Tiger moms prevent children from leading healthy lifestyles

March 14, 2019 — by Christine Zhang

Having ridiculously strict parents isn’t fun. At their best, they demand that that their children maintain perfect grades and shuttle them off to tutors to ensure that they are achieving those grades.

And, at their very worst, strict parents demand that their children sleep at a dictated time every day and let them know at least two weeks in advance before a social outing. This extreme variant of strict parents are usually known as tiger moms, who tend to emphasize their children's academic success above all else.

The term “tiger mom” was coined in 2011 by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua in her book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” to describe strict parenting styles particularly prevalent in Asian and Asian-American households, and over the years, its definition has loosened to include any kind of mother who is overly strict or harsh with her children.

Typical tiger moms relentlessly drive their children to study and work hard to the point of possibly damaging their children’s physical, mental or emotional well-being. And while some tiger parents, both moms and dads, may argue that their way of parenting is just a type of “tough love” that holds their children’s best interests in mind, tiger parenting actually hinders the development of their children into productive, well-adjusted members of society.

Tiger moms generally pressure their children to do well in all their academic pursuits, even pushing them to do extracurriculars that they may not enjoy to bolster their college applications. Tiger moms choose their children’s path for them and essentially dictate their children’s lives, completely ignoring any personal desires that their children may have and erecting an emotional barrier within the family.

For example, a certain tiger mom may be intent on having a doctor for a child, so growing up, her child would be forced to participate in countless activities that show supposed interest in medical fields, leaving no space for the child to develop his or her own passions and hobbies. Tiger moms do not stop to consider what their children want, instead simply pushing them toward the careers that they would like their children to have.

These mothers either disregard their children’s opinions or automatically assume that their children’s views reflect their own, both of which are clearly unfair and unacceptable types of behavior, especially from mothers who often claim to care for and love their children.

According to a study conducted in Singapore, children with parents who were classified as “highly intrusive” were more likely to be overly critical of themselves. This tendency increased over the next few years, and it became correlated with elevated levels of depression and anxiety in the children.

Not only this, tiger parents may also only be acting for themselves when they push their children too far. Many tiger moms view their children simply as trophies for display, and when they boast about their children’s achievements to others, it may be perceived as a mark of their’ success rather than the children’s hard work. As a result, tiger moms become fixated on building the perfect child in order to look better to others at the expense of their child’s welfare.

To get to this “perfect child” state, some tiger moms are willing to physically abuse their children if they do not perform up to standards. Additionally, almost all tiger moms damage their children’s mental health: They constantly expect nothing less than the absolute best, which places unreasonable amounts of stress and pressure on their children to be academically flawless, a near impossible feat.

This physical or mental abuse is also detrimental to family relationships, as children would not confide or open up to their mothers about any of their personal issues or problems. Children may even be afraid of their mothers and view their homes as unsafe places, further demolishing family bonds and generating an atmosphere of tension whenever there is a family gathering.

In 2016, Diana Tsui, Chinese-American writer for “The Cut,” wrote an article about her childhood with tiger parents. Although their family was not financially comfortable, her parents spent the extra money they did have on workbooks and exam-prep classes for Tsui. They forced her to take pre-med courses at college, but when she realized that she was deeply unhappy about applying to medical school, Tsui turned to her secret interest in fashion.

Tsui’s parents screamed at her over the phone and treated her like “an ungrateful, horrible child throwing away all of their sacrifices.” Even years after the matter, Tsui does not have a good relationship with her parents, and she also found that, as a result of tiger parenting, she constantly doubts and expects more of herself than realistically possible.

If she has her own children in the future, Tsui wrote that she does not want to be a tiger parent, as she is terrified of becoming a copy of her mother. Instead, her goal is to have her kids to work hard toward their individual happiness, whatever it may be.

Although tiger moms could motivate certain children to work harder for their career goals, the only children who act this way are the ones who like the path that their mothers have forced on them. For instance, if a tiger mom orders her child to major in mathematics while the child is already passionate about math, the child would work hard not only for the mother’s expectations but also because he or she wants to improve his or her own skills.

However, if the desires of the child and mom do not align, the child is likely to grow up miserable and trapped in the mother’s fantasy of the ideal child. Instead of robbing children of their hopes and dreams, parents should simply acknowledge that their children are individuals as well and deserve to have a clear voice in their own life decisions, especially since they are the ones whose futures will be directly affected by those choices.

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