Monday, November 7, 2011

How to be an American Tiger Mom

Only extremely gifted children are capable of thriving regardless of their circumstances. For the rest of us, raising children to realize their full potential requires 18 years of proactive, creative, and dedicated parenting. My daughters were no exception. My husband and I are normal people of average intelligence, so Nicole and Jaclyn certainly didn’t get any super genes from us. How, then, did they get accepted to the most selective colleges in the country? Personal drive and tenacity.

Instilling these values within my girls has been my life’s work, and it wasn’t always easy. Because we were raising them in sunny, laid-back Santa Cruz, where terms like "First Place" are frowned upon, I found it especially difficult to ensure that they received a strong academic foundation. But I wanted to give my daughters the best. Despite the dispiriting state of education here in America, I’m not the type to sit back and blame others for our system’s lousy outcomes, nor was I about to let my daughters become just another statistic.

When Nicole was two, I decided to start a preschool program for her, which got a lot of raised eyebrows from other moms. At a time when other children were only encouraged to play, with the understanding that learning to read was something that would happen once they got to kindergarten, I found that both Nicole and Jaclyn enjoyed playing educational games that taught reading, math, and science readiness skills at an early age. They adored their preschool program, and the joy that they got from mastering these early challenges stoked the love of learning that all children are born with. Encouraged by these successes, I invited other children to join the program so they could play together and learn to socialize.

Eventually, Nicole started kindergarten at a private school, where she enjoyed the social interaction but was bored with the academics. One day, she asked why she learned more at home than she did in school. Realizing that I had no good answer for her, I decided then to start my own private school – Merit Academy – for my daughters. Once again, they thrived in the small classes of 3 to 6 students. As the director of the school, I was able to tweak the curriculum to meet their exact needs. They studied grammar, history, literature, and math at an accelerated rate, and were writing research papers by third grade. Once they’d reached high school, I reduced the class size to just one student so they would be able to engage with their teachers without the limitations of peer pressure.

My daughters and their classmates got an incredibly rich education at Merit, which not only consisted of individually tailored lectures, comprehensive research papers, and opportunities to acquire in-depth knowledge, but also included frequent field trips all over the world for them and their teachers. Most importantly, I designed their curriculum so that by the time they turned 18, they would have the academic, social, business, and professional skills to become anything they wanted. The girls helped me design the classes, and each trimester, they would select their own courses and teachers. While all of this may sound extravagant, it didn't cost me a penny because the costs of running the school were covered by the other students' tuition.

The girls were already flourishing at this point, but as Merit Academy’s college advisor, I encouraged each student to further demonstrate their creativity, initiative, and tenacity by doing an original, independent project. Nicole's first project was building a hydrogen fuel cell, and Jaclyn's was starting a videography business. Developing these projects on their own was the ultimate step to the girls’ empowerment. They had to learn how to overcome real-world obstacles, communicate with adults, and manage their time by balancing their multiple dance classes with their academic load.

Each success only further bolstered their confidence. By the time they’d started to apply to colleges, they both had four-page resumes that included the businesses and non-profits they’d started, the articles and books they’d published, and the research they’d conducted. Not only did they breeze through their college interviews with all of the interesting stories they had to share, they also received 80% of the scholarships they applied for. Nicole is currently in her third year at Stanford Medical School and Jaclyn has accepted a job offer as a newly-minted graduate of Claremont McKenna College.

While I certainly did my best to give my daughters everything (within reason), I’m no Helicopter Mom; I neither tried to protect them from failure nor did any of their work for them. Likewise, I might seem like a Tiger Mom on the surface, given how actively and fiercely I was involved with their education, but that label doesn’t fit either. My girls had the freedom to choose their own classes, interests, and social activities, and they always knew that they had my unconditional love and support. I was neither an enabler nor a martinet. Rather, I believe I found the happy medium between these two extremes, a place from which I could be a guide to my children and provide them with the opportunities they needed to become accomplished, intelligent, responsible young adults. I am an American Tiger Mom.

