More recently, there has been talk about how the Chinese brought up their kids. The term “Tiger mum” is coined together by the media. Basically “Tiger mum” means that the mum is very strict to their kids in hoping that the kids will grow up to be a successful person in life. A Tiger mum will consider that practical love is much more important than giving the child a happy childhood. A Tiger mum will be very discipline & strict with the child. Setting him a time-table, arranging for extra classes and make sure that the child is working hard during his childhood. Sometimes, it is quite extreme because maybe the child cannot take it.

So, I ask myself, how prevalent is this “Tiger mum” phenomena? It happens in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia and even US. Basically this is very common in Eastern Asia community. Eastern Asia community means community that has a strong Chinese culture and roots. Countries such as Japan & Korea has strong historical roots with Chinese. A lot of their culture is similar, if not the same as Chinese culture. My mum is not a “Tiger mum”. I know because she worked long hours and don’t really have the time to set strict rules for me to follow. So, I wonder why some of these Chinese wants to be a “Tiger mum”? Is it because of pride? Is it because of true love for their child?

Although my mum was not a “Tiger mum”, she did a couple of things which are similar in intentions. For example, when I was 9, she started to set rules for me to finish one short article in Bahasa and another in English daily. Then on Saturday, I will have to stand in front of her to read out the article. This is to train my writing and speaking skill. Also, when I was 10, she started to enroll me for extra classes such as Taekwondo and drawing class. When I was 14, I also enroll for mental arithmetic class. When I was 16, I went for piano class. Do you think at any stage, I love going for such classes? For a kid, of course, it is good to rest and play the whole day. So, my mum made sure I didn’t. All these things that I did and classes I went made who I am today. I am grateful that she enforced those on me.

One day, we will all be parent. And all parents want the best for their kids. Yet, different cultures have different ways to bring up their kids. American way of bringing kids up (which I am intimately familiar with, having spent a good 6 months in a summer camp) is to allow free play and treat them as adults. When I was in the states, it is very common for parents to formally introduce their 7 years-old kid to me. And then I shake hand with the kid. In the same setting, a 7 years-old Asian kid would probably hide behind their father’s leg. If you treat them as adults and let them understand that they have to be responsible for their action, they would turn out that way. I digressed. This is not about American way of bringing up kids.

So, why do you think Chinese parents want to be “Tiger mums”? I believe this comes from the deeply rooted Chinese culture on the importance of family and the defined relationship between parent and child. For the Chinese, family is the foundation of a bigger thing – the country. Many families will make up a country. So, if a family is right and just, a country will be strong. Thus, everyone in the community will expect you to bring up a kid right, because this is a country issue and everyone should be involved in it. That is why, in a Chinese community, if there is a bad kid, the parents will be shamed. It is shameful to have a bad kid. It is the parent’s responsibility to bring up the kids right and if they don’t turned out right, it is a shameful thing. In smaller cities, whenever someone did anything wrong, people will always ask, “Who are the parents?”

That is why, for Chinese families, you will never see them letting their kid run around like wild & dirty kids all over the place. These days, if you see such wild kids, you can almost always assume that these kids are improperly taught or are from poorer family. Also, properly-taught Chinese kids will be respectful to the elders and will greet people. Because bad kids are reflected poorly on parents, good & successful kids are also a reflection of the parents. That is why, it is important for Chinese parents to give their best to lead their kids to success. For Chinese, when we know of someone being very successful, we will want to know who their parents are and what method they used to bring up this successful kid. I do agree with this line of thoughts because it builds strong family and community. However, due to ego, many Chinese parents abused this and bring it to the extreme causing much pain to their kid. I am aware that in Singapore, there are many “Tiger mums” whom forces their kids to go for extra classes from 1pm until 8pm and continued into the weekends. If they claimed it is for their kid’s future, I say it is more of an ego & pride thing.

The Chinese also put strong emphasis on legacy. A legacy is something significant you leave behind after you die. For example, when Steve Jobs die, he leaves behind his legacy – Apple. And when Bill Gates die, his legacy will be Microsoft. Because most of us will never be able to build an Apple or Microsoft, we will have to leave behind something too. This something has an imprint of our DNA and will continue to propagate our thoughts & beliefs to the world. Can you imagine how powerful that is? If you believe that “Honesty is the best policy”, even after you die, there will be someone whom will continue to believe and live your way. Now, that is legacy. Something bigger than yourself.