JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Tiger Mums: fierce or foolish?


Lakshmi Singh

Only one path to success ... university "is like religion" for subcontinental Tiger Mums.

Only one path to success ... university "is like religion" for subcontinental Tiger Mums. Photo: Rob Homer

There is one thing Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, got right – the "tiger mum" parenting style is not restricted to the Chinese.

It is flourishing in other parts of the world as well.

The pressure to succeed academically, gain a place at a top school or university and pursue a profession of 'worth' is also striking amongst those living in south Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Fazal Rizvi, Professor in Global Studies in Education at the University of Melbourne, says that even though south Asian parents are becoming more "eclectic in the choice of careers they recommend to their kids," there are still many that push their children to choose a 'prestigious' occupation like medicine, engineering or law.

In fact, they are going to such great lengths that Amy Chua recently remarked that Indian tiger mums may outnumber China's.

Indian parents spend up to 33% of their monthly income on their child's education, often including private tuition or 'cram schools'.

Professor Rizvi says this is because "The competition that used to be largely national, has become global. There is also a perception that the schools don't provide the education required to succeed in a global economy."

Unlike Australia, where the "many pathways to uni" slogan is publicised and accepted, in south Asian countries, getting into the top university is "like religion," Dr. Jawahar Surisetti, an Indian education expert and psychologist, tells Merinews. "It is ingrained in the students' mind that this is the final destination - nothing more, nothing less."

Those that make it into an esteemed institution promote the prestige of their family, says Professor Rizvi. Yet those that don't often sink into depression or in extreme cases, commit suicide.

The Times of India reported that student suicides had jumped 26 per cent between 2006 and 2011 and blamed it, in part, on the immense pressure parents place on their children to achieve high grades.

The squeeze often continues after they begin their undergraduate degree. A Pakistani survey of medical students showed that 63% felt stressed by 'high parental expectations.'

Those that study overseas don't escape the pressure either. This is because, for parents, with their investment comes the expectation for children to be an "instrument for social mobility," Professor Rizvi says.

Indian migrant, Navjot Dhaliwal is a case in point. She hopes her two daughters pursue triple degrees at university because doing a double-degree is "very common."

Mrs. Dhaliwal fosters this aspiration by engaging in private tuition. She is hoping that her eldeset daughter can finish her Year 9 Maths syllabus by the middle of the year so she can get a headstart with the Year 10 syllabus.

Unlike Amy Chua though, Mrs. Dhaliwal does allow her daughters to take breaks to visit the restroom when they wish, watch TV and choose their own musical instrument to play. However, she does not allow her daughters to sleepover at friends' houses and says sports can be "time consuming" and might cause them to "fall behind in their studies".

Pushing children is so inherent in the south Asian culture that many migrants also adopt the approach.

Rossbell Singh is Fiji-Indian. Her strict upbringing highlighted the importance of discipline. She is keen to pass this on to her own son so, to establish a routine of studying, she employed a private tutor. When he started kindergarten.

"It is my duty to help him out and give him a basic start in life," she says.

This basic start involves tuition three times a week, tuition homework and Year 1 homework along with additional extra-curricular activities, like practising writing and spelling tests.

Mrs. Dhaliwal and Mrs. Singh insist they are not tiger parents or as strict as Amy Chua.

Rather, they believe they have adapted her description of the Chinese parenting style – to protect their children “by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

But, Dr. Shailja Chaturvedi, psychiatrist and president of the Australian Indian Medical Graduates Association, warns against pushing children too hard.

She urges parents to take a balanced approach and raise an “all rounder" who is equipped to deal with the unpredictable challenges of life. Not a "socially and emotionally inept scientist who can only travel to the moon.”


  • have you read Amy Chua's book? it's actually pretty funny and says while she tried to implement a lot of the ways she was raised with her daughters that it didn't actually work and she was far more laid back than her parents were. so while she tried to be a 'tiger mother' she failed.

    Her book is a personal memior not some kind of 'how to' guide!

    Date and time
    May 03, 2012, 1:31PM
    • And telling everyone to be an all rounder is like telling everyone to simply concentrate on maths. Not everyone is adept at being an alrounder. Some kids don't work in sport environments for example and don't want to be there. Forcing them to be there actually damages them as it reinforces how bad they might be at something. The trouble is the philosophy of one size fits all, when educators now generally agree there are a number of ways to learn and people gravitiate to different ones dependant on their make up.

      Col the Pariah
      Date and time
      May 04, 2012, 10:18AM
  • So sad, I see many of these people stuck in the bottom rung at my office. Absolutely brilliant people, but totally incapable of relating to other people and thus can't get their ideas across and lack the ability to manage people and so they struggle to advance. For any Teens out their, just get into uni, once there, its far easier to get good marks and transfer to a degree like medicine, law, engineering etc rather then killing yourself trying to get 98+ plus in Yr 12. Enjoy life, experience as many things as possible, this is the best preperation for your working life. You might even realise you dont wont to be a lawyer working 65 hours plus a week, because you realise there are better things in life then a high paying job.

    Date and time
    May 03, 2012, 2:05PM
    • @matt how true! did you realise many comedians are formally lawyers?! gees, imagine the parents' shock horror looks when their proud products told them they want to be telling jokes for a living now instead of babbling away Shakespeare vocabulary in courts.

      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 3:28PM
    • You sait it all.

      Not_A_Normal_Man Aka Someone who sweated to become the man he is Today.
      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 3:50PM
    • I went to Uni as a mature age student, after 10 years in the workforce doing admin work, and found that experience invaluable. I also knew exactly what I wanted to study and my career path. I met too many that felt that they had to go to Uni and once they had started Uni were doing the wrong course.

      But matey, 'teens out THEIR', preperation'? Those sorts of mistakes will see your resume in the bin pronto. Just my advice to anyone out there.

      Hunting Aliens
      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 4:37PM
    • Yes sorry @Ripley very clumsy grammar, my only excuse, I'm Mathamtics graduate. However even for me (obviously too much time playing sport and not enough english rivision) that is an unforgivable mistake.

      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 4:53PM
    • LOL Matt. Unfortunately too many Alien Hunters and their like confuse academic skills such as spelling with intelligence!

      Two Cents Worth
      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 6:36PM
    • Matt you are a MATHEMATICS graduate. Not enough English REVISION.
      CJT you are Chinese and you are a TIGER mum not a Tigger mum.

      Get it correct.
      Date and time
      May 03, 2012, 10:28PM
    • Totally agree with Matt..
      Lots of these students, in particular- from Asian migrant background- have no social lives-sorry to say, I work/worked with many of them, they lack basic social interaction skills, their communication skills is poor as well – not all of them of course-
      It's very important that kids know that their parents love, appreciate them for who they are, and getting high or low marks doesn't affect that. Also to know that they are worthy and "prestigious" in the society because they are kind, helpful and active, because of the good values they have not only because they are a doctor or a lawyer.
      Concealing the actual personality and character of a person, in this case the child by what they do as a"job" is so unfair ..

      Date and time
      May 04, 2012, 9:32AM

More comments

Comments are now closed

Related Coverage

HuffPost Australia

Follow Us on Facebook

Featured advertisers


Capricorn horoscope

Trust others to think for themselves. Don't be snobbish about what seems obvious. Everyone learns at their own pace, including you.

...find out more here