) Asians historically were at a cultural disadvantage compared to other Westerners in America. Americans were at least passingly familiar with other European cultures, and had quite a bit of common ground with them; much less so with Asians so there was a mutual unintelligibility problem. So to compensate, Asian parents tended to pressure their kids to excel in something universal that Americans would consider valuable -- hence the tendency of Asians to gravitate towards the hard sciences, math, and music (oddly enough, Western classical music at that). Amy Tan wrote about this, remarking how unusual and against the odds it was that she became a writer instead of the scientist or classical violinist her mother wanted her to be.

A lot of immigrants to the US manage to immigrate specifically because they are high achievers. As such, it makes sense that immigrants as a statistical group would not really be representative of their home country.

That's a good point, that this may be more of something arising from the dynamics of cultural mixing, rather than being purely Chinese/Asian culture.

Cultural traits, when taken out of their home culture with its natural checks and balances, can become unhinged and overpowered, like when introducing species into a new habitat.

On the mainland, the main influence is the one-child policy. So there is four grand parents and two parents for one children. The Children became the family treasure.

Another influence is the "Chines Imperial examination" where the social success is done by being the best at school (that may come from Confucius).

If I understand you correctly, I think in English it would translate to "affection". In his book "The Conquest of Happiness", Bertrand Russell talks about this and says receiving parental affection is quite important to children.

>The child whose parents are fond of him accepts their affection as a law of nature. He does not think very much about it, although it is of great importance to his happiness. He thinks about the world, about the adventures that come his way and the more marvelous adventures that will come his way when he is grown up. But behind all these external interests there is the feeling that he will be protected from disaster by parental affection.

It's almost like kids benefit from running around outside with other kids, rather than being forced to be mini adults. Or something.

On the contrary, the chart in the article shows that "permissive" parenting produced lower achievement than "authoritative" parenting. The distinction in the article isn't about letting kids "be kids" but whether parents are responsive/warm versus cold.

"Authoritative" parenting means letting kids explore the world and their own interests while still setting strict limits that are necessary for the health & well-being of the kid. An authoritative parent wouldn't prevent their kid from running around outside with other kids, they'd let the kid run around outside "but stay away from the railroad tracks, and don't get drunk or do drugs, and be home by 11".

I only have anecdotal evidence, but the whole "setting strict limits and boundaries" as some panacea to parenting seems wrong to me. I think bad results for "permissive" parents are more about parents who don't give a shit about their kids, dysfunctional homes. My parents were loving and kind but extremely permissive. Not once was I or my sister told to be home by a certain time, not to get drunk or do drugs or stay away from railroad tracks. They treated us with respect and gave us the chance to figure out what we should do. That's an extremely difficult thing for a parent to do, but they did so out of love, not negligence. The biggest problem was visiting friends' houses and be bossed around by their parents, with arbitrary and strict rules. Never enjoyed that very much.

"Authoritative parenting a combination of high responsiveness with the exercise of power that’s open to negotiation" strict limits != open to negotiation

That's not really how it's defined in the article. It's more "this is what you're going to do, but I'm willing to negotiate the details."

There's a bunch of background in the psych literature beyond just this article. Here's one summary of authoritative parenting:


If you've ever had a good boss, there's a good analogy there. A good boss doesn't micro-manage or tell you what to do: she lets you arrange your time as necessary to accomplish your objectives and exercise a lot of discretion about your day-to-day work. However, she doesn't let you just spin your wheels and not accomplish anything either. She provides just enough guidance to ensure that you're still moving forwards without dictating how you move forwards.

A good parent is very similar. He provides structure and direction, but lets the child discover his/her own interests and pursue them. It's only when the kid is at risk of stepping seriously off the rails that the parent steps in.

Definitely agree. But I wonder what happens when your parent(s) do both those things but in different ways for different things?

Kinda what I could say happened to me, my father being extremely authoritative(making me work at very young age for his business), but at the same time not being around to not set very much boundaries.