Friday, November 4, 2011

I was interviewed recently by Christine McFadden at, about my thoughts on Tiger Parenting. The article took looked at the scrutinized parenting style from a new perspective: from that of the Tiger Cubs.

In response to Christine’s questions, I helped her differentiate between Tiger Moms, American Tiger Moms, and Helicopter Moms. While each of these parents sincerely has their child’s best interest in mind, I was quick to point out that often parents’ actions do more harm than good. We hear these terms thrown around, yet surprisingly many people don’t actually know what they mean. So, what is the difference between a Tiger Mom and a Helicopter Mom; and why is being an American Tiger Mom better? I am happy to explain.

The most widely used example of a Tiger Mom is a woman by the name of Amy Chua. She, along with other Tiger Moms, boast that their children are deprived of having any sort of social life. They must master either piano or violin, but if they are interested in learning any other instrument, they are strictly forbidden. They are also not allowed to play with other children, explore the arts, attend parties, or any other form of “normal” American social interactions. While this style of parenting may have been the norm in the past in Eastern societies, it is widely viewed as cruel and unusual in today’s societies.

The Helicopter Mom… well, she hovers. She is always two steps ahead of her child to prevent them from failing in any sort of manner. She fights their battles, argues with their teachers, does their homework, and essentially coddles them so to avoid any discomfort. She thinks she is being a good mother by ensuring their happiness, when in reality she is doing them a great disservice. How on earth are these children supposed to make it on their own as adults when their mothers did everything for them? These are the type of kids that end up living with mom and dad well into their thirties; and to be honest, the Helicopter Mom couldn’t be happier about that.

The American Tiger Mom is different. I proudly place myself in this category, and with good reason. Unlike the Tiger Mom, I allowed my children to have social interactions and to pursue their passions. They were allowed to play any instrument and they deeply loved theatre and dance. They were encouraged to do the things they found interesting, with the understanding that they would do each and everything to the best of their ability. They would give each project and interest one hundred percent of their time and effort. They were not allowed to drop something if they became bored, but knew they must stick it through till the end. Unlike the Tiger Mom, I never saw the need to call my children degrading names in order to get them to succeed; and rather than denying them socialization, we were the party house. By throwing all of the parties, we got to supervise the girls in a safe and healthy environment.

I am confident that my parenting style contributed to both their happiness and success. They are both well-rounded, well-educated and happy adults who are able to move around in the world without their parents hovering over them, or insulting them.

I understand that long ago, Tiger parenting was the norm in Eastern countries like China and Japan. Today, those countries are utilizing western parenting methods instead, with the hopes of fostering happy and passionate children rather than successful work-machines devoid of personalities. For a mother to bring her children up today under the Tiger Mom style, is in my opinion, both cruel and unusual. Parenting has changed so dramatically that to utilize that old style is just plain counterproductive and mean.

I enjoyed McFadden’s article because it provided the children of Tiger Moms’ perspectives. While some of the children (now young-adults) say that they will likely follow in their parent’s footsteps, I have to wonder: do they truly believe that this form of childrearing is productive and healthy, or are they approving of their parent’s actions because of the natural instinct children have to protect their parents? Similar to children that have been abused by their parents, and even battered wives, it is common for the victim to justify the wrongs done against them as an attempt to deflect attention to the abuse they’ve received. I believe that is the case here, and not that the children of Tiger parents actually appreciate the abuses they’ve been inflicted over the years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

American Tiger Mom, Helicopter Mom or Tiger Mom....Know the Difference

I am an American Tiger Mom. What kind of parent are you? Have you wondered if your friends parent the same way in the privacy of their own homes as they do in front of others? Perhaps you appear calm, collect and in control while others are watching, but behind closed doors, your kids rule the roost. Speaking for myself, an American Tiger Mom’s parenting style is unwavering whether there is an audience or not. So again I ask: what kind of parent are you… and why? Is your method of parenting going to result in your children’s success or demise?

