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How to Beat the Woes of the Tiger Mom

The phrase ‘tiger mom’ is one that has been familiar with too many Asian parents since the release of Yale professor Amy Chua’s controversial tome, the ’Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother’. In its pages, Amy told all about her tough-love way of raising two highly-accomplished daughters – if you have never called your children ‘garbage’ or prevented them from going to the toilet till they perfected a piano piece, then you’re not tiger enough for Amy.

Whilst not every parent – Asian or not – believe in or resort to the near-militaristic style of a sabre-toothed tiger mom like Amy, many a growing tiger would nevertheless recognise the following classic anxieties:

Are my kid’s grades good enough?

Is he getting enough brain stimulation?

Does he need more tuition classes?

Should I sign him up for more enrichment courses?

Is he a head above the other kids in his class?

Am I doing enough to ensure that my child grows up to become extraordinary?

If all these (and more) do a merry-go-round in your head on a regular basis, relax, take a deep breath and check out our 5 tips for beating these woes.

1. Don’t imprint all your own hopes and dreams on your child

We all have great dreams for our kids when they’re born, and often – without realising it – these dreams centre around what we want (or once wanted) for ourselves. Having expectations of your offspring is perfectly natural, but if you are constantly micromanaging your child and pushing him to fulfil the visions in your head without taking his own thoughts, opinions and views in mind, this may result in much resentment for you on his part.

What’s more, constantly being imprinted with your expectations also affects your child’s ability to figure out what he wants for himself.

Said Amelia Lee, mother of two: “I used to insist that my daughter take piano lessons because I was never able to go for lessons as a child. Then I realized that it wasn’t fair of me to expect her to realise my childhood dream of playing the piano when she didn’t enjoy it at all.”

2. It’s more important to inculcate a love for learning than to make your child learn everything

We get it: the competition is stiff. We want our children to excel in school, and well, everything else they touch. But with more and more enrichment, tuition and mind-stretching courses and classes selling like hotcakes out there, going overboard on education is a very real thing nowadays.

Stories abound of parents who send their kids for tuition lessons from when they are kindergarten-aged – there’s a reason why the local tuition sector is a billion-dollar industry! But do our kids really need to familiarize themselves with the primary school syllabus years before they even graduate from kindergarten?

Not at all.

Instead of only fixating on what your kids do in school and what kind of grades they get, encourage them to read and learn for pleasure of their own accord, as a love for learning is something that will serve them well way beyond their school-going years.

In the rat race for A*, its sometimes difficult to remember that grades are not everything (far from it, in fact).

3. Know that some things are beyond your control

We are all familiar with the saying: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. Most well-meaning parents have long mastered the skill of planning ahead for their children’s futures. But, much as we make a gazillion to-do lists and 50-year-plans, reality can’t be forced to follow a schedule and things often don’t work out the way we planned.

Come to terms with the unexpected, and learn to adapt to whatever circumstances you are served with rather than freak out every time life deviates from the plan. Then pass this valuable nugget of wisdom to your kids so they’d know that disappointment is a fact of life – and learn to deal with it.

4. Don’t parent out of fear

Being a parent is scary, and everyday new fears present themselves (and old fears never really go away). We fear that our kids will not do well in school. We fear that they might have no friends and become socially insecure. We fear that they won’t be able to handle the pressure of a more challenging school term. We fear that they will mix with bad company.

Much like our expectations, oftentimes our fears stem from our own personal failures. We obsessively worry about our kids making the same mistakes we did, and start imposing our fears on them (supposedly to prevent this happening).

Instead of constantly worrying and letting fear become a toxic influence on you and your children’s lives, ask yourself: “Is there any concrete evidence to substantiate my fears?” If there isn’t, let it go. Your children will make mistakes, no doubt about that, but like you they’d learn from them and grow as a result.

5. Just like there is no perfect parent, there is no perfect child

It is inevitable that your child will face failure at some point in his life. Be it a not-so-great exam score or inability to get into a dream school, disappointments and failure are all part of, well, being human. Sometimes your child may screw up, and that’s okay. It’s going to happen. More importantly, our kids need to know that they can, and will, rise above their failures to become better versions of themselves with multiple doses of tenacity and hard work.

In the words of Thomas A. Edition: “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

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