Tiger Mom Is A Myth: Turns Out Kids In China Are Just As Lazy And Spoiled As Our Kids

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The Tiger Mom is a myth, unless you mean the furry jungle cats.  According to Tessa Thorniley, an ex-pat living in China for nearly a half a decade, she has never met another Tiger Mom as described by Amy Chua.  If you’ve been childless for the past year you might not know Chua’s story.  A Chinese-American, Chua sounded her battle cry that if we American parents were more strict and structured like our Chinese counterparts, our children would all be well-behaved, well-mannered mathematical geniuses.  Or at least concert violinists.  American moms lapped it up like a cat to spilled milk.  When we toured preschools in NYC last year I was shocked by how many discussed their plans to start a violin program.  For 3-year-olds?  It was the Tiger Mom effect.

Chua outlawed peer socializing, television and video games with her two children.  She reprimanded parents in the US for indulging our kids like the whole country was a child of her own.  She made us all feel bad about letting bedtimes slide, allowing video games or defending hours of PBS.  She gave American parents a one-size-fits-all mandate to be stricter with our children, no matter who they are, no matter what the circumstances.  And now it turns out she doesn’t represent an entire culture.

Reports from the monkey bars show children in China are just as lazy and spoiled as those in America.   Most Chinese households (with working mothers and stay-at-homes-alike) employ an “ayi” – a cook, cleaner, child-minder similar to a super-nanny.   The ayi, along with China’s one-child policy, are giving these children the impression that they are the sun the world revolves around.

Thorniley recounts a playground story demonstrating how bad it had gotten with one ayi:

An American mother I knew when I lived in Shanghai told me that she realised it was time to leave China when, during an argument with her four-year son about tidying up his toys, she said: “If you don’t clean up your mess, no one else will do it”. To which her son replied: “Ayi will”.

Not only are they lazy and ego-centric, they are obsessed with video games.  Thorniley cites the rates of Internet addiction among the sub-30 set in China as 24 million, starting as young as the age of six.  I have written about my son needing a Tiger Mom every once in awhile.  He can get obsessed with a television show or computer game to the point where he doesn’t want to break to eat or use the bathroom.   I have to be very strict when it comes to his screen time, not because I think all TV or video games are terrible, but because I know my son doesn’t use them wisely.

That’s what parenting should be about:  doing what your particular child needs, as they need it.  Give them structure, give them space, discipline them, befriend them, love them unconditionally (though you don’t always have to like them).  It was silly to think one woman represented the nearly 1.4 billion people in China, but I am happy to hear a real life report from a mom in those very sandboxes.   I’ll remember to use my Tiger Mom sparingly now that I don’t feel an entire country is judging me.

(photo:  Jean-Edouard Rozey / Shutterstock)