New parents don’t receive a how-to book on the proper way to raise our children; so we utilize every resource we can to help us raise our children into happy, healthy, and independent adults. We reference our own childhoods, examining what our parents did that worked and what didn’t. We look to other parents to admire and emulate their successes, while scrutinizing other’s blatant failures. Much of parenting is trial and error, but it all comes down to one thing: we don’t want to lose our kids. As parents leave the hospital with their precious newborns in tow, and without that ever-desired parenting manual, they can find solace in knowing that there are some tried and true ways of successful childrearing. Having raised two daughters who are well-rounded, happy and extraordinarily successful, I want to share with others what has worked for me as an American Tiger Mom.

I know that my children are intelligent, skillful leaders. I made it a priority to provide them with a strong academic foundation so that they would be able to choose the best-fit college and career, enabling them to lead happy and fulfilled lives. An American Tiger Mom exposes her children to music, dance and the arts so they may lead enriched lives, complete with a strong academic foundation. While some may scrutinize my way of parenting as overly-strict, I am quick to remind them that I never deprived my children of their social lives or striped them of their personal identities. They are confident young ladies with their own interests; I am only here to support and reassure them that they are fully capable of accomplishing anything.

In the parenting world, we are labeled and categorized based on our parenting styles. The most widely used titles include the Tiger Mom, the Helicopter Mom, and more recently, the American Tiger Mom. Each subcategory of mother is quite different, although we do have something in common: we all think we are doing what is in our child’s best interest. I can assure you however, that each of these parenting styles is very different.

The Tiger Mom has been called the dictator of all mothers. You may recall Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” where she boasted that her children were never allowed to attend a sleepover, have a play date, watch television, play video games, or choose their own extracurricular activities. They were forced to master the piano and violin, and were strictly forbidden to explore other musical interests. She proudly admits to calling one of her daughters “garbage.” Convinced that her kids are successful because of her authoritarian parenting style, she is eager to claim that all Tiger Mom’s are superior. Where then do we see the individuality and leadership in these children? The Tiger Mom is afraid that her children are incapable of finding the correct passion, so she makes executive decisions and drills them relentlessly until they have become the people she wants them to be. While this may work in some societies, it denies the children the opportunity to explore their interests and to experience their youth like their peers in our American culture.

Another infamous type of parent is the Helicopter Mom. Simply put, she hovers. She is always one step ahead of her children so that she can fight their battles. She prevents any possible failures, and will even boast that her child got an A on their last science project…. Because she did it herself! The Helicopter Mom often does her child’s homework so that they are not inconvenienced by doing “busy work.” By doing their schoolwork for them, Helicopter Moms are sending a message to their children that they don’t believe they can succeed on their own. There was an incisive article published by CNN recently titled “What teachers really want to tell parents.” The article aptly discussed the many ways that helicopter parents are helping their children fail in school (and in life for that matter) because of their parenting style. In addition to doing everything for their child short of eating their meals for them, the Helicopter Mom is adamant that her kids are signed up for as many activities as possible. Keeping up with the Jones’ is extremely important to her, and she gets an immense amount of satisfaction from being able to say that she spent her entire day driving her kids to every paid activity that her community offers. Even if their actions are genuinely well-intended, Helicopter parents are setting their kids up for a lifetime of failure.

Surely if you are reading this article, parenting is an important aspect of your life. As an American Tiger Mom, an educator, and the founder of one of the nation’s most elite private schools, I can honestly say that as I reflect on the way my daughters were raised, I am proud! My girls have made inspiring contributions to society, have graduated from Stanford University and Claremont McKenna College; and they did not have to sacrifice their childhoods to do so.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

In Response to an Article I Recently Read on The Wall Street Journal

I recently came across an article on The Wall Street Journal that discussed Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." As you know, I wrote a book in response, but also felt the need to respond to this article. I find the comments extremely compelling, although not surprising in the least. As a mother, Asian-American or not, how do you feel about Chua's thought process? Does your parenting style fit one of the styles I describe below? As always, I value your input and comments.

