Are Tiger Moms Raising Tiger Spouses? | Couple's Net | Chandrama Anderson | Almanac Online |

Local Blogs

Couple's Net

By Chandrama Anderson

E-mail Chandrama Anderson

About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

View all posts from Chandrama Anderson

Are Tiger Moms Raising Tiger Spouses?

Uploaded: Sep 8, 2016
Author Amy Chua is the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Note: I have not read her book). According to an article in Time magazine, “Chua's reports from the trenches of authoritarian parenthood are indeed disconcerting, even shocking, in their candid admission of maternal ruthlessness. Her book is a Mommie Dearest for the age of the memoir, when we tell tales on ourselves instead of our relatives . . . Though Chua was born and raised in the U.S., her invocation of what she describes as traditional ‘Chinese parenting’ . . . stories of never accepting a grade lower than an A, of insisting on hours of math and spelling drills and piano and violin practice each day (weekends and vacations included), of not allowing playdates or sleepovers or television or computer games or even school plays . . .”

I’ve talked to friends who were raised by Tiger moms, and “authoritarian” often included being hit, pinched, and belittled, with little to no emotional support or even recognition that the child had feelings or something to say.

I’ve seen many clients who were raised by Tiger moms/parents, and as I see them in a couples setting, I’m starting to wonder if this style of parenting is resulting in Tiger spouses? It wouldn’t be surprising; many of you parent in ways you were parented – no matter what cultural background you come from – and unless you make a decision and an ongoing concerted effort to parent differently than you were raised, the chances are very high of repeating patterns.

So now you’re grown up, and have a special person in your life – a spouse, a committed partner. Are you behaving in an authoritarian manner? Are you treating your partner as though anything less than an “A” in relationship is unacceptable? Do you hit your partner – verbally? Do you belittle her? Do you undermine him? Do you threaten if your needs are not met (e.g., divorce, or by spending your time with others and not as a couple, or by lack of respect and care)? Do you get defensive? Do you shut her out? Do you roll your eyes and show contempt when he talks? Do you work much of the time and not connect emotionally? Do you know how to connect emotionally? How is your sex life?

Are you happy? Is your partner happy? I don’t have the answer for you. But I am asking the questions. If you want a happy marriage, are you willing to look at your way in the world and in your relationship? Are you willing to change?

Couples of all backgrounds deal with issues of happiness, and could benefit from looking into their upbringing to understand current behavior (not to blame parents).

Look at your relationship, think about the Tiger Mom phenomenon and consider where you are the spectrum. Please don’t take offense and think I am being hard on Asian culture. I am sharing what I‘m noticing. Now it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.

What is it worth to you?


Posted by Asian-American Dude, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 8, 2016 at 9:41 pm

Asian-American Dude is a registered user.

My wife and I grew up with 1st generation, high-achieving Asian parents. But we were born and raised in the US, so we're totally different from them. We actively work on our marriage, connect emotionally/physically everyday, and sex life is good.

I think the bigger threat to marriages that we should discuss is helicopter parenting. Excessive amounts of anxious energy directed towards one's kids leaves little left in the tank for one's marriage. Do this for 20+ years and you end up with not only an empty nest, but also an empty marriage. Let's raise adults (per Julie Lythcott-Haims book) and prioritize our marriages over our kids more often.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 9:17 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Asian-American Dude, thanks for your thoughtful post. I hope there are many more of you out there who "actively work on our marriage, connect emotionally/physically everyday, and sex life is good." Curious about your in-law and parent relationships since you have not followed their lead?

Posted by Asian-American Dude, a resident of Barron Park,
on Sep 9, 2016 at 11:20 am

Asian-American Dude is a registered user.

Our parent and in-law relationships are pretty good.
We know they will probably never fully understand us and we do things differently, but we can agree to disagree without everyone going crazy.
We see them fairly often and our kids enjoy being with them (and vice-versa).

Posted by Sandra, a resident of Southgate,
on Sep 10, 2016 at 3:50 pm


My mother was a "tiger mom". She was always on me, and my brothers, to do as well as possible and then to make a stretch and do even better, no excuses. At times, I resented it. My father was more passive, because he was a WWII combat vet, and he had seen enough of the world to be happy to live another day, and enjoy it. There were problems, but it worked in the end. I was a successful career woman with three kids, and my brothers were very accomplished. We are all musically talented (vocal for me, and instrumental for my brothers. We are all married, reasonably happily, and quite content. I credit my mother for this, even though my early love was more for my father.

I would write more, but the floor needs to be cleaned, and that's what I also do. BTW, I am an American white woman, so that you won't claim that "Tiger moms" are only Asians. And I am a current tiger mom. And I hope that my kids will be tiger parents.

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 12, 2016 at 9:19 am

It's clear from the discussion above that people's opinions on these issues are intertwined with how they define all these stereotype terms: tiger parent, helicopter parent, etc. it does seem to me that some people are differentiating the high standards and what might be called parental "tough love" from just old-fashioned abuse but you are including them as the same in your definition.

The same kinds of discussions around helicopter parents happen because it's not exactly a technical term. This recent Washington Post article (No Helicopter Parents Aren't Ruining Kids After All) probably says it best:
"Even academic articles on the subject tend to offer generalizations drawn from popular media coverage — coverage that, in turn, relies mostly on anecdotes. When you track down hard data, however, the results contrast sharply with the conventional wisdom."
Web Link">Web Link

From what I can see, the helicopter parent term and even tiger parent, at least for k-12, gets used most frequently as a kind of neologistic kryptonite against parents in the perennial power tension between parents and schools, since the terms overbearing mom, hysterical mother, refrigerator mom, etc, (and let's face it, the target is still more often moms) have been too tinged by misogyny of the past to continue to be wielded as powerfully.

