With all the buzz around Chinese Tiger Mom, it is no doubt a shock to American culture on parenting. I myself know firsthand from the experience of being raised as a “Tiger Kid”, although in a less demanding way relative to what Amy Chua (the Tiger Mom) demanded from her two daughters. However, the two most important questions that need to be asked is whether the kid can become more (financially) successful and happier in life.
My mom certainly didn’t (need to) demand me as much in my academics because I was a self-motivator. I did well in my regular school curricula, and pretty much ranked top 3 in my class from grade 3 and up. However, it was that every long summer vacation that my mom really excelled in her Tiger Mom’s style of parenting. I can almost say that I was busier taking all kinds of classes during summer vacation than regular school sessions. I had to learn painting, piano, literary compositions, swimming, math, English, science, etc. when most of my classmates were out playing, having a real summer vacation. And of course, piano lessons were throughout the year and not just in summer.
What did I gain from all the extra-curricular lessons? Unfortunately, I have to say that except having mastered the basics of each subject, I didn’t excel in most of them at all. And I was certainly not happier due to all the extra stress from being asked to perform at the levels that were beyond my age. In fact, I actually cried from hours and hours of practicing piano. I didn’t like it.
Fortunately, my mom was sensible and didn’t push me for too many years. She even tried to help me learn more on the subject (science) that I was more interested in too. I was actually trying to learn college level physics (electromagnetics) when I was 11th grade through a tutor. But because my parents knew little about science, they couldn’t help me properly to follow a correct course of curriculum. You know, you just can’t learn electromagnetics without learning enough about Calculus. But my parents didn’t know, and nor did I.
From this personal experience, I think that unless the kids are interested themselves in the subject, there is no use of pushing kids to the extreme. Sure, some push are needed only because human nature is to lay back and being lazy, but going to extreme is simply not healthy. In fact, my wife’s nieces whom I personally tutored Calculus when they were still in high school got fed up by their Tiger Mom so much, such that the daughter swears to never go back home to see her parents (for many years now), and the son has a mental disorder from all the undue stress and dropped out from university. Both of them went to Stanford and Harvard, the best schools that you can ever hope for, but lives were literally destroyed from this process. Such can be the Tiger Mom’s “rewards”.
Therefore I must conclude that between Tiger Mom’s style of ruthlessly push and western style of praising mediocrity, there must be a subtle balance. Tiger Mom may or may not bring financial success, but it’s almost certain that it can easily bring unhappiness.