As an Asian-American mother of two, I was appalled when I read Amy Chua’s text, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I was compelled to respond to Chua’s claims, and did so by publishing my responsorial book, Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story. Like many parents, when I became a mother, I was determined to provide my daughters with the essential tools and skills required for an extraordinarily successful future. When they entered school, I was discontented with the level of education they were receiving and sought to find a school that met both their educational and emotional needs. When I saw they were not being challenged enough in school, I took it upon myself to create and start Merit Academy, a private school which offered them a prep-school education that was stimulating and engaging. Today, both of my daughters are exceptionally successful, having attended Stanford University/Stanford School of Medicine and Claremont McKenna College. My book, Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story, details the path that led our children into successful and fulfilling lives, without denying them the basic rights of their youth, as Amy Chua proudly describes doing to her own children. My book outlines the success of my program which is exhibited through the lives of my daughters as well as the plethora of students that have made their way through Merit Academy over the decades.

Like the throngs of readers that picked up Chua’s book, I was outraged on many different levels. Her now infamous book has elicited responses from her readers, and I could not agree more. Chua openly admits to calling her children “garbage” and even threatened to ignore one of her daughter’s future birthdays if she failed to learn a very difficult musical piece within the next day. Clearly, it is easy to relate to the outrage that came in the wake of her book. My indignation took on a life of its own, and instead of simply disagreeing, I took it upon myself to write a book about how crippling her parenting style is to a child, and how success can be achieved without such cruelty. This is not only my opinion, but a proven method that has served my family well over the years.

Chua also lumps all "Western" parents together under one label. Besides the Tiger Mom, I believe that western parents are also further divided into two more labels. First, there is the Helicopter Mom; those hovering mothers who do their children's homework and attack anyone who steps on their children's self esteem. The second type is the American Tiger Mom; those mothers who steadfastly guide and support their children as they become successful young adults. This type of parent works diligently to ensure their child’s success and happiness without depriving them of their autonomy. I have actively raised my daughters by setting them up with opportunities so they could explore business models, change consumer perspectives on energy, and start non-profit organizations to reach the world. By putting them in the driver's seat, they experienced let downs and disappointments (a helicopter mom would have fixed the problem for them) and learned to overcome unforeseen obstacles. This built character and strengthened their self esteem. Unlike the children of a tiger mother, my girls selected their projects and businesses, thereby learning that hard work pays off. My girls are both masters of time management because they learned early on that they need to first complete all of their homework and project tasks before they can go out with friends and have sleepovers. They learned to have their cake and eat it too; a luxury that everyone deserves, yet most don’t quite know how to attain.

Another common and weighty reaction to Chua’s text was that through publishing her perspective, she was perpetuating the ethnic stereotypes that so many Asian-American women have been fighting to diminish over the years. Not only does she perpetuate this damaging image, but she does so proudly. If she has found a parenting method that works for her, that is her prerogative; but to say that all Asian-American mothers are superior because of their rigorous and cruel parenting is detrimental to the efforts that have been made to rid ourselves of the damaging ethnic stereotypes that we have fought for so long.

In my book, I discuss the successful process of raising our daughters. Unlike Chua’s children, mine were permitted a healthy social life while simultaneously excelling in their educational careers and extracurricular activities. They were allowed to express themselves creatively. They were encouraged to do projects that would benefit themselves, their community and ultimately help them get into great colleges. Once they began a project, they were never allowed to give up on it. I believe that if you start something you finish it, and you finish it to the very best of your ability. Their projects not only gave them an immense sense of personal accomplishment, but they also allowed them to win upwards of eighty percent of their college scholarships. My children were able to succeed in their lives without being called degrading names, without denying them their youth, and they are able to reflect on their childhood as just that: a childhood rather than a boot camp.

Chua’s book is still a hot topic in the realm of parenting, education, and Asian-American ethnicity. Its highly controversial contents are widely debated and my book discusses all of these issues while simultaneously opening up a dialogue for all parents who ponder their child’s future success.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Recent article about my latest book- Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom's Story

I was interviewed recently by journalist Chelsea Hawkins about my latest book, "Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom's Story." The article was printed this week in two publications, and will be featured by the Huffington Post in the near future.