No, it showed higher achievement and lower rate of depression among the "permissive" group.

You're confusing "authoritative" and "authoritarian". Authoritative > permissive > authoritarian.

Then so is rayiner, as far as I can tell. Not allowing your children to run around with other children outside is authoritarian, not authoritative.

I wasn't talking about the "running around" I was talking about the "being kids" rather than "mini adults."

As used in the article, the distinction between "authoritarian" and "authoritative" is a cold versus warm distinction, not a "directed" versus "undirected" distinction.

Isn't not allowing your children to run around with other kids a specific case of not allowing your children to "be kids" but rather requiring them to be "mini adults"?

So what you said is that if you don't let your kids run around, that's authoritarian parenting, not authoritative parenting. Which I'll concede is true.

I will also concede as true that not letting your kids run around is a specific case of not letting them "be kids" but requiring them to be "mini adults."

However, that does not mean that requiring your kids to be "mini adults" is a sign of authoritarian parenting rather than authoritative parenting, for the obvious reason that you can require your children to generally act like "mini adults" while also letting them play once in awhile.

I think the point was that that was still below the middle line.

Yes. And I think those are rather orthogonal concepts.

One can be permissive and cold. Permissive and warm. Authoritative and cold and authoritative and warm.

Authoritative and warm sounds odd, but it think I kind of describes my parents. Some issues like respecting elders, saying thank you, making sure to help friends in needs, sharing were non-negotiable, others like what major to choose, or how late early and when to do homework or what extra curricular activities to take or not take was up to me. Otherwise I never lacked loved, attention or time spent with any of my parents. One of them even quit a much better paying job just to make spend more time with me after school and in the evening.

Nobody treats adults that way. I think kids benefit from really being treated like adults.

This only works if kids are also given adult responsibilities along with their consequences. Giving kids the choice to choose their own path doesn't work when they know that they are not truly responsible for their actions. Contrast kids today with kids decades ago when it was typical for a kid of 13 to get a job to support the family. If you want to treat kids like adults you can't half-ass it.

Within the last half century in the US, kids were not contributing to the household support with whatever jobs they had, unless their families were squarely at the bottom of the economy, migrant farm workers for example. Minimum wage x 40 hours x 10 weeks went surprisingly far toward state college tuition, but not toward the expenses of a middle class household.

Forty plus years ago, high school friends of mine were busing tables before 16, and we mostly held down summer jobs once 16. I don't know that we were that much different from kids today.

I never know what to make of these kinds of studies. The author has full license to decide what "categories" will be part of their spectrum and what their definitions will be, and then further to interpret every data point by themselves. The former you can review and question, the latter you cannot.

So let's question the former:

>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.

Oof. Two biases don't make a right.

>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.”

The Stasi were a form of positive control, apparently. Just kidding -- kind of. Suffice it to say none of the above are so mutually exclusive that they should be put in categories called "positive" and "negative."

Go read the actual study then rather than the article, and find out how she justified her decisions. Most likely, she based them on definitions that were defined and validated by multiple previous studies before her, or presents research demonstrating validity of her claims.

From my time in academia, I can assure you spend most of your time and writing justifying your decisions, and a whole load of very critical people have to agree with your judgement before something gets published.

>Go read the actual study then rather than the article, and find out how she justified her decisions.

If you've got $11.95 to spare, I'll take you up on that. Unfortunately all that's available is the abstract. But if you want me to analyze that, I will. 232 words, not counting the copyright. 122 unique. 'Tiger' occurs 7 times -- 4th behind 'parenting' (15), 'the' (12), and 'and' (9). My analysis concludes that Kim doesn't just have something she wants to say, she has something she wants the public to hear. I.e., right or wrong, Kim has an agenda.

>Most likely, she based them on definitions that were defined and validated by multiple previous studies before her

I don't see how; she openly states in the quoted section of the parent comment that her delineation of categories was aimed at challenging the standard in the field.

>a whole load of very critical people have to agree with your judgement before something gets published.

