Are all Chinese Parents Tigers with their Children?

June 2, 2015

It’s been more than four years since Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother launched a vicious tsunami of words that swept across the United States. Critics judged the book largely by asking the following questions: Should self-esteem come before accomplishment, or accomplishment before self-esteem? The logical answer, I think, is that a child’s self-esteem must develop naturally and organically and not through the efforts of helicopter parents pressuring teachers to dumb down the curriculum and inflate grades.

The bad news is that helicopter parenting might be getting worse if Psychology is right.

About the same time that Chua’s memoir came out, research into parenting styles revealed that “almost 49% of the European-American parents used authoritative parenting (alleged to be the best parenting style), as did about 46% of the Asian-American parents. Both groups revealed about the same number of parents using authoritarian (Tiger Mom-style) parenting (23% for European-Americans, and 26% for Asian-Americans). In other words, the number using authoritative parenting was virtually the same for both groups. – Psychology

In addition, Pew reported “Fully 94% of parents say it is important to teach children responsibility, while nearly as many (92%) say the same about hard work. Helpfulness, good manners and independence also are widely viewed as important for children to learn, according to the survey.”

But work by Eva Pomerantz suggests that Chinese mothers think differently. They think “my child is my report card,” and they see the academic success of their children as a chief parenting goal. But the reasons why a particular type of parenting works in one cultural group may not translate to another cultural group, partly because parenting goals are different in different groups.

In early 2011, we went to see Amy Chua in Berkeley when she was on tour for her memoir. The room was packed with several hundred people and there was standing room only due to all the controversial attention the book was getting.

At the times, I thought that Amy Chua looked as if she were expecting an eighteen-wheeler to crash through the wall and flatten her. That is probably because I’d read that she’d received death threats from across the U.S. for revealing in her memoir that she had said NO to activities such as sleepovers, play dates, acting in school plays, and did not allow her daughters to watch endless hours of TV and/or play computer games like so many American parents do.

Imagine getting assassinated, not by your child but by a stranger, because you wouldn’t let your kid have a sleepover.

To many, Chua did the unthinkable and demanded excellence. Time magazine said, “Most surprising of all to Chua’s detractors may be the fact that many (but not all) elements of her approach are supported by research in psychology and cognitive science.”

And as Amy Chua sat in that tall chair on stage above the audience with her feet dangling a foot from the floor, the audience laughed, applauded and treated her as if she were a hero—not someone to condemn or shun.

In the Time magazine piece, Chua said, “I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. The tiger-mother approach isn’t an ethnicity but a philosophy: expect the best from your children, and don’t settle for anything less.”

The American Psychological Association defines tiger parents as those who practice positive and negative parenting strategies simultaneously. Tiger parents are engaging in some positive parenting behaviors; however, unlike supportive parents, tiger parents also scored high on negative parenting dimensions. This means that their positive parenting strategies co-exist with negative parenting strategies.

Tiger parents and harsh parents are alike, in that both use negative parenting strategies. Unlike tiger parents, however, harsh parents do not engage in positive parenting strategies. Easygoing parents have a more hands-off approach, and do not engage as much with their children, either positively or negatively.

Another study out of the University of Michigan comparing U.S. and Chinese public school systems discovered parental involvement is a critical component to a child’s educational experience. If a child’s parents value education, then the child is more likely to value school as well. In China, parental involvement is higher than compared to the US, because Chinese parents accept the critical role of helping their students to learn concepts if they are lagging behind in school. Chinese parents also make sure that their children complete their homework. Parents in the U.S. typically play a more passive role in the education of their children. … It was also proven that greater involvement in a child’s education fosters more positive attitudes toward school, can improve homework habits, increase academic success and can reduce dropout rates.

What parenting style did your parents use on you? My parents were mostly hands off and that might explain why I barely made it through high school, but I did much better in college after the Marines applied their harsh methods of discipline.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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When it comes to Parenting, One Size Does Not Fit All – Part 4/5

April 10, 2011

In China and Asia, the average parent is the polar opposite of the average American parent. That’s why they are often called Tiger Parents.

However, Chinese/Asian parents will not all be the same. Though most would fit the description of a Tiger Parent as opposed to the average American parent more concerned with self-esteem and the child having daily fun, the average Chinese/Asian parent sets standards that do not take into account self-esteem or having fun, but those standards would vary from parent to parent.

Most urban parents in China would have higher standards than most rural parents. The higher the status and success of the parent, the better chance the standards would be higher for the child too, which explains why Amy Chua’s expectations for her daughters are set so high (Amy Chua is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.)

After all, Amy Chua is a Yale professor and the author of two New York Times bestsellers. Chua’s father also teaches or taught at the University of Berkeley in California as a math professor.

In China, most mothers identify who they are by the success of their children in school and later in life.

By contrast, American SAP parents may act as if their children were from another planet and a member of a fragile species until the child turns 18, becomes an adult, and reverts to being a member of the human species.

To be continued in Part 5, April 11, 2011 at 12:00 PST, or return to Part 3


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

When it comes to Parenting, One Size Does Not Fit All – Part 3/5

April 9, 2011

When I was a teacher, I often heard parents tell their children/teens, “If you don’t want to do what the teacher asks, you don’t have to.” Then when the child earned a failing grade in the class the accusation directed at me would often be, “You were boring. That’s why he/she didn’t want to do the work in your class.”

If I was so boring, why did any student earn As and Bs in my class and some always did?

Every year, one or more parents concerned more with the child’s self-esteem than his or her education would demand that the student be moved from my class to another teacher that was easier — which meant a teacher that never failed a student.

