If tiger parents are “strict parents who demand excellence in academics and other extra-curricular activities from their children,” then I have TWO tiger parents. In fact, I know a lot of high achieving Haitian-Americans who are products of not Asian “tiger” parenting,but Haitian tiger parenting.
When the media was inundated with controversy about the whole “Tiger Mom” phenomenon, I didn’t quite know what the big deal was. As an adult, I wasn’t traumatized by strict parenting. I did know one thing, it’s not just an Asian thing. Tiger parenting did not seem to be terribly different than how I was raised. Although the Asian technique seemed to be even more strict than my parents’, the general philosophy seems to be the same. It apparently worked for me, and is really all I know. In fact, I still have Tiger in me, and it shows in my personal parenting style. I’m not totally opposed to western style parenting, but some of it is kind of weak to me. My parents didn’t always contemplate how I would react to their parenting style when I was a child. They assumed I was malleable and would easily adjust — which seemed to be exactly what happened.
Growing up, I knew my family was different. My parents were new to the country after all, so of course we were different. I figured when you leave everything you know and love, and move to a foreign country to raise a family for the first time, the stakes are high, and you don’t make silly mistakes like NOT trying – with every fiber of your being – to do your very best. My parents did their best to make it in America. That was the example they set, and they expected no less from us.
And, yes, they were strict: I didn’t “sleep over”, I wasn’t able to stay up as late as I wanted, I couldn’t have a TV or phone in my room, I couldn’t come and go as I pleased, I had a curfew that I was never pleased with — and we didn’t even have call waiting! All Haitian kids did not have the “pleasure” of tiger parenting, but I knew a good number who did. And although I know that strict American parents do exist, as a child, I personally didn’t know any American Tiger children. I hated being a tiger child as a teen, but in retrospect it taught me discipline, and helped me focus (because even I know how reckless I would have been with my very own phone), and I am still able to think back to my childhood with fond memories.
Education was, without a doubt, my most important “job” growing up since the first day of grammar grade. I learned early on that school was important and non-negotiable. Unless school was closed, I was going…and would do my best while there. The way I understood it, if I excelled in school, then life – back then, and in years to come — would be better. So that’s what I did. This didn’t happen without the help, encouragement — and sometimes the strong arming of my tiger parents. There were few times I remember that excellence was shoved down my throat against my will (like the time I had to memorize all the multiplication tables up to the 12 times table, and wasn’t allowed to go to bed until I knew them cold…and guess what, I learned them), but for the most part excellence was ingrained in me as something worth achieving. I was taught what the expectation was; I was taught that I was capable of achieving, and so I achieved (naturally, because that’s all I knew).
Unlike the Asian tiger parenting style, I was not strongly encouraged to excel in extra curricular activities (it was all about education). However, because the lessons of striving for excellence and possessing the capability to achieve were so strongly ingrained in my psyche, I often did well in extracurricular activities too…so long as I was interested in that particular extra curricular activity.
The way I see it, Tiger parenting is based on two main factors: self-esteem and discipline. My Haitian tiger parents gave those two gifts to me… and I, a tiger child turned parent, will give them to my children as well. I have learned that achieving success has a lot to do with believing you can achieve. That’s half the battle. I expect my children to expect excellence of themselves, because I’m teaching them that they are capable, and I will give them the tools necessary to achieve that (one of which is discipline). If that makes me a Haitian-American tiger mom, so be it.
How did your Haitian parents’ “parenting style” differ from that of your American friends? How is your parenting style different or similar to that of our parents?