Amy Chua first brought the concept of tiger parenting to the world’s attention in her memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. But, what exactly is a tiger parent?
Are you especially strict – more so than the other moms in your circle? Do you place higher demands on your kids, because you want them to do well? You could be a tiger mom. Tiger parenting, according to educational psychologist Ashley Jay, is a form of parenting that’s “authoritarian and somewhat intrusive”. It’s characterised by strict rules, with parents pushing their kids to do well in all areas, from schoolwork to extra-murals and behaviour.
All parents want their kids to be stars, right? So, there must be some positives to tiger parenting. Ashley says some potential benefits include the fact that it may encourage self-discipline in kids and help develop a strong work ethic. It may also teach kids to challenge themselves, help them get to grips with problem solving, and encourage them to focus on intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards.
There are negative aspects to this parenting style too. Especially since it can make kids very self-critical and undermine their self-confidence. Ashley notes that kids may also become afraid of making mistakes, and may blame themselves for not being able to be perfect in everything they do. “This intense focus on perfectionism can lead to symptoms of anxiety and depression. It may even reduce their belief that they are able to accomplish goals. “Tiger parenting may result in poor coping skills, leaving children dependent on others,” she says.
Ashley reports that children who are parented this way show “maladaptive outcomes, such as depression, anxiety and poor social skills. “The research also indicates that tiger parenting tends to set enormously high and unreasonable expectations for children, and that there are negative cognitive and emotional effects to having overly demanding goals.”
What this means for you
If you realise you’re prone to pressuring your kids, remember to prioritise your child’s emotional wellbeing over achievement. Rather focus on building resilience when it comes to coping with schoolwork and the associated stress, Ashley advises. “Make a point of spending quality time with your child that doesn’t revolve around school schedules or extra-mural activities. This emphasises the importance of good time-management skills while allowing for fun and relaxation as well as homework. Finally, it’s important to widen your definition of success. Valuing creativity, individualism and emotional intelligence as well as educational achievement is more likely to lead your child to become a happy and thriving adult.”
More about the expert:
Ashley Jay is a qualified Educational Psychologist having completed: A Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology, an Honours Degree in Psychology and a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of the Witwatersrand. She has also completed a Post Graduate Qualification (with distinction) in Gifted Child Assessment & Education through UNISA. Ashley co-owns and operates The Norwood Therapy Centre from where she runs her private practice. She also consults part time as the Educational Psychologist at King David Minnie Behrson Pre-Primary School. Learn more about Ashley Jay here.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.