In this case, it was the fine people over at the AAJP. The Asian American Journal of Psychology. Most def not a journal oriented toward "their version" of the truth, I'm sure.

> If you've got $11.95 to spare, I'll take you up on that. Unfortunately all that's available is the abstract.

Here you go! http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/85192141/2013-kim.pdf

By the way, there are many resources available for getting academic papers; you didn't mention Google Scholar, which is a great resource, but that wouldn't have helped here, but fortunately there are Russian sites and there are a number of groups dedicated to jailbreaking papers on request such as Reddit's /r/scholar or Wikipedia's Resource Request.

What is "their" version?

I don't know, what's "Asian American Psychology"? Must be new. They didn't have it when I was in school.

"he 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."

Wait. Amy Chua is US born, no, and of at least the educational attainment needed to teach at Yale Law--which I assume is paying her & her husband rather more than $45K between them. So how do she and her daughters relate to this, except as a hook to grab our attention.

Yeah, and her father is a EE professor at Berkeley who predicted the existence of the memristor...not exactly a family of "low educational attainment".

We do not possess a media with any skeptical abilities, regurgitation of press releases and narratives is all we have.

They popularized the idea and the term used to refer it. Obviously their anecdotes don't prove anything.

It sounds like the study reduced the definition of "tiger parenting" to simple authoritarian attitudes.

I went to a high-achievement school with a lot of kids of tiger parent types, including an elite music school. That's not the whole picture. Maybe these kids ended up depressed (who knows), but worse grades? I don't think so.

The study notes "the vast majority" of parents it looked at had "relatively low educational attainment and a median income of between $30,001 and $45,000". Oddly it claims it also "controlled for socioeconomic status", but that seems suspect when the vast majority of the sample is in one particular income range.

So the study mostly looked at poorer households with low-educated parents. This is quite different from Chua, a Yale law professor, on the high end of both income and education.

There's a big difference between just yelling at someone and yelling at someone while putting them in elite schools, music lessons, explaining derivatives to them, critiquing their essays, etc. I don't doubt for a SECOND the psychological impacts of authoritarianism, high stress and poor socialization. For me the argument against tiger parenting is more than it's not worth the psychological damage it inflicts and that it kills creativity, both of which are really important in life, beyond just being a finely honed academic machine. But poorer grades, no way. This study is just using its own simplistic definition of the term.

What's clear to me from these articles and studies is that there's no silver bullet - if you want to raise your child well, you have to spend a lot of energy understanding your child and guide him, but from his perspective, not your own. Be firm, for his own sake, but without injecting yourself too much. It's wrong to forcefully impose your own goals and expectation borne out of your own insecurities on your children at a stage when children can make decisions on their own, but it's also wrong to be secretive, manipulative and passive-aggressive about your expectations or pretend to yourself that they don't exist. Instead be gradually open about your own feelings and expectations and why you have them and allow them to make decisions that incorporate, but aren't forced by your own desires. All of this is a hard balancing act that demands a lot of mental effort and emotional maturity, not something we can follow out of a book. The more we try to follow someone else's rules for raising a child, the less effort we spend understanding own child and/or look inside ourselves to understand what we truly need to do.

I had to google what is tiger mom, and found this: "never allowed:

- attend a sleepover

- have a playdate

- be in a school play

- complain about not being in a school play

- watch TV or play computer games

- choose their own extracurricular activities

- get any grade less than an “A”

- not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

- play any instrument other than the piano or violin

- not play the piano or violin.”

Well, fuck.

I'm nearly 21, and this is pretty much the case for me STILL. Friends I've known for 16 years of my life I still can't sleep over. Allowed to go out? I begged and was promptly banned afterwards (whilst I was in year 7) from leaving the house until after my HSC (AU, NSW's final hs exam, but this obviously didn't stick after a few months).

Drama? Sports? I was raised by quiet, somewhat anti-social Asian parents all my life, that was never a problem.