As you may know, I wrote the book in response to Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." If you follow my blog (and clearly you do if you are reading this right now), Twitter, or Facebook pages, then you also know how ridiculous I found Chua's book to be. Writing this responsorial book in two weeks was not a difficult task, but rather something I felt compelled to do.

Parenting, as we well know, is a task that does not come with a handbook. We do our very best, often learning by trial and error, sometimes from other's successes and mistakes, and we find a parenting style that works for us as a family. We go through all of this with the hope that our children will grow up to be independent, self-sufficient, successful, and good human beings. Sure, everyone parents differently; but I genuinely disagree with Chua's style and I had to say something! "Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom's Story" directly discusses Chua's controversial and infamous views.

Through Hawkin's article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, my wish is to open up a dialogue between parents about different parenting styles. Take a minute to read the article, and if you have any input, criticism, and thoughts I would love to hear them! As always, thank you for reading my blog!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Shopping List: Pens, Pencils, School Books and.....Time Management Skills

Summer break has officially ended and we are approaching the new school year at full speed. Whether our children are starting Kindergarten or are at an age where they are deciding which colleges to apply to, we all have something in common: we want our kids to have a productive year.

We begin with the usual rituals. We shop for school supplies, get a new outfit for the first day of school, and we send the kids off with a "goodbye, have a terrific day, and this is going to be a great year for you!" In doing these things, we give our children a sense of ownership over the upcoming year, and let them know that they are in control of their success. As we all know, the encouragement cannot and does not end here. We will be checking daily and weekly on their progress, making sure they are headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, many families wait until the first progress report appears in October, only to find out their child has fallen behind in a certain subject, has been socializing too much, or forgot to turn in that big report by its due date. By then, it is too late and they spend the rest of the year playing catch-up. It does NOT have to be this way. You can save yourself and your child the stress and anxiety by doing a couple very simple things. First, be sure that the dialogue remains open with the kids on a daily basis. Communication is the key to success in many areas of life, and their education is no exception. Secondly, ensure your children are using their time wisely! As adults, we rely on our calendars, iPhone, reminders and lists so that we remember what we need to get done on a daily basis. Why shouldn't the kids have access to the same tools we rely on ourselves? My kids and I have used the Merit Planner religiously and is something we could not live without. Time management skills are something that your child will use throughout their life, and in fact their success will depend on it. I am a firm believer that this simple tool will help both you and your children achieve the desired educational results that you wish for.

The Planner provides a structured schedule broken down by the hour. They can see what tasks need to be accomplished and by what time, so that they can go to that movie on Friday night with their friends. When time is effectively managed, there are no eleventh hour crises, and your student has not only finished their work, but they can take pride in the fact that they have done so to the best of their ability. A sense of accomplishment is priceless.

So this year, as you buy the kids their new notebooks, pens, books, and set up a designated work area designed for learning, I strongly suggest that you include a reliable time management tool. The Merit Planner has done wonders for our family, and I am confident it will do the same for yours. It is such a simple and easy addition to your life, and it will enrich your child's life for the school year, as well as their adult lives ahead.

Wishing you all a wonderful and successful year; and I am beyond glad to answer any questions you may have about making this school year count for your child!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Wisdom of Letting Kids Fail

I think that many Americans have known for a long time that indulgent, Helicopter-style parenting leads to entitled children. Of course, when it’s spelled out that way, the truth seems implicit and obvious, but it’s a truth that’s been lost on a generation of middle class parents who only wanted their children to avoid all of the discomforts that they experienced, and to have all of the advantages that they never had. While that sentiment is certainly one that anyone can empathize with, it seems like we’ve finally reached a point where public angst over the consequences of entitlement has boiled over into the mainstream. Whether in the form of Amy Chua’s strident promotion of the other extreme, or my own endorsement of a more balanced approach, a growing chorus of voices is arguing that children need not and should not be sheltered from adversity.

