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Are You a Tiger Parent?

Parents want the best for their child, but being overly demanding and controlling may not necessarily be the best approach to ensuring your child’s future success.

Parenting in Singapore isn’t as easy as it used to be. Back when we ourselves were children, most of us were largely left to our own devices and would have coasted along with little guidance from our parents. Our parents made sure they put food on the table, took care of our needs and disciplined us the old school way. For us, those were halcyon days indeed. Tuition was practically unheard of and school holidays were genuine, unadulterated breaks where we were given free rein to play or idle to our hearts’ content.

What is a Tiger Mum?

The label ‘tiger mum’ was coined by Yale Law School professor Amy Chua in her book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’ in 2011. It has since become a pejorative term to describe a hyper style of parenting that focuses on controlling every aspect of children’s lives to ensure they attain high levels of academic achievement or stellar performance in extra-curricular activities.

Such mothers are known to devote huge resources, be it time, money and effort, in the single-minded pursuit of securing success and a bright future for their children. That’s all well and good, provided things are not taken to the extreme.

Downsides of Tiger Parenting

Unfortunately, this strict and demanding parenting style can be to the detriment of children. Just think — if parents stage manage and direct their child every step of the way, set unrealistically high expectations and use every means available to eliminate obstacles that stand in the way of success, is it any wonder that the child’s emotional well-being and self-development will be adversely affected?

If decisions have always been made for the child, how will they ever learn to make crucial life choices in future? If the child is not able to measure up to expectations, that might affect their self-esteem or cause them to despair and give up altogether. If obstacles are expediently removed, how will the child acquire problem-solving skills and learn independence if their parents are no longer around or able to do so on their behalf?

Adopting a Child-centred Approach

While there may be a profusion of expert advice touting best parenting practices, there’s really no foolproof or cookie-cutter approach to bringing up a child. Perhaps the best guiding principle is in knowing your child inside out and tailoring your parenting approach to suit their temperament.

If your child strives to excel academically and thrives on being pressured and stretched to the max, by all means be a tiger mum, or dad for that matter! The most important thing is to cater to their disposition, inclinations and abilities. If your child isn’t academically strong, relentlessly pushing him or her will cause them to either feel anxious or rebel against your authority and this ends up straining the parent-child relationship.

Too often, we make the mistake of seeing academic success as the only key to future success. We also forget that there are multiple pathways to success and that even the definition of success can vary. If a child grows up passionate about a cause that would change the world for the better, be it championing the rights of those who are marginalised or saving the environment, even if the job doesn’t pay as well, isn’t that commitment to a greater good a measure of success?

Ultimately, be supportive of your child, but do set ground rules and expectations within reason. Listen to them and engage them in the decision-making process. Celebrate small successes along the way and allow them to fail so that they learn to pick themselves up. Never foist your own aspirations on them and do give them the space to be their own person. They will have you to thank when they grow up well-adjusted and fully capable of navigating and charting their own path in life.

Behind our team of dynamic teachers is a support team of English specialists and curriculum experts, who are responsible for the development and delivery of LCentral’s programmes. The Curriculum Support Team is committed to ensuring that all teachers fulfil their teaching potential. The team provides teachers not just with curriculum support but also with ongoing training and professional development.