Computer games? If it's maths related then that was okay (and I put up with it because I was so intrigued with computers and the sums were easy enough after all those self-study maths books).

19/20 for a test? Why didn't you get 20/20? Your friend did. Begin silent treatment.

I started playing at 7 because there was a program in school and I wanted to be one of the kids who got to leave class for an hour. I loved it at first, and then was moved from the private class to a one-on-one with a specialised teacher. Again, it was something new and I liked it, but it increasingly became tedious and I hated it. I hated the boring music, I hated the scales, I couldn't even reach half the notes whilst playing broken chords. And then I began to despise it. It was only by a slim chance I found an amazing pianist and composer that I fell in love with the piano again.

Now that I'm in uni, life is better, and I've found something I love doing. My grades are better and I can work at the same time without it hindering uni work. My mum is definitely not a tiger mum, she's not that bad, but it does make me wonder if I would be excelling as much as I do now if I didn't have all that pressure growing up.

If you're nearly 21 why are you still either at home or listening to their rules about who sleeps over where?

You're an adult, these things are now your choice.

My parents have made it quite clear that they'll want nothing to do with me if I leave. I've grown to appreciate them quite a lot and more than anything I still want them in my life. I would take the risk and leave if I knew they would forgive me for it, but they won't. I have cousins who have been disowned by their families, and they haven't spoken to each other in years. I don't want this to happen to me. Family is critically important in Asian families and I don't want any of my future kids growing up never knowing their heritage and culture.

If it means I'll be getting engaged a few years earlier than expected, then so be it. I'll drag out the pre-wedding phase until I'm ready.


This is horrifically unfair on you, in my opinion.

In your situation I would have to say "OK then goodbye, if you want a continuing relationship with me then I'm afraid it's going to have to be on my terms", because you only get one run through life.

Clearly my priorities are not yours though!

Oh crap. Why do someone want to do this with their own children?

I am especially puzzled about the purpose of: "- play any instrument other than the piano or violin - not play the piano or violin." I just don't understand the logic behind this two restrictions.

The idea is that if they cut out all the extracurricular / social aspects of a child's life, then the child will have nothing better to do other than focusing on academia. Of course, in reality that doesn't happen. Children will rebel when they come to that age.

As for the no violin / piano. I think you have it wrong. It's "no musical instruments other than piano or violin." (http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-03-06/news/ct-met-ti...)

"Never allowed to: - play any instrument other than the piano or violin - not play the piano or violin.”

you read it wrong.

Folks, the list is supposed to be funny. Of course it's over the top and somewhat arbitrary. The author knows it. She's also over the top and somewhat arbitrary.

I think the phrase is "ha ha only serious".

It's intended as a somewhat humorous wording of "you MUST play an instrument; your choices are piano or violin, NOTHING ELSE."

There's a few things on the list I disagree with (games, sleepovers, school play) but otherwise? Spot on. Kids lack sufficient perspective to understand which activities are important and why.

> Spot on. Kids lack sufficient perspective to understand which activities are important and why.

Important to whom? I am pretty sure kids know what is important to them and why. Sure, this may be different to what their parents think(e.g. their parents may find games, sleepovers and other stuff "unimportant").

BTW, you can use the very same logic as justification for controlling adults. [And frankly speaking, this logic is used by (almost?) all politicians]

Kids don't know jack. If a kid isn't good at maths, and their friends aren't good at maths, they conclude that maths is stupid and not worth doing. Adults know better which is why they need to push kids toward productive activities and away from unproductive ones. Which isn't to say they shouldn't be allowed leisure time to be kids. Simply that a guiding hand, and sometimes a forceful hand, is necessary.

But is it necessary to micromanage to that level? I mean , it's certainly preferable for your kid to study music than to do drugs but do you need to dictate the exact instrument they will play?

Or perhaps they aren't so interested in music and would prefer to use the time for some other constructive activity (say programming).