The latest proponent of this view is Lori Gottlieb of The Atlantic, who argues in “How to Land Your Kids in Therapy” that over-attentive, coddling parents are, despite their best intentions, destroying their kids’ chances at a normal life by being too concerned with their short-term emotional well-being and never letting them experience failure. By the time these children become adults, they’ve become so attuned to the implied message that they’re entitled to a perfect life that they have trouble dealing with normal, everyday levels of adversity. Because their Helicopter parents always praised them for the slightest accomplishments, and allowed them to quit their sports or musical instruments as soon as they lost interest, they never developed the drive and perseverance necessary to succeed in the real world.

These points are very similar to the ones I made in Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story, and I’m glad that more and more parents are coming around to the idea that the more you shelter your children, the worse off both of you will be when they grow up. But while lots of attention plus low expectations is indeed a toxic mixture, I disagree with Ms. Gottlieb that the problem is too much parenting and emotional support in general. That’s sliding dangerously close to Tiger Mom territory. Rather than backing off and becoming less “attuned” to their children’s needs, I think that parents just need to refocus their energies on more productive avenues. You can and should support their hobbies and interests, but also make it clear that once they start something, they have to finish it. Praise their effort and give them abundant love and support, but also set and enforce high academic standards. Let them have the things that they really want if you can afford them, as long as you teach them how to save and earn money so they can buy it themselves in the future. In short, it’s ok to be attentive to your children’s needs as long as you balance it out with high expectations. And yes, let them experience failure once in a while, and they'll see that it's not the end of the world.

That’s how an American Tiger Mom does it.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What to do About "Boomerang" College Graduates?

Summer has traditionally been a time of pride and optimism for new college graduates and their parents. But these days, when college seems less like a gateway to a bright and lucrative future and more like a temporary break from living at home, graduation can be a somewhat anticlimactic experience.

Even amidst signs that the job market for recent grads is improving, unemployment for people in their early 20’s still stands at almost 15%. Faced with such discouraging prospects, as many as 80% of this year’s graduates will be moving back home. Not only will this increased burden almost certainly hurt their parents’ retirement plans, it can also lead to vexing delays in the normal maturation process that 20-somethings go through as they learn to take care of and be responsible for themselves. Parents are often frustrated to find that the supposed grown-ups who come back are not too different from the entitled teenagers that they sent off to college.

These “boomerang kids” might seem to be the ultimate vindication for those who would proudly call themselves Tiger Moms. After all, the very reason that Tiger Moms are harsh disciplinarians, don’t allow a lot of freedom or choice, and relentlessly push for academic excellence is so that their children will have secure futures, and ultimately, happy ones. But upon graduation, many of these “Paper Tigers” run into limits of a different sort. Having grown accustomed to a lifelong paradigm where good grades automatically translate to success, these kids often find themselves entering unrewarding careers and resenting their scant prospects of advancement. They and their Tiger Moms realize too late that the endless drilling of rote knowledge was no replacement for being taught how to be creative, proactive, and ambitious.

In my new book Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story, I introduce the concept of the American Tiger Mom to describe a mom who emphasizes the instilling of these traits, along with independence and personal responsibility, within her children. The American Tiger Mom is more than just a sensible compromise between the ferocious Tiger Mom and the indulgent, permissive Helicopter Mom. She is a mom whose one simple, overarching goal is to endow her children with the skills and knowledge to go off into the world at age 18 and experience a future with no limits.

In my experience, the single most effective way to work toward that goal is to encourage your teenager to do an original Project outside the classroom. A Project can take many forms, as long as it reflects your teen’s passions and aspirations; my own daughters’ Projects involved building a hydrogen fuel cell and starting a nonprofit for alternative fuels. Not only did Projects help them get into their dream schools of Stanford and Claremont McKenna, as well as obtain 80% of the scholarships they applied for, it also gave them a wealth of insight into what careers they were best suited for. If every young adult gained that kind of insight, it would eliminate a lot of the doubt and indecision that normally comes with life in and after college. They would have the skills and knowledge to take control of their lives after graduation, saving themselves a lot of time, and their parents a lot of money.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Are My Kids Entitled?"

