Skip to main content

Why tiger moms are great

By Grace Liu, Special to CNN
May 17, 2013 -- Updated 1552 GMT (2352 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Grace Liu: Some suggest that tiger parenting style produces emotionally stunted kids
  • Liu: It's time for some tiger cubs to approvingly roar for our strict and demanding parents
  • She says by working hard as a child, one can gain confidence, resilience and smarts
  • Liu: With self awareness, one can learn social skills and negotiating tactics later in life

Editor's note: Grace Liu, a former corporate attorney, is a research officer at California State University, Fresno. She is the vice president of the Central California Asian Pacific American Bar Association.

(CNN) -- It's time for some tiger cubs to approvingly roar for our strict parents, their domineering ways and their inflexibly high standards.

The current depiction of tiger parenting is decidedly negative. Kim Wong Keltner's book on "Tiger Babies Strike Back" and Su Yeong Kim's report "Does Tiger Parenting Exist? Parenting Profiles of Chinese Americans and Adolescent Developmental Outcomes" suggest that strict Asian-style parenting produces an army of disengaged or emotionally stunted robots.

While I can't speak for everyone, my own experience suggests that such upbringing also gives us the smarts to recognize our emotional and social deficiencies and to address them.

Grace Liu
Grace Liu

My parents are immigrants from Taiwan. I was an only child, and I was expected to excel academically and extracurricularly. So, I delivered. I got straight A's. I played violin for hours. I did extra math, chemistry and physics problem sets under the eagle-eyed gaze of my mother.

Through it all, I cried and screamed. A lot. My mom yelled back. A lot. I told her I hated my life, my teachers, my school and all my activities. She yelled that I just had to get through it. Quitting was not an option. And of course she was right.

Opinion: Tiger moms, don't turn your kids into robots

I owe everything I am and have accomplished to my parents. My family expected a lot from me only because they believed in me and wanted the best for me. They pushed me to excel because they valued me as an individual.

2012: 'Tiger Mom' meet 'Panda Dad'
2012: Tiger Mom author Amy Chua

Tiger parents express their love through expectation of greatness, not in acceptance of mediocrity. Some people interpret such expectation as parental rejection of their worth as individuals. I always interpreted such crushing expectation as the ultimate belief in my self-worth. I knew that I was not being set up to fail.

My mother did not push me to excel because she prized my accomplishments more than my feelings. She listened to my feelings, but she also knew that my teenage feelings were volatile and irrational. She knew better than to let my future be derailed by such feelings.

My mother also knows that life has many obstacles, some external, many internal. She loved me too much to let me give up easily when confronted with those obstacles. For that I am eternally grateful.

I gained confidence and resilience from tackling my endless workload and from fighting through sleep deprivation. I knew that I was capable of getting through seemingly impossible situations. I knew that if I failed, then I just had to try harder. Failure is not a permanent state, but merely a temporary challenge that had to be tackled creatively.

The knock against tiger parenting style is that it does not foster emotional and social development.

Well, it partly comes down to expressing love and affection differently. Tiger parents may not often say "I love you," but actions speak louder than words. My family never would have spent the time, money and effort—not to mention the emotional energy—on me if they did not love me. They never said this, of course. But I knew.

Sure, my mother viewed socializing with others as a waste of time. She wanted me to be valedictorian, not homecoming queen. I didn't attend my homecoming. I was probably studying or working on my science project.

Now, I readily acknowledge that there is great value in socializing with others, and that my current social skills probably would be better if I had more time to hang out at the mall or at Denny's.

But childhood hours are limited. Each child only has about 157,680 hours before he/she turns 18. The opportunity cost of being an accomplished child is that it takes away time from making friends and nurturing relationships.

For me, the tradeoff was worth it. There are skills that can only be learned in childhood. It is hard for a student to catch up academically if she is significantly behind in high school. But someone can become more self-aware, work on social skills and learn negotiating tactics later in life.

Without the skills and expertise that is a result of excelling, I would never have the chance to sit at the important tables to participate in the discussions, no matter how great my social skills.

I value my tiger cub upbringing mostly for the tools it gives me to make a difference in my community. I know plenty of grown up tiger cubs who tutor at-risk youth, advocate for the disadvantaged, and generally strive to improve the world. Our childhood accomplishments enable us to meaningfully contribute to our communities.

And isn't that where self-awareness and proper socialization lead us all?

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Grace Liu.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Mike Downey says the Giants and the Royals both lived through long title droughts. What teams are waiting for a win?
October 30, 2014 -- Updated 1832 GMT (0232 HKT)
Mel Robbins says if a man wants to talk to a woman on the street, he should follow 3 basic rules.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2103 GMT (0503 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say more terrorism plots are disrupted by families than by NSA surveillance.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2125 GMT (0525 HKT)
Time magazine has clearly kicked up a hornet's nest with its downright insulting cover headlined "Rotten Apples," says Donna Brazile.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 2055 GMT (0455 HKT)
Leroy Chiao says the failure of the launch is painful but won't stop the trend toward commercializing space.
October 29, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Timothy Stanley: Though Jeb Bush has something to offer, another Bush-Clinton race would be a step backward.
October 28, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Errol Louis says forced to choose between narrow political advantage and the public good, the governors showed they are willing to take the easy way out over Ebola.
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
Eric Liu says with our family and friends and neighbors, each one of us must decide what kind of civilization we expect in the United States. It's our responsibility to set tone and standards, with our laws and norms
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1145 GMT (1945 HKT)
Sally Kohn says the UNC report highlights how some colleges exploit student athletes while offering little in return
October 26, 2014 -- Updated 1904 GMT (0304 HKT)
Terrorists don't represent Islam, but Muslims must step up efforts to counter some of the bigotry within the world of Islam, says Fareed Zakaria
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1302 GMT (2102 HKT)
Scott Yates says extending Daylight Saving Time could save energy, reduce heart attacks and get you more sleep
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 0032 GMT (0832 HKT)
Reza Aslan says the interplay between beliefs and actions is a lot more complicated than critics of Islam portray
October 27, 2014 -- Updated 1119 GMT (1919 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says control of the Senate will be decided by a few close contests
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1212 GMT (2012 HKT)
The response of some U.S. institutions that should know better to Ebola has been anything but inspiring, writes Idris Ayodeji Bello.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
ADVERTISEMENT