Are You A Tiger Mom?

In the January 31 issue of Time Magazine, I came across the article, “The Roar of the Tiger Mom.” It is about Yale Law Professor, Amy Chua, and her account of raising her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, which she wrote about in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Her prepublication excerpt in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” was circulated online.

According to Time it was read more than 1 million times and attracted more than 7,000 comments. Here is the link (  I actually got to read it because a friend forwarded it to me about two weeks ago. It talked about how Chua did crazy things like make her daughter, Lulu, stay seated in front of the piano until she perfected her recital piece. This meant no bathroom break, no eating, and no anything until she got it right. There were other incidences which she shared including calling her older daughter, Sophia, “garbage.” But both daughters have turned out to be achievers and have excelled academically and musically.

My friend wanted to get my opinion on it and I replied in a short note but didn’t take the article too seriously. I wasn’t even sure if this “Tiger Mom” even existed. Afterall, would anyone really claim that Chinese mothers were superior? It seemed so politically incorrect.

Picture from Time Magazine, January 31

But then I came across the write-up on her in Time Magazine and I was like, this is for real! Time talked about her book and described Chua as “never accepting a grade lower than an A, insisting on hours of math and spelling drills and piano and violin practice each day (weekends and vacations included), and not allowing playdates or sleepovers or television or computer games or even school plays…” [1] As controlling as this may sound, Time also revealed that her two daughters have turned out fine SO FAR.

So is it okay to be a “Tiger Mom”? While Chua had some agreeable points on discipline, time management, and training children, I would have to say no to her method and motivation, and only because there is a better option.  Whether you are Chinese, Filipino, American, or any other race (or a mix of two or more like meJ), you can be a superior parent by applying biblical parenting. Superior parenting is biblical parenting – applying principles like unconditional love and acceptance, encouragement, good communication, being authoritative but not exasperating, being intentional about training and teaching your child to know God and follow him, and disciplining when necessary.  And one of the most important things to teach your child is to do their best for God.

I would like to share a quick story that illustrates this. One of our sons used to have an eating problem. It was so difficult to get him to eat. He would practically sit in front of his food for two hours because it took him so long to take in each bite, chew and swallow. For many years it was a source of frustration for Edric and I. We did all sorts of ineffective things like saying things like, “Why are you so slow?” “Do you want to grow bigger or not?” We tried spanking him for not obeying by eating his food right away.  I even went so far as to show him pictures of starving people in Africa to drive home the point that he should be thankful for his food and eat it! I know, it’s totally ridiculous.

Nothing seemed to work until we began to be positive and affirming. One day we discovered that he actually liked the taste of hamburgers.  We started making comments like, “Wow, you eat so fast!” (because he really would eat his burgers quickly). Or, we would say things like, “You are such a big boy already! You can eat an entire Big Mac!” I would also talk about how well he ate publicly and to Edric when he would eat a burger. Our son really took these positive comments to heart. It was as if a light turned on inside him and he became very excited to show us just how much he could eat.  And from then on, he really began to eat faster and in greater quantities.

But, there was something else that Edric did to help him. He said, “I want you to always try your best for God.” Instead of making the food issue about pleasing us as his parents, Edric made him understand what it means to be accountable to God. Because we had shared with our son what it meant to have a relationship with God when he was younger, it was also easier to explain to him the principle of doing your best for God (he saw that it didn’t just apply to eating, but other areas of his life as well).

Since instilling the value of “doing your best for God”, we have had very few moments where eating has been an issue. He eats vegetables, fruit, meat, and will often clean his plate by eating the very last piece of rice. What we learned from this experience is that giving your children a higher motivation for doing things is one of the best ways to encourage them to succeed and achieve.

Tyrannical parenting may work while they are at home, but what happens when the child leaves the home? What happens when the tiger parent is no longer hovering over him or her?

We need to encourage our children to develop accountability to God – doing their best for God, so that even when we aren’t looking, they will still choose to do what is right and good. It won’t be because mom or dad said so or the fear of punishment that will motivate them, but the desire to please God.

[1] Annie Murphy Paul, “The Roar of the Tiger Mom,” Time, January 31, 2011, 26.

10 thoughts on “Are You A Tiger Mom?

  1. Keep writing dear. Have read 2 entries so far and God will bless others tremendously through you. I salute you for doing this ( Wanted to do one,, discussed with Felichi too on making a tandem blog but have not yet gone around to do it) So excited to stay here and read all but the bell( on my head) just rang for homeschooling!

    Lots of Love dear Joy.
    Btw, love the blog name too!

  2. Hey joy,i like your blog! I envy how you have the gift of writing! You should keep on because many will learn from you! I highly admire you and your opinion because i know you,your heart and stand for God. I agree with you on tiger mom,i wanted to hear what you ‘d say about it. Thanks for sharing your input on this article 🙂

  3. Thanks Donna! You should write one! You’ve got so much experience already. People need to see examples of homeschooling like your family’s. 🙂 They will be encouraged and motivated!

  4. Hi joy! You have such a wonderful and very enlightening blog. Thank you for sharing all that you have gone through and all that you continue to go through while homeschooling your four children. It is immensely encouraging to me, who is seriously contemplating homeschooling my almost 3yr. old son. Looking forward to reading more of your helpful tips and first-hand experiences. May God continue to use you and your family to be a blessing to many more others. =)

  5. Hi Joy, I just came across your blog while I’m searching for homeschool ideas for my toddler. And I so grateful to read all your inputs and ideas. I’m so excited just by thinking all the activities we can do together as mom and son.

    You’re indeed blessed with the gift of writing. You surely bless a lot of moms and families like me.

    Just keep writing…and continue to be a great blessing to all your readers 🙂

  6. Hi Joy! I’ve just read one or two of your articles in this blog..and what can I say.. I’m hooked! Can’t get enough and just want to read and re-read all your articles from the start. I’m a newly minted full-time mom after doing corporate for 17 years! =) I realized that being a mother and parent is both a blessing and a responsibility and I thank the Lord every single moment for that. I’ve also read the book of Amy Chua and it was a quick read for me as I can very much relate…I also have two daughters and the first one also plays the violin. =) At first, I think I can be like Amy (because, I’m quite a control-freak myself) and follow her ways…but after I read your opinion, I can’t agree with you more. What struck me was your line: “Tyrannical parenting may work while they are at home, but what happens when the child leaves the home? What happens when the tiger parent is no longer hovering over him or her?”. It really struck a chord on me and I must say “Bravo” to you! Thanks for saying those words! My daughters will be spared from another tiger mom in the making! =)

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