It’s a question that almost every American parent has asked themselves, in some fashion, at some point. Indeed, it’s the question that drove me to write my book in the first place. While you’ll likely have a hard time coming up with a simple answer to that question (I certainly did), you probably have a nagging feeling in your gut that your child is, at least in some ways, entitled. After all, entitlement is a hallmark of life in a relatively affluent society like ours. Even if you’ve managed to avoid spoiling your child with material goods, it’s hard to avoid entitling them in other ways, be they slumber parties, tennis lessons, private schools, or other advantages and amenities that not everyone gets to have. Does this mean that American parents are doomed to raise generation after generation of increasingly entitled children?

Tiger Moms like Amy Chua would have you believe that the answer is yes, unless you follow their lead and abandon every aspect of parenting that could be called “American” – namely, our belief in the value of fun, self-exploration, and self-determination in childhood. I think that not only is this view wrong, it fundamentally misunderstands what entitlement is. Yes, it describes a privileged set of circumstances, but more importantly, it describes an attitude – an attitude of being blithely self-centered, being inconsiderate of other people’s time and needs, discounting the value of hard work, and always wanting something for nothing. This attitude is what we’re really thinking of when we ask ourselves if our kids are entitled, and taking away everything that makes childhood enjoyable is a clumsy and ham-handed way to combat it. The better way to do it is simply to be a role model. Educate your children on consumerism and the family’s finances. Show them how to lead an organized and balanced life. Teach them to value overcoming challenges, and involve yourself in their social lives and interests in a way that both respects their individuality and pushes them in the right direction. Rather than trying to take over their lives, just lead by example. That’s what being an American Tiger Mom is all about.

"Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom's Story" is available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, and Nook!

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Tale of Two Tigers

In anticipation of the upcoming release of Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story, I’d like to talk some more about the differences between the American Tiger Mom and the Chua-style Tiger Mom. Because our goals are quite similar (to raise children who can reach their full potential), and our methods require roughly the same level of involvement in our children's lives, those differences might not be readily apparent to everyone. Therefore, I think it’s important to discuss what makes the American Tiger Mom distinct from the Chua Tiger Mom, and why it's a more useful example for other parents to draw from.

In the book, I proposed the American Tiger Mom as the optimal middle ground between the indulgent Helicopter Mom and the overly harsh Tiger Mom, but I didn’t talk how this view fits with parenting theory. Developmental Psychology categorizes parenting styles according to two main dimensions - demandingness and responsiveness. Demandingness refers to, well, how demanding the parents are in terms of their children’s academics, maturity, and moral development, and how willing they are to enact supervision and discipline. Responsiveness is a measure of how attuned parents are to their children’s needs, and the level of warmth and support that they provide in order to foster the growth of self-assertion and individuality. Parents who are not demanding but highly responsive – in other words, Helicopter Moms – are known as indulgent parents. Chua Tiger Moms, who are highly demanding but low in responsiveness, are known as authoritarian parents, whereas parents who are both highly demanding and highly responsive – like the American Tiger Mom – are known as authoritative parents.

While both types of demanding parents provide well-ordered and structured developmental environments, and exert a high degree of “behavioral control,” the low responsiveness of the authoritarian parent means that they are “obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation.” (Baumrind, 1991, p. 62) This leads Chua Tiger Moms to be both autocratic and intrusive in the way that they control their children, frequently straying into areas that most parents across cultures would consider to be illegitimate exercises of parental authority, such as controlling the child’s hobbies or forbidding school plays and sleepovers. Their word is law, and it doesn’t matter to them whether their kids understand their reasoning; they simply use guilt induction, withdrawal of love, or shaming in order to gain compliance. Their children tend to perform fairly well in school but have poorer social skills, lower self-esteem, and higher levels of depression.