Music education makes you a better rounded human. IMO it should be mandatory in early development. Kids are fickle and shortsighted. Why even let them decide these kinds of things at an early age? As a grown adult a parent is obviously in a better position to choose. Expose them to music, math, programming -- all that good stuff!

Obviously you wouldn't take it to extremes and torture the kid but I have noticed a trend among Anglo parents to let their children make important decisions during their elementary years -- like what is and isn't a worthwhile pursuit. It then comes down to pure dumb luck whether the child is engaged in a worthwhile recreational activity or a dumb one.

Again, worthwhile - to whom? And again, you can apply the very same logic to (some) adults. Many people, actually, do this. That's why they ban drugs, for example. That's why they setup(or allow the setup of) censorship systems(china great firewall and many others). Some people are just too dumb to think.

This may sound irrelevant to the discussion, but it is not. What age is not early age? Parents always be more "grown"(their age number will always be bigger).

Coercion is killer of motivation: force kid to play violin, and he is likely to hate violin in the (near?) future.

I'm not saying that you shouldn't "expose" kids to music, math, programming and other great stuff, but I'm saying that you probably shouldn't force them.

IMO, you should parent your children until they go off to University. They live under your roof and need to follow your rules. If they do not follow your rules they need to argue their case in a rational adult manner and to your satisfaction. If they cannot and act like petulant children you need to treat them as such; i.e. tell them to shut the hell up and eat their dogfood.

I don't care that the same arguments could be applied to adults. Adults are grown individuals who by virtue of their age have earned their right to be bone-headed and make stupid choices. As a parent all you can do is try to instill in your children values that prevent them from turning into boneheads.

Clear enough?

Is the child being a "bonehead" if they decide they don't enjoy the violin and would prefer to play clarinet or percussion instead?

You're putting words in my mouth. I only argued in favour of mandatory exposure to a broad range of activities, including musical instruments. The precise instrument probably doesn't matter but. I would prefer e.g. a piano or clarinet over a guitar or drums but hey, whatever. Just learn some music theory!

You said that you agreed with the list, the list explicitly says "nothing apart from piano or violin".

I pretty much do? I definitely have some strong personal biases toward particular instruments and not others and I would push for those. Asking a kid to choose a music instrument yields a decision every bit as informed as rolling a dice. Why bother?

Surely the kid can choose an instrument on the basis of the one that they like the sound of or even what seems 'cool'. They will probably have more motivation to study something that they have chosen themselves even if it is for fairly superficial reasons.

It's not like there is an objective way to choose a "better" instrument anyway since half of the fun is playing with others who use different instruments.

So why not, as a parent, present a set of options that seem reasonable to you and have them choose amongst those? i.e. you can play one of e.g. {piano, violin, clarinet}. When the child is better informed, they can choose for themselves. Until that point comes though, asking children to make arbitrary choices, particularly ones that affect their development, seems silly to me.

Surely the choice is basically arbitrary anyway?

Why would it affect their development if they picked say a trumpet, guitar or flute instead? They can always pick up a different instrument later.

It would be like if a kid wanted to learn python and you said "no! you must learn Java instead".

Python and Java are equivalent in the sense that both a Turing Complete. Is there a similar equivalence between all musical instruments which makes choosing one over another a purely arbitrary decision? I don't know but I suspect not. A pair of bongos seems to have much less to offer as an instructional vehicle for learning about music than, say, a piano.

EDIT: Setting aside the above argument for a second, there are practical considerations too that make the choice of musical instrument a non-arbitrary decision. For example: the cost of the instrument, its portability (important if the band decides to tour) and of course the availability of instruction.

> Asking a kid to choose a music instrument yields a decision every bit as informed as rolling a dice.

Except that is his own decision.

> Why bother?

Because a kid is a separate person, not an extension of your personality.

I don't know if your comment is a troll or if you're simply dim. I assume troll. Still, I'll bite:

The relationship between a parent and child is not a democratic one. As a parent you have a responsibility to make choices for your child until they can make them for themselves. I do not agree with letting kids decide which developmental activities they will or will not partake in or how they will do so. Is that clear enough for you, sunshine?

