Thursday, May 16, 2013

THE HONEST TRUTH ON TIGER-MUM PARENTING (and my first-hand experience of this tough love parenting)

(note: This post is different from the other posts, is not what what we did on a fun weekend/day. This post is about being a Chinese, and living the life of a typical Asian kid. Brace yourself for a lengthy personal point-of-view of Chinese parenting.)
I've been a little late on this, but I've just completed reading Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" and it's one of the best (parenting) books I've read in a long time.


Because my mum is a Chinese, and I do see some resemblance between Amy Chua parenting skills and my very own mother.

Ok, I wouldn't exactly call my mum "A Tiger Mother" and I'll call her "A Semi-Tiger Mother". She's not as strict and authoritative as Amy Chua, and definitely did not force us to practise the piano or violin for at least 6 hours a day. Although she did force us to play the piano for over 10 years.. which I will explain more about that later.

Being Harsh, Blunt and Honest :

My mum was a single-mother, raising 3 daughters up all by herself, without much penny in her name. However, she was determined that we never end up poor or even disrespected by others. Never. Since young, she would instill in us harsh and blunt statements, which were, truth be told, direct and extremely honest. For example, she'll say, "You have to study hard. If you don't, you will be one of the last few in society, and you'll live in a 1 room flat all by yourself. Do you want that for yourself? Or do you want to study hard, earn respect from others, and live in a grand house? The choice is up to you." And she'll tell us statements like this once every few days. Or when we were casually walking past a beautiful luxurious bungalow, she'll say, "This house right here could be yours. All of you have to do is to study hard, and be the best in everything that you do." My mother didn't believe in "softening" her words, she would immediately scold us when we were wrong, and even demanded an apology from us. It may sound mean, but it definitely taught us to think twice, or even thrice, before we spoke. Something which many people, especially children, lack nowadays.

Education :

She also firmly believe, up till this day, that Education is everything.
At a very young age, she would often tell my sisters and I that "Education is the only way out of poverty". I know there are numerous documentries and articles which now prove that Education is not everything, it's not the means to success. But in our Chinese family, it is. It is everything, and it's the only means to success. "Without a proper education, you are basically nothing." (I know, ouch.) Ever since we were young, my mother would frequently tell us that we had to have at least a good Degree, and that we should pursue our Masters and even PhD. (Right now, my elder sister has a Medical degree, I have a Law degree, and my younger sis has a Economics Degree. So you see, we fulfilled our mother's life expectations of us, which made her extremely happy and proud. And you should see her face when she starts telling people about us, and how she raised her "3 successful daughters". (Yes, you're only successful if you have a good academic background. That's the Chinese parent mentality.)

Moreover, the poem "Good better best, Never let it rest, Until your good is better, And your better is best." was instilled in us ever since we were young kids. Around the age of 5, I believe. Up till this day, I will sometimes tell my child, Shayne, about this poem too.

Music :

My mother forced us to learn the piano, something which most Asian parents do. Like what Amy Chua wrote "(My daughters) Sophia and Louisa were never allowed to play any instrument other than the piano or violin. I wanted them to be well-rounded and to have hobbies and activities. Not just any activity like crafts...or playing the drum, which leads to drugs, but rather a hobby that was meaningful and highly difficult with the potential for depth and virtuosity. And that's where the piano came in."

Most Chinese parents have the same mentality as her when it comes to musical instruments. They believe that the best musical instruments that is worth their child's time and effort in practicing was either the piano or violin. Nothing else, not any other instrument.

Whenever a child says, "I can play the guitar really well!" or "I can play the drums really well!", there's a high likelihood that the Asian parent would just say "okay" and not pay much attention to it. Asian parents do not tell other Asian parents that their child can play the guitar or drums really well, it just doesn't have much respect as compared to a child who can play the piano or violin really well. However, if a child is able to play the piano or violin really well, that parent will show it off to all his/her friends and relatives. Yup, you may think it's unfair or even wrong, but that's just the way it is. In our Asian/Chinese community. 

