Go Get ‘Em Tiger


“The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.”

This is the mascot of The Tiger Mom.

I’m sure you’re all up to date about the latest book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” I’m reading it now. Perhaps you’ve read it too, or read one of the many articles about the controversial best-seller in the paper. It’s an intriguing read. Horrifying and inspiring all at the same time.

The main theory behind being a “Tiger Mom” is to set high expectations for your children and then state in no uncertain terms that nothing less is acceptable. Children of Tiger Moms have rigorous homework and music practice schedules. No playdates, no sleepovers, no mindless TV watching. No computer games. Nothing less than A’s are tolerated. Their mantra is, “Nothing is fun until you’re good at it.”

As a result, these tiger cub children grow up to be, more often than not, very successful adults. These are the ones who perform in Carnegie Hall, win Olympic medals, and stay on the cutting edge of their various prestigious professions. Needless to say, the book has me intrigued.

It’s a memoir, not a how-to book. But all the same, the author shakes her head at the way Westerners place too much emphasis on things like “self-esteem” by praising the averageness in their kids. The author believes too many Westerners cripple their children out of the fear of robbing them of their childhoods instead of preparing them for adulthood. Her methods are unflinchingly rigid, seemingly ruthless. But as it is with most parents, it all comes from a place of love. Whether her ends justify her means, you’ll have to decide.

Years ago I asked a good friend of mine how she was able to play the piano so well. She could read and play any piece of music with ease. Her answer surprised me. “Lots of practice and a mom who is just a little bit mean.” Now that Andy is taking piano lessons, I see what she means. If he is ever going to be any good at it, I cannot allow myself to be phased by the tears, the whining, the complaining…I have to be, in the best sense, “a little bit mean.” A tiger.

This book is making me rethink much of our daily routine. All of a sudden my mandatory 30 minutes piano practice seems “soft.” The kids’ Saturday afternoons filled with computer games and Disney Channel marathons seem like such a waste. “Balance,” I keep telling myself, “It’s all about the balance.”

It takes hard work to be a Tiger Mom. Do I have it in me? Lots of backbone, strength, and a fear inducing, fang exposing roar. Oh, and time.

Paul is already way ahead of me in the Tiger Prowess category. Maybe it’s all those trips to Asia. But a few weeks ago, after a particularly spirit crushing swim meet, Andy wanted to quit the team. It just wasn’t fun anymore. And true to his inner tiger, without ever having even heard of this book, Paul exclaimed,

“Well, of course not! But I guarantee you it’s going to be a ton of fun when you starting winning. That’s when things get fun!”

And what does it take to win and enjoy that exhilarating sense of fun? Practice. More and more practice. So now Paul heads directly to the pool after work, a few days a week, to swim with Andy after his regular hour long session to get his strokes just right. He’s in the water with him and everything.

So that sound I hear at night is not gentle snoring. Now I know better. Paul purrs.


3 responses »

  1. Love the last sentence!
    I am in Tiger Mom limbo. I want to be a Tiger Mom, I really do. But to be a Tiger Mom you have to have a Tiger Dad. It’s all about getting Dad on board.

  2. I love your Meridian articles! You’re a great writer.. and after your last article I have even more respect for you seeing that you are a healthy eater. I want to be like you! Only have one baby so far – hopefully I can build up to becoming a spectacular mom 🙂

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