what we can learn from tiger parents

October 30, 2013

 Tiger parents

As an American woman living in the United States, I’ve heard my fair share of people criticizing ‘Tiger parents.’ These non-tiger parents say things like “they’re just kids,” and “you can’t be that hard on them,” or “they have no childhood.” And I believe the intent behind these rationales is positive, but tiger parents have a strong defense on their side – kids that get into great universities and get high paying jobs.

If you are unfamiliar with the term “Tiger Parent,” it means parents (typically of Chinese ancestry) that can use an authoritarian parenting style and push their children really really hard, especially at academics. Let me clarify that I am not advocating in any way an authoritarian way of parenting, as many studies have shown children of this extreme parenting to exhibit, “more aggression, depression, anxiety, and social problems and have poorer social skills”. What I am posing, however, is that many American parents could benefit from placing a greater emphasis on academics. It is very typical for American parents highly value their child being “well-rounded”, meaning that perhaps they are skilled at basketball, go to dances with their friends, and are involved in some volunteer work – and while these students are doing all this, they are earning B’s, and choosing not to take AP classes or learning how to code, or taking that advanced math class -you know, because they want to enjoy their junior or senior year of high school. And while no one will argue that “well roundedness” isn’t important, American parents need to heavily consider what the type of competitive job and higher educational market that their students will be entering. 

I worked as a teacher for 5 years (3 years in the US and 2 years in Colombia), and I’ve worked in business management for 6 years. In the past six years, here are some things that I’ve needed to explain to workers: mind you all of these people either had college degrees or 1-2 years of college.

- How many milliliters go into a liter
- What the word, “consolidate” means (this was a native speaker of English)
- How to cross multiply to find an unknown number

I had to teach these “educated” employees these basic skills in order to do their jobs. All of them felt embarrassed when I had to explain these concepts. They knew that they should have known them. You could almost see the regret of not paying more attention in middle school come over their face. 

You have probably seen in the news how American workers' job skills are being surpassed quite quickly by many countries in the world. Here’s a recent article from CNNMoney about this. The article places the blame on employers for not providing more training – I think they’re wrong – I think the parents need a better understanding of what it’s going to take for their child to be employed at a decent job. You’ve read how tech companies are advocating for immigration reform because they cannot find enough qualified home grown tech professionals to fill the position. American parents need to see this as a huge opportunity for their children – we know the types of skills that are needed, we’re just not quite pushing hard enough for our kids to attain them. 

Parents, if this article is making you a tad uncomfortable, and a little defensive – it’s probably for you. We have no choice but to expect more from our children academically. Yes, it may mean hours of homework. Yes, it may be sacrificing a trip to the mall with their friends. And yes, it may mean you need to fork over some cash for a tutor in calculus. But, the alternative is that you have a really nice, “well-rounded,” even college educated adult on your hands living with you well into their 30s because they weren’t able to compete against those kids whose parents, possibly even tiger parents, ensured their children would be ready to play the real game of life.

Until next time!