I knew a teacher at the high school where I taught that automatically gave credit for 50% of the grade to every student as if it were a gift.   All a student had to do in his class was five percent of the work to get a D- since every student started with a 50% handicap.  If another student did 40% of the work, that resulted in an A-.

We talked of this for months, and he never yielded his opinion that it was the only fair way to grade a student.

I also know a property owner with apartments that once had a single-mother tenant that took her two children to Disneyland in Florida for a week but could not pay her rent that month.

I heard this dead-beat parent (that seldom paid her rent on time) say she would rather have her children in a class where their self-esteem wouldn’t suffer than have her children in a demanding teacher’s class. She wanted her children to have fun everywhere they went — at last until those children turned 18.

I had an opportunity to see inside the apartment. The children shared the larger of two bedrooms. There was a TV, a computer with an Internet connection and an expensive video game with toys scattered across the floor.  Both children were in grade school at the time and had mobile phones with unlimited texting.

If you want to see how these SAPs (Parents that belong to the self-esteem arm of Political correctness) fight for their beliefs, click to Amazon and read enough reviews and comments of Amy Chua’s memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother to discover a more complete picture.

To be continued in Part 4, April 10, 2011 at 12:00 PST, or return to Part 2


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

When it comes to Parenting, One Size Does Not Fit All – Part 1/5

April 7, 2011

Over at my fledging, Crazy Normal Blog (forty-three posts to more than eleven hundred here), I’ve written about my time in the classroom as a teacher since the topic/theme at that Blog is education. Since I was a public school teacher in California from 1975 to 2005, that topic is of special interest to me.

It was a challenging and demanding job that absorbed time like a sponge.

One undeniable fact that I learned while teaching is the value of a supportive parent involved in a child’s education.

Sad to say, the “average” American parent is not “involved” and doesn’t know what the word means.

If it weren’t for an essay, Why Chinese Mothers are Superior, that appeared in The Wall Street Journal on January 8, I doubt this conversation would be taking place.

Then Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was released January 11 and advocates of the soft self-esteem style of American parenting that has dominated the US since the 1960s came out of their hives and attacked.

At iLook China’s home page, I have a dedicated menu of this subject. If you visit the Home Page, scroll down and watch the menus on the right side of the screen.

Eventually, you will see the menu “About Tiger Mothers and Tough Love“.  Almost every post in that menu touches on the value of parenting and education.

Decades of “mostly ignored” studies in the US show that the average American parent (I take average to mean about half of all parents) talks to his or her child less than five minutes a day, while the average child spends about 10 hours a day having fun watching TV, playing video games, social networking on Facebook, and/or sending text messages, etc.

To be continued in Part 2, April 8, 2011 at 12:00 PST.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.

Why Blaming China is Wrong

March 14, 2011

It wasn’t until I finished reading Jonathan Fahey’s piece for the Associated Press of a new drilling method opening vast oil fields in the US that I discovered more evidence of how wrong many Americans are of China.

North Americans that blame China for lost jobs react from “ignorance” and “anger” — not facts.

Most are incapable of understanding the complexity of America’s suffering economy and are unwilling to sacrifice so the US can compete globally in manufacturing.

Unable and/or unwilling to understand, these people need a scapegoat so politicians running for office give them one — China.

The clue came when Fahey wrote, “At today’s oil prices of roughly $90 per barrel, slashing imports that much would save the U.S. $175 billion a year. Last year, when oil averaged $78 per barrel, the U.S. sent $260 billion overseas for crude, accounting for nearly half the country’s $500 billion trade deficit.”

What happens in China is not the reason for lost US jobs.

In fact, most of what China earns in global trade from exports is spent in other nations such as Australia, Pakistan, Brazil, Myanmar and South Africa until Chinese exports and imports are about even.

That $260 billion the US spent for imported oil that added to the deficit revealed the truth. Many in the US are unwilling to sacrifice for the good of the country.

However, as the Amy Chua Tiger Mother debate reveals, the real culprit of the trade deficit in the US is illiteracy caused by the average parent focused on the child’s daily fun instead of his or her education and the work it takes to earn it.

Begin to says, “Many of the USA ills are directly related to illiteracy.” Then the site provides a few statistics to make its point.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

  • Literacy is learned. Parents who cannot read or write pass along illiteracy. (Did you notice there was no mention of teachers getting the blame? As long as parents blame someone or something else, illiteracy in the US will not improve.)
  • One child in four in the US grows up not knowing how to read.
  • Forty-three percent of adults at Level 1 literacy skills live in poverty compared to only 4% of those at Level 5
  • Three of four food stamp recipients perform in the lowest two literacy levels
  • Ninety percent of welfare recipients are high school dropouts—according to, there are about 50 million Americans collecting some form of welfare.
  • Over 70% of the more than two million inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.

According to literacy fast facts from the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL), literacy is defined as “using printed and written information to function in society, to achieve one’s goals and to develop one’s knowledge and potential.”

Studies say that about 13% of the adult population was at or above proficient in literacy. Since there are about 230 million adults in America that means only 30 million are proficient.

A CBS report on The Future of Jobs in America said,Education has to be the final part of the strategy for job growth.”

Illiteracy is America’s “real” culprit and it is not the fault of China or America’s teachers. It is the fault of parents and middle-class Americans unwilling to sacrifice by changing spending and lifestyle habits.

Until most Americans face the facts, nothing is going to change. It is only going to get worse until there is no one left to blame but the face in the mirror. By then, it may be too late.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.