Certain parents also lack a sufficient perspective to understand what kinds of activities are good for their kids' well-being and happiness.

I agree. No child should ever be allowed to be anything less than the best student in their class.

Your irony is wasted on me. IMO parents should actively encourage their child to be the best student in the class. So many talented kids amount to nothing because they're allowed to coast during their formative years. Encouraging them to be the best, teaches ambition and excellence. It doesn't matter if they don't end up being Engineers or Surgeons or what-have-you. Regardless of the life goals they purse, to succeed, they need to be always hungry for better.

I'm afraid you are unfamiliar with a key element of "tiger mothers", or in fact many asian parents at all. From what I know of my friends' families growing up, asian parents did not encourage. They required.

An encouraging hand can be a forceful hand. It's lazy to tell little Bobby that he should do math and that math is important. Sometimes you have to sit his spoiled little ass down and make him get on with it.

I did not grow up with Asian parents. I do however come from a Eastern European background. There were times when my parents forced me, kicking and screaming, into certain social and academic pursuits. They encouraged me to excel, whether I wanted to or not. I am a better human for it and I am thankful for their guidance.

I speak as somebody who had parents who pretty much neglected my academic pursuits and I emphatically disagree that a 'forceful hand' is in any way necessary for success.

I went to university and didn't do anything there, aside from sample the local herbalists' produce. I didn't do much of anything in school either. During all of that time, due to the fact that my schedule was my own (sans school-time), I managed to teach myself software development. Not because it was a good career move, or because I wanted to impress anyone but because it was interesting.

Fast forward a decade and I now earn more than pretty much all of the people I grew up with, lead software projects and have leverage and freedom up to my ears.

You might want to read about Stockholm Syndrome.

You seem to have fallen into undertaking some productive activities by sheer dumb luck. Congratulations. You are in a minority. I knew lots of pot-heads at school. All of them had lasseiz-faire parents and none of them amounted to much.

EDIT: To clarify, I do not understand your argument at all. In my experience, excellence and ambition are traits that need to be cultivated. Sure, you can find them in-the-wild, but this is not a reliable approach.

Dumb luck? I put a hell of a lot of effort into learning my craft. The point I'm trying to make is that you don't need a dictator standing over you to learn something.

By your own admission you were totally aimless. I understood from your post that nobody said to you "hey, this is an interesting and worthwhile thing to pursue". The fact that you were attracted to programming and not some useless activity (like mastering sports) seems to me the result of pure dumb luck.

I see, this is why I misunderstood your comment. You include "to force someone to do" as among the definitions of "encourage", I normally do not.

In the case of parenting, certainly. You cannot reason with a child as with an adult. Thus you make them do certain things because you know better.

Personal anecdote: when I was young I resented my parents for making me do all this "pointless crap". I even told my dad I hated him. He very calmly told me back "That's OK. You can hate me for this now. You will not hate me however when you're 22". He was right.

I don't object to that. I just don't normally refer to making people do things as "encouraging" them, so I didn't read your initial post(s) the same way as you do.

From the article:

"Tiger parenting doesn't produce superior outcomes in kids"

Not to point out the obvious, but correlation doesn't equal causation. It could very well be that the worse grades a child gets, the more reason the parents have to become "tiger".

i'm asian american and grew up in california, i knew lots of asian kids growing up.

all the kids that had super-strict parents were screwed up in some way by the age of 25.

dropouts, burnouts, social maladjusts, booksmart losers, drug addicts, delinquents, criminals, etc.

not all asian parents are like that, but a LOT are, i'd say probably 4-5x the rate you'd find in the general population. /anecdata

I jailbroke the paper for you guys: http://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/85192141/2013-kim.pdf

There is the old saying that "talent skips a generation". It is much an observation on parenting styles as anything. This "tiger" moniker just refers to extremely pushy (read "abusive") parents. Their reward will be producing children who grow up hating them.

