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Children Of 'Tiger' Style Parenting May Struggle More

Amy Chua launched the phrase "Tiger Mother" into our cultural lexicon in 2011 to describe a harsh, demanding style of parenting Chua identified as being especially common among parents of Chinese ancestry. The term clearly stuck.

A few recent works focusing on the "Tiger parenting" idea caught our attention, and were the focus of a segment on Tuesday's Tell Me More. (You can hear the full segment above.) The first is a study in the March 2013 Asian American Journal of Psychology, called "Does 'Tiger Parenting' Exist?" Jeff Yang gave an overview of the study in his Tao Jones column this week:

In an interview on Tuesday with Tell Me More host Michel Martin, Kim went into more detail about her interest in the phenomenon:

The study also suggests that "Tiger parenting" isn't the most common approach among Chinese-American parents.

A new book by Kim Wong Keltner, called Tiger Babies Strike Back, offers a look at the phenomenon from the perspective of the children. During a roundtable on Tuesday's Tell Me More, Michel Martin discussed the book and the study with Keltner, cookbook author Anupy Singla, and columnist Jeff Yang.

"When you're raised in an Asian household and you're expected to get straight As, you're expected to do everything perfectly and there's no room for mistakes," said Keltner. "I think the parents might feel that they are spurring you on but what happens is you just feel spurned. And you learn to detach from them, and that's probably not what they wanted in the first place."

"My father was the disciplinarian," said Singla, herself a mother of two. "He was the one who pushed me to get straight As. If I ever got a B, it was just this level of shame in our home. But at the same time, I also believe they were a product of where they came from in India. I came to this country when I was 3. They didn't have the luxury of communicating with me at that time because they were fighting to get food on the table. ... Raising my children here, I have the luxury of being able to communicate more."

"I'm kind of this lab-grown hybrid of tiger and panda," said Yang. "I look back and the common thread is that parents do want ultimately what's best, what they think is what's best for their kids. It's just that from the perspective of many immigrants they feel strongly it should be first and foremost academic achievement and secondarily the soft and fuzzy stuff. My parents did set those high expectations but they were also very conscientious about telling us that they loved us. The one thing they used more than anything else, perhaps, was guilt and shame."

Of course, the study reminds us, parenting styles aren't necessarily fixed; they're likely to change over time. Parents may use different strategies in different scenarios (and with different kids, as any younger sibling might attest).

Beyond the main debate about the effectiveness of tiger parenting, another finding in the study drew our interest:

If you've read the study, or picked up Kim Wong Keltner's book, share your thoughts with us in the comments.

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