On the other hand, authoritative parents like the American Tiger Mom don’t expect their children to conform to their thinking, instead preferring to educate and influence them in the right direction so they can make good choices on their own. While they demand good grades and proper, moral behavior, they also recognize their children’s need for emotional support, and respect their desire to be individuals. They do their best to make sure that their kids understand the reasoning behind every disciplinary decision. Because authoritative parents value achievement and autonomy in equal measure, their children consistently rate better than their peers in both social competence and academic performance.

Of course, these distinctions aren’t as clear-cut in practice as they are in theory. Most people fall somewhere in between the various categories, and just because one’s parents could be described as authoritarian doesn’t mean that one will necessarily turn out with low self-esteem and psychosocial functioning. However, it is clear that authoritative, American Tiger Mom-style parenting leads to better outcomes on average, as it combines the best aspects of two flawed extremes.

To learn more about Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story, soon to be available at major paperback and ebook retailers everywhere, visit!


Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom's Story" Soon to be Widely Available!

The harsh but effective methods of the Tiger Mom have dominated our national conversation on parenthood for months. However, moms who would prefer a more balanced and sensible approach to raising high-achieving kids will soon have their chance to roar back. In less than a week, Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story will be available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kindle, iTunes, and other major paperback and ebook retailers.

As the name implies, this book tells my story – the story of an average mom’s journey to provide her daughters with a stellar head start in life. In doing so, I took a very hands-on approach, even going so far as to start an academically accelerated private school just for them. Like the Chua-style Tiger Mom, I got results – Nicole is a medical student at Stanford University, and Jaclyn just landed a high-paying corporate job straight out of Claremont McKenna College. But as an American Tiger Mom, rather than berating and prodding my daughters to conform to my vision of their futures, I reserved my ferocious energy for my efforts to provide them with opportunities to grow and excel on their own terms. Whether it was getting them a $35,000 grant to study hydrogen fuel cell technology, or converting our garage into a studio to support their passion for dance, I did my very best to enrich their lives and help them grow into complete individuals. I hope my book can help other moms do the same.

If you’d like to learn more about the book, please visit

Monday, April 25, 2011

The American Tiger Mom

It takes a lot of guidance, discipline, and carefully structured boundaries to raise responsible, successful children - this is an intuitive truth. Equally as intuitive to Americans is our appreciation for individuality, creativity, and self-determination, and our concern for respecting and fostering those qualities in our children. These two belief systems often conflict with each other in the midst of the hard, everyday decisions that parents have to make, resulting in a tension in our parenting culture that has existed for decades.

Many parents deal with this uncertainty by treating these two philosophies as mutually exclusive, and subscribing almost entirely to one. Some of them choose to be like Amy Chua's "Chinese" Tiger Moms, fierce defenders of traditional values such as respect for authority and academic excellence. They believe that success in life is the key to happiness, and set out to ensure their children's success by controlling almost every aspect of their lives and limiting the amount of time they "waste" on non-competitive interests, such as socialization and self-expression. Tiger Moms believe that there's no point in letting your child do anything unless it helps them get into a top college. While their goals are admirable, most Americans regard their methods as overly harsh, even deplorable, and would rather err on the side of the other extreme. These parents, who fall under the banner of the Helicopter Mom, focus almost exclusively on their children's emotional well-being. Not only do they give their kids the freedom to try (and quit) as many things as they want, they also obsessively try to shelter them from any difficulties or setbacks that might threaten their self-esteem. While these kids are able to live a more "normal" life, they often grow up to discover that they lack the confidence and self-sufficiency to find their own place in the world and thrive.

Americans don't have to settle for choosing between a spartan childhood and an aimless adulthood. Self-exploration, fun, and a happy childhood lay the foundation to living rich, enjoyable lives, and are as important as Helicopter Moms think they are. On the other hand, Tiger Moms are also right to recognize that achievement is the gateway to self-esteem, and that children are often challenged to do much less than they're capable of. Rather than rigidly following one immutable formula, we can get the best of both worlds by adapting the most sensible parts of both approaches. We can emphasize academics without short-changing personal development and empowerment. We can choose to be American Tiger Moms.

To learn more about the American Tiger Mom, go to