What Is Tiger Parenting?

Mother helping son with homework

 

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What Is Tiger Parenting?

Tiger parenting refers to a strict, authoritative method of parenting that is meant to raise high-achieving children. This often means forgoing sleepovers, parties, and other leisurely activities to focus on their studies.

The phrase "tiger parenting" was first introduced by author and law professor Amy Chua in her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom." The novel reflects upon her strict upbringing that was based on tiger parenting strategies. Chua, who says the book was meant to be a memoir rather than a how-to guide, speaks about her experience implementing tiger parenting methods with her own daughters and her eventual transformation as a mother following her daughter's rebellion.

Chua's book was the first of its kind and brought tiger parenting strategies to light in the mainstream media. Let's explore the elements that define tiger parenting, as well as the benefits and potential drawbacks of this strict style of raising children.

Benefits of Tiger Parenting

Parents who practice tiger parenting methods believe strict parenting methods benefit children by setting them up to succeed in the future. In addition, adults who use tiger parenting strategies feel that by setting a high bar, they are instilling a strong work ethic in their children. This approach, in turn, ideally encourages self-discipline that often carries over into adulthood.

Children raised under tiger parenting methods are taught to become accustomed to working hard from an early age. While Chua described tiger parenting in her book as purely power-assertive, studies show there is room for positive parenting strategies among many people who practice tiger parenting. This includes being warm and supportive as opposed to exclusively strict.

Ideally, children whose parents implement both aspects of tiger parenting will still feel supported, despite being strongly encouraged to work hard.

Potential Risks of Tiger Parenting

People in favor of tiger parenting believe that setting high expectations results in high levels of success. However, critics of this method feel the parenting style can harm children's mental health.

In addition, while "tiger parents" associate academic achievements with success, detractors of this method believe there are more accurate ways of measuring a child's accomplishments, such as through positive personal attributes and being well-adjusted members of society.

Children brought up with tiger parenting methods may experience some self-esteem issues due to the constant demands placed upon them. They may also fear making mistakes or disappointing their parents if they don't feel they're meeting their standards.

Tiger parenting may be well-intentioned, but research has indicated this stringent method of raising children can elicit the opposite outcome of what's intended. A 2013 study found children whose parents practiced tiger parenting strategies were no more likely to achieve academic success than their peers whose parents used alternate parenting methods. The study also determined that these children were more likely to be psychologically maladjusted, with an increased risk of anxiety and depression.

Tiger Parenting Variations

If you're looking for a strict parenting style but find tiger parenting to be too intense, your family may benefit from authoritative parenting—a method that consists of similar values but offers a more emotionally supportive environment for children.

Authoritative parenting is similar to tiger parenting. It sets strict guidelines regarding behavior and also provides children with boundless affection and love. This parenting method still encourages hard work and respectful behavior with the added benefit of reinforcing the idea that love is not conditional based on the child's success.

"Authoritative styles—meaning being calm but setting good limits—are [preferable to] authoritarian and permissive parenting," says Dr. Allison Andrews, PsyD, practice owner and primary clinician at Child Development Partners in Boston, MA. "When we show gentleness, especially during stressful times, we model frustration tolerance and flexibility."

Parents who practice this authoritative parenting strike a balance between permissive parenting, which is a very lenient approach, and tiger parenting. Children who grow up with authoritative parenting typically do well respecting their parents while still being free to make their own decisions and walk their own paths.

A Word From Verywell

While not everyone chooses to label their parenting style, tiger parenting is one of many popular methods for raising children.

Each child is unique in how they respond to different parenting approaches. The optimal method for your family is the one that encourages your children to feel inclined to succeed but does not make them feel your approval is contingent on their accomplishments.

Tiger parenting is only one of many approaches to parenting children. Remember, what may work well for some families may not be a positive approach for others, and that's OK. Each parent knows best when raising their children, so trust your instincts regarding what will work well for your family.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychology Association. ‘Tiger parenting’ doesn’t create child prodigies, finds new research. Vol 44, No. 8. Published September 2013.

  2. Developmental Psychology. What is "tiger" parenting? How does it affect children? Published 2013.

  3. Asian American Journal of Psychology. Tiger Parenting, Asian-Heritage Families, and Child/Adolescent Well-Being. Vol. 4, No. 1. Published March 2013.

  4. Asian Am J Psychol. 2013 Mar 1; 4(1): 7–18. Published online November 19, 2012. DOI: 10.1037/a0030612

  5. American Psychological Association. Parenting Styles. Published June 2017.

Additional Reading
  • Asian Am J Psychol. 2013 Mar 1; 4(1): 7–18. Published online 2012 Nov 19. doi: 10.1037/a0030612