Next to namby-pamby helicopter parents, Tiger Moms – with their tough-as-nails approach to child-rearing – suddenly looked good. But Tiger cubs who have escaped their clutches are having the last roar.
Speaking to the Wall Street Journal, novelist Kim Wong Keltner described the humiliation she experienced as the youngest child of fiercely strict Chinese parents.
Her mother, Irene Wong, reportedly called her “disgusting” for being chubby and “no better than a prostitute” for dating a Caucasian man, her future husband.
But Keltner said it was the constant pressure to succeed at all costs that prompted her to write a memoir-cum-battle-cry: Tiger Babies Strike Back: How I Was Raised By A Tiger Mom But Could Not Be Turned To The Dark Side.
Keltner has even coined a pathology for victims of iron-fisted Asian parents: TPSD – Tiger Parenting Survivor Distress.
Her new book pits Keltner against the formidable Amy Chua, the Yale professor who wrote about her past draconian parenting practices in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published in 2011. In it, Chua detailed the shaming tactics and strict rules she enforced to spur her daughters to the top – and how she relents from her extreme approach when her youngest daughter begins to fight back.
Keltner, on the other side, explores the psychological impact of deeply instilled shame and the crushing sense of failure she felt – for never being thin enough, or bright enough – to make her parents proud.
“I got good grades just to get my parents off my back,” she said. “I never felt like I could separate myself from them: They would always say, you’re a part of me, what you do reflects on me.”
Chua’s children were both grade-A students and prodigy musicians, but according to a recent study, the outcomes for browbeaten Tiger cubs are not good.
As the Globe’s Andrew Ryan reported, a disturbing percentage of children raised by Asian-American families who matched the Tiger Mom persona had lower academic achievement, more psychological problems and greater parental alienation than kids of immigrant parents categorized as “supportive” and “easygoing.”
Maybe Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother should have come with a disclaimer: “results not typical.”