Shayne and his daily activities :

On a side note, my child, Shayne, has recently started his piano class and luckily, he enjoys them. He played a piece 'Mary had a little lamb" and did his piano homework once he woke up, just before he left for school at 9am in the morning. While I was guiding him in his homework, I had a slight "tiger mum" moment. He wanted to complete his homework another day and I said firmly, "No, you will finish it before you leave for school. You have to complete this now." Luckily for me, Shayne understood that firm instruction and continued the rest of it. Sometimes I thank God that I have a boy who listens to instructions well and doesn't argue much. 

Shayne has a couple of classes lined up for him, which fills up his entire day, from 9am to 9pm.  He's only free on Monday evenings, Wednesday evenings, and Sunday afternoon/evenings. Ok, I know, you may think it's too much for a 4 year old kid, or even "insane". Some people have told me to cut him some slack, and not "pump him" with so many enrichment classes. But honestly, and I'm being completely 100% honest here, he loves every single one of them. He loves studying and learning something new. 

He will wake up everyday, bright-eyed and bushy, ready to face his world of learning. For example, his Saturday's enrichment class only start at 10.30am, but he'll automatically wake up at 9am, and will keep pestering me to bring him to his class early. That's how enthusiatic he is about learning. He likes to be the first one in class, and I can see that he truly enjoys studying. His eyes will light-up and he'll smile from ear to ear whenever he gets the right answer, or when someone compliments him on his work. It's an innate sense of achievement which he only gets from studying. Moreover, these enrichment classes also helps to develop his social skills, which is crucial since he's an only child, with no one else to talk/play with at home. So I'm all for enrichment classes, the more the merrier.

Conclusion of the so-called "Tiger Mum" Parenting :

All Chinese parents, including my mother, have these 4 qualities: strength, power, fear and respect. All 4 of them. We were taught never to talk back against our parents, never to question their choices or what they have planned for us, and most importantly, to be the best in everything that we do. And my sisters and I are doing fine now- my elder sister is a doctor (which is every Asian parent dream. haha.), I'm a businesswoman with 2 learning centres (and more to come!), and my younger sis is also a businesswoman. Safe to say, my mother raised us up pretty well, considering that she had very little help from relatives. My mother is the greatest and strongest woman I ever know, and there's no other women who is as knowledgeable, determined and strong as her. She's the best, she really is. :)

When I was 8.5 months ;) (btw my sisters and I used that wooden babychair back then and we loved it!)
From left to right: my elder sister, me, and my younger sister.

My elder sister and I (and my protruding tummy. haha.)

In a nutshell, as summed up by Amy Chua (which I couldn't agree more), Chinese parents "believe the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits, and inner confidence that no one can ever take away." From the outside perspective, Chinese parents may seem to be too strict or even "too controlling", but at the end of the day, all of us parents, have one simple goal in life- to prepare our children for the future, the best way that we can. 

The way that we prepare our children for the future may differ (slightly or significantly), but when's all said and done, all parents, including my Chinese mother, me and even you, are just doing what all parents do- We want what's best for our children.   

Plain and simple.
Papa, Me and Shayne (taken during Chinese New Year 2013)
The three of us, taken outside our hotel during our Bali vacation in 2012 :)

If you have not read Amy Chua's Tiger Mum book yet, I strongly advise you to. It'll open your eyes to a whole new world of parenting (especially if you're not Chinese or Asian), and it's definitely a good read. I'll rate it 5/5- definitely one of the best narrative books out there in the market. (ok I sound like a salesman now. Haha. Anyways, I'll upload our mother's day photos soon, hopefully by this week! And a big pat on your back for reading this long post on Chinese parenting. :D )


  1. I LOVE THIS POST! This is such a fascinating perspective to share. My heritage is dutch, swedish and roma gypsy but from excerpts i have read from "tiger mom" her parenting style had some real similarities to my mother (though it has a ton of differences as well). Many of my friends growing up were asian and my mother had tremendous respect for the way their parents worked. I think it was really brave of Chua to tell her story. There are a ton of ways to be a good parent, but they all shape children so differently. I'm just so glad I was finally allowed to quit Suzuki method piano lessons after 7 years. Practicing piano is still one of my uglier childhood memories haha.


  2. it's awesome your baby plays piano!


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