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Chinese-Style ‘Tiger’ Parenting Triggers Complaints Among Younger Generation

Chinese parenting style is often described as “controlling”. This parenting style, also referred to as a “tiger parenting”, has gained special attention since the release of the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother“ in 2011.

Recently, one graduate's resentment that his parents forced him to give up a job has resonated among China’s younger generation online, who shared the same frustration over their parents’ outdated attitudes and strict parenting style in everything from education and hobbies to career and marriage.

Beijing University graduate Wang Xiao was forced to give up a decent job he had found after graduation because his parents thought the job was not within “the system”, meaning it doesn't belong to state-owned enterprises or is related to the government, thus lacking in security. Like most Chinese parents born in the 1950s and 60s who experienced the more difficult times of Chinese history, they still value stability and social security more than anything else.

However, the generation born after 1985 has a completely different mindset, setting up parents and children for conflict. For example, earlier this month, a Chinese mom bought a entire page of advertising in the Chinese Melbourne Daily to beg her son to come home for the New Year after her repeated attempts to force her son into marriage had scared him away.

Wang Xiao's story went viral on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo, and has become the most discussed topic of January 24, 2014. Many complained online about the lack of understanding and overwhelming control of their own parents. 

photo from Sina Weibo

Photo from Sina Weibo

User “Alpaca” analyzed the changing attitude towards careers among the two generations:

两代人所处的社会环境形成对择业的不同需求,在我们父辈择业的时代,温饱几乎是主旋律,所以稳定的经济来源也就是“铁饭碗”之说随之而来。对于当代毕业生温饱并不是眼前手头必须要解决的问题,他们更多将就业在一定程度上理想化并上升到精神需求

Different social environments have led to different ideas about careers. In the era of our fathers, food and clothing were the main theme, so a stable source of income was the “iron rice bowl”. For contemporary graduates, food and clothing are not necessarily the main concern; for them, a job also involves a kind of idealism and spiritual needs.

Netizen “shishang zuidade xingfu shianjing” summed up typical Chinese-style parenting:

1、过分溺爱 2、心灵施暴,扼杀独立人格的树立。3、物质刺激 4、动辄体罚 5、朝令夕改 6、精神方面孩子是家长最熟悉的陌生人。 7、事业,孩子沦为家长实现未泯理想的工具。8、道德家长和学校一起空白。9、生活近乎泛滥的物质。10、性教育,孩子顺利成长的绊脚石。

1. spoiling children, 2. spiritual violence to stifle independent personality growth, 3. material incentives, 4. physical punishment, 5. constant change of mind, 6. parents are children’s most familiar strangers spiritually, 7. children become parents’ tool to realize their own unfinished career dreams, 8. lack of moral education, 9. too much materialism, 10. Lack of sex education becomes the stumbling stone in children’s growth.

Xinyan zewuyan” wrote:

在子女幼年时抹杀童真,青春期抹杀浪漫,青年时扼杀斗志。

[They] kill innocence during children's’ childhoods, kill our romance during adolescence and kill our will during our youth.

 Another user quoted Chinese writer and blogger Han Han:

很多家长不许学生谈恋爱, 甚至读大学还有很多家长反对,但大学一毕业,所有家长都希望马上从天掉下来一个各方面都很优秀而且最好有一套房子的人和自己儿女恋爱,而且要结婚。想的很美啊

Many parents don’t allow their children to go on dates. Even during college, many parents oppose to it, but once you graduate, all parents want someone to date and marry their children immediately, someone who’s good at everything and better have an apartment. How beautiful.

“Que” lamented

家长习惯性的干预孩子的思想、学习、工作、甚至是婚姻,他们从来不愿意用心读懂孩子的想法,不懂的尊重孩子的决定,他们的潜意识一直认为他们可以支配孩子的一切!可悲的是,这样的思想还会一代一代的传承下去。。。

Parents are used to the idea of intervention with children, in their study, work, or even marriage. They never read their children's minds, or respect their children's decisions, they always think they can dominate everything about their children. Sadly, this kind of thinking will be passed down from generation to generation.

Another user stressed the dangerous quality most Chinese parents value in their children: 

中国孩子最坏的“优点”就是听话,上学听爸妈话、工作听爸妈话、找男朋友听爸妈话、结婚生孩子听爸妈话,爸妈们的最高褒奖就是“谁谁谁家孩子就是听话”。如果爸妈不在了,孩子们该听谁的话?“听话”就好比邪教思想,甚至更可怕。

Chinese children’s worst “advantage” is obedience, listening to parents at school, then work, then marriage. Parents’ highest praise is that “so and so’s child is obedient. “If parents are gone, who is there to listen to? “Obedient” is even more frightening than a cult.

One netizen saw hope in the younger generation:

由于父母所处的时代,他们的思想已经根深蒂固,可能很难改变,但愿我们为人父为人母的时候能避免重蹈覆辙,给孩子们一个自主自由发展的空间。

Perhaps it's difficult to change the way our parents think because of their experiences, but hopefully one day when we become parents, we will avoid the same mistakes and our children will enjoy more independence and freedom.

An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated the title of Amy Chua's 2011 book. The correct title is “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. Thanks to commenter joel_bee for the correction.

  • joel_bee

    the book is titled “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” was the catchy (and somehow misleading) title of Chua’s WSJ article.

  • Md Masud

    i also like this post link.Thanks a lot!

  • CurlingRiver

    We in the US went through this in the 1960′s, as our own Depression-starved and WWII-shocked parents couldn’t see things had changed. We are having the same debate today, as some people feel our liberation went too far. I don’t personally believe it did – I think we are much better off. We had a chance to build our own limitations from the inside, rather than having them imposed from outside. Best of luck to your own personal liberation!

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