Stop Judging ‘Tiger Parents’ and Learn From Them

Fatherly's resident parenting expert talks about tiger moms, dog dads, and how to know when it's time to talk about your dad concerns.

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My kids and my wife ganged up on me to get a dog. My wife says it will be good for my 6-year-old son and his 9-year-old sister. She says it will teach them responsibility. But I’ve never been a dog person and frankly, I’m worried. What should I do?


Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Dogs are angels with paws and wagging tails, Kenneth. It concerns me that you’re even asking what you should do because the obvious answer is: Get the dog! Of course, I’m telling you this having just brought our first dog into the family, so I understand the hesitancy. Happily, I can speak to you from my very recent experience.

First off, your wife is right on one thing. The dog will be good for your kids, but mostly because they’re the right age for a dog. When kids are younger than 5-year-old, putting a dog in the mix can be dangerous. Particularly considering that most fatal dog attacks involve young children. Why? Because they don’t know how to deal with an animal that has sharp teeth and doesn’t like its penis tugged on. If there is a potential that could be a problem for your kids, despite them being older, then you should make sure that they have some safe, low-stakes exposure to well-trained dogs before you bring one into your own home.

But, your wife is also wrong on one thing: Having a dog does not teach a child responsibility. In fact, it’s unfair to make a dog’s care some kind of lesson. The kids might be excited from to pitch in in the beginning, but the novelty will likely wear off and picking up dog poop will become the chore it is. Your kids could resent you and resent the dog. You might resent the kids and the dog. The problem is that the dog is caught up in the middle here. So if you bring a dog into your home, do so with the understanding that everyone will be encouraged to pitch in. Do not think of the dog as a learning tool.

Before getting the dog (because let’s face it, you’re getting a dog), be sure to budget for costs like toys, treats, vet visits, and training. You may have thought that dogs only require kibble and water but there’s more to the cost of a dog’s care. The training will be particularly important, especially if you rescue a pooch from the local shelter. They don’t always have the best manners. Getting them trained up will make your life much easier and the dog’s life much happier.

The takeaway in all of this, of course, is … just get the dog. You’ll be glad you did. Send me some pictures.


Do tiger moms actually love their children? Is it out of love that they are so hard and overbearing with them to prepare them for a world? Will their child raise a child in the same way, or not have children because of the way their parents tigered them?


The Internet


This is an interesting question, Margi. And I’m going to assume you’re asking out of curiosity rather than rhetorical irony. Because the fact is there is much to be learned from so-called “tiger parenting.”

It’s important to note that the origin of the phrase comes from Amy Chua who published her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in 2011. In it, Chau, who happens to be a well-regarded Asian American author and Yale law professor, talked about her Chinese parent’s results-oriented parenting style and how it shaped her relationship with them, as well as her relationship with her own children.

At the heart of your question is this idea of parents showing love. It’s important to note that love is not shown the same way all over the world. In many European nations, love is firey and passionately expressed, even to children, who are doted upon with great affection. But there are exceptions. The British are famously reserved but considered no less loving, for instance. So why should the emotional distance of stereotypical Chinese parents suggest they love their children any less?

Many Asian cultures operate under the belief that the best way to show love for children is to sacrifice for them. In that way, Chinese parents leave it all on the field. They give everything to their children so that their children can succeed. That’s largely why they have such high expectations. While that’s not the norm for my culture here in the Midwestern United States, there’s no way I could possibly suggest that my way of parenting shows love better than a parent in Shanghai.

After all, I’m a pretty damn selfish parent. My kid would love to learn to play the ukulele but I don’t have near enough patience to make sure he learns to be the best ukulele player he can be. Is that really love?

As for whether or not tiger parenting is passed between generations, Chau herself provides an answer. That answer is: yes, but it is not inevitable. In her book, Chau eventually becomes disillusioned with the methods of Chinese parenting she adopted from her parents. When her own youngest daughter begins to have behavioral problems, she dials back the tiger parenting.

So it’s safe to say that parents, tiger or otherwise, will likely choose the path that works best for their kids. That does require being open and observant and changing when necessary. For some that might mean doing away with tiger mom tendencies. For others, it might mean adopting tiger mom tendencies. Whichever way a parent turns, we should all assume that they are parenting from a place of love, and offer the most support we possibly can.


My daughter was born premature and the doctors say she has jaundice. This is our first baby and I’m freaking out. But I don’t want to say that in front of my wife or the doctor. Will this turn out okay?


Ann Arbor, Michigan


Hey, Rajesh. Your enemy right now is named bilirubin. That’s the yellowish substance in your child’s bloodstream causing jaundice. It’s happening because your kid’s liver is having a hard time breaking the stuff down, most likely because it is not yet fully formed.

I hope you’ll find comfort in knowing that almost half of the babies born in the United States suffer from jaundice as newborns. And it’s easily treated, with few complications. The main course of action is to expose your kid to sunlight, which can help break the bilirubin down. For many parents, placing their kid in a sunny window for 10 minutes at a time just might solve the issue. But other kids may need what’s called phototherapy.

Phototherapy treatment applies sci-fi looking lighted blankets which do the work of the sun. Those treatments can occur at home or in the hospital.

Importantly, you don’t need to freak out. And you shouldn’t hesitate to bring up your concerns with your pediatrician or your wife. It’s totally okay to be frightened. Parenting is honestly frightening sometimes. But fear is a good thing when it helps us focus and ask good questions of people who can help our children.

You’re going to be at this for a long time, Rajesh. You should get in the habit of talking about how you feel with the important people in you and your kid’s life. It will be valuable for both of you in the long run.