I feel like this was always obviously the case in the United States. Nothing about US culture complements tiger parenting. Go ask Chinese kids in China how they feel about it. (hint: their culture fully supports and _expects_ this parenting style)

I'm not sure I understand your hint. When I studied in Beijing, most Chinese college kids I talked to just lamented about how hard they worked throughout their childhood and how overly stressed out they always were. Nobody spoke positively about this.

I'm reading this as: Asian students perform better than other groups even with ineffective parenting. Am I missing something?

>“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.

Am I missing something?

One thing that comes to mind; at least in the Bay Area, asian students often grow up in whole communities made up of other asians, so even if their parents are mucking things up a bit, they are still fully immersed in the culture of extreme focus on academics and achievement.

Many immigrant tiger moms have lower means, have the same reasoning as Chua, and could use her book as justification.

This seemed cautionary to me.

"Am I missing something?"

Class. All the "tiger moms" are of high economic condition. Lower-classed Asian immigrants do not follow the model.

Both of Amy Chua's children are, in a sense, positive outcomes. One was "good enough" for her mother's standards, and another rebelled. But sometimes, different outcomes happen:


If tiger moms organize and control their kid's lives, do the kids ever learn skills relating to decision making and time management, two absolutely crucial skills for 'real world' survival?

Not even just those two skills, but anything to do with the 'real world'. I struggle to talk to people and have constant shivers even when I know I'm in a non-threatening environment. I just can't make conversation easily.

Even something as simple as when I took the train for the first time by myself going to uni. I was petrified I would miss my stop or something equally stupid, when the solution would be to just get off and hop onto a train that would take me back.

Again, I don't think I have a tiger mum, but she's awfully close.

Anecdote alert. I have a wannabe tiger mom. Unfortunately, she had to work full time+++, so full on tiger-ness could not manifest.

Just as children of many non-tiger moms DON'T learn decision making and time management skills: some do, and some do not. There are other factors at play. At a certain age, it's near impossible for a tiger mom to control 100% of someone's life.

Curious, why no mention of parenting that leads to high-achieving and high-depressive kids.

I think the implication is that those are incompatible.

Unless you include every jewish male character in a woody allen movie or a philip roth novel, which can be read as a case study on highly depressed high achievers.

Well... there are a lot of Jews out there who tend to disagree. Ha.

Hardly. Not a new phenomenon in the least. Off the top of my head, we can look to 1897:


It is of course a poem, not a historical figure, but it was written all the same.

Much trickier subject. Unsuccessful and depressive go together quite easily. Successful and depressive is a stranger beast, probably requiring more than a rudimentary understanding of psychology to wrangle.

This "Tiger Parent" situation is a bit of a conundrum: we as society are unable to tolerate this form of child abuse, but are equally unable to say something about it, for fear of being considered "racist" by someone hiding behind the shield of "Chinese Tradition".

Because it's not child abuse. Just because a group of people don't agree with it does it make it "child abuse."

Keep telling yourself that. I'm sure that will help you sleep at night. Meanwhile, this "successful" woman will keep verbally/mentally/emotionally abusing her children, and nice people like you will look the other way.

This is mostly due to the study's redefinition of the term "tiger" to include "unsupportive."

Not according to the fine article.

The 'Tiger' category emerged from a clustering analysis of parenting styles, and was defined by high scores on both positive ("Warmth, reasoning, monitoring, and democratic parenting") and negative ("hostility, psychological control, shaming, and punitive measures") dimensions.

The claim is that even when they show lots of warmth and positive parenting, parents who are also hostile and shaming, have kids who do just as poorly as the kids of very harsh, unsupportive parents.

Right. The article defined the "tiger" category to include hostility, the opposite of "supportive."

Human beings aren't computers and human interactions aren't binary. It is perfectly possible for a parent to be both supportive of their children (i.e., have genuine warmth) and be hostile (i.e., lots of shaming). There is no contradiction here.

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