The intent is good here, but are we all in such a discussion inadvertently doing the same thing? Generalizing from generalizations based on anecdotes? Spousal verbal and emotional abuse is already a real and well-studied thing. Is overlaying this kind of sloppy generalization likely to help or likely just to inflame people already prone to overgeneralizing poorly founded judgmental pronouncements against other parents and now spouses?

Interesting comments above that seem to refute the initial premise. However, the difference likely comes down to how everyone is defining the terms, not that you haven't made a potentially interesting connection or new topic of discussion (which I hope you are open to being right OR wrong about). You seem to be saying that certain kinds of behavior (unfortunately not precisely defined) might be associated with abusive behavior. But, there are all kinds of leaps you are making, none of which have any research basis. It doesn't mean you are wrong, but I wonder if this is an appropriate way to frame such a discussion? You have drawn a line right from this nebulous "tiger parent" description to abusive personality, which is a pretty big leap (if the very different definitions of even posters above are any indication), but unfortunately one the public is only too happy to usually make without any substantiation because these new terms too often are just used as blanket condemnation of others and schadenfreude (especially cloaked in self-righteousness) is just so irresistible.

My concern is that overgeneralizations tend to lead to energetic collateral damage, and less to solving any real issues at hand, which seem to come down, at least in your post, to ordinary spousal abuse. There, I'm not sure that dealing with the issue in such a vague and indirect way is that helpful, and might be harmful in the same ways that overgeneralizing about tiger and helicopter parents gets misused.

Web Link">Web Link

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 12, 2016 at 9:39 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Sandra and Clarity, Thanks for chiming in on the topic. I am certainly open to a broad discussion. In large part, what I'm seeing are extremely high expectations played out in ways that don't honor each other. And then getting angry and verbally aggressive when they are not met. Withholding, being defensive, shutting the other out, showing contempt. There is no research for the idea I raised, that I know of. I'm merely asking the question in the hopes it will be considered, and if needed, action taken to improve your relationship.

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 12, 2016 at 11:28 pm

The trouble with raising the question this way, is that no one thinks of themselves as a tiger or helicopter parent, unless the way they define it - which varies from person to person - is positive to begin with. The labels tend to be pejoratives people (with no small amount if self-righteousness) use to label others. Like I said, where I most see it is as a bludgeon against parents in the usual school power struggles.

Since it is so nebulously defined, and since people don't self identify when the negatives are most apt, perhaps a better way is the most direct way. If you think certain personal traits lead to negative spousal treatment or abuse, why not just say it clearly? It's hard enough to get the msg across being direct in life.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 13, 2016 at 10:20 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Clarity, I see that my previous answer didn't satisfy you. You wrote: "If you think certain personal traits lead to negative spousal treatment or abuse, why not just say it clearly?" I don't think it's cut and dry -- some people go through very difficult childhoods and work hard to overcome them and are great, supportive spouses. Others do not overcome them so easily, and behaviors 'leak out' from the unconscious. All of us came from a family, and your family's behavior seemed "normal" because it's familiar, what you know. Whether or not it was healthy is another question. And whether it works with your current partner is a further question. My goal here is for people to think about their relationship and decide if they want to improve it. As a therapist, I don't tell people their traits are problematic, and I don't believe that, either. I try to help them shine light into the shadows of themselves so they can decide what serves them now and toward where they want to go. For example, being judgmental is often seen as a bad trait; but it is on the spectrum of being discerning, which is a 'good' trait. Judgement is necessary in aspects of life, and you may judge that a person is being treated poorly or unfairly and choose to help. These traits all have a place -- it's a matter of when, where, and the volume in which you use them. I hope this helps clarify it for you.

Posted by Oh yah, without a doubt, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Sep 13, 2016 at 2:03 pm

I've seen some women really lambasting and brow beating their husbands in public. I can't understand the words, but the tone is clear as he just keeps his head down, taking the abuse. I just want to tell the guy to "Run! start a new life with a sane person. This woman is HORRIBLE!" but I never do. Maybe he's into it.

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 17, 2016 at 4:46 am

@Oh Yah,
Yes, because people are always perfect and have no bad moments ever except when that's the sum total of who they are. (Not) i escaped the South to get away from that kind if hyperjudgmentalism.

I highly recommend that you listen to Monica Lewinsky's Ted Talk on modern day shaming, and how people's whole lives get wrecked by public judging or misjudging of a single glimpse.

One reason I think people love It's a Wonderful Life is that Jimmy Stewart's nice guy character expresses a lot of real emotion, anger, jealousy, regret - he yells at his kids out of his own fear in a truly frightening moment in their lives that he can't even tell them about, and his wife tells him to get out. Imagine the story happening today - it would be a tragedy not a happy ending. There is no room for redemption when people are branded by small, low moments and two-dimensional stereotypes. Telling his kid's teacher off like that in a low moment would get him drawn and quartered today, I guess, because he would be branded a Tiger Parent or worse?

I have no problem with what you just said. My issue is with the problematic use of stereotypes with shifting definitions to have the conversation. People are talking about very different things above, as they do anytime "tiger parenting" or similarly "helicopter parenting" etc comes up.. When that happens, people start talking past each other. Say what you just did, that was excellent. My request is to leave the faddish and vaguly defined labels out of it.

Posted by Wife and mother, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Sep 18, 2016 at 5:44 pm

I'm not so sure about real life, but I definitely see something quite disturbing in the way marriages are portrayed on tv and particularly in commercials. It used to be the wife was the home goddess and when husband/father came home the place was calm and the family were ready with the pipe, slippers and newspapers. Somewhere along the line the household became a bit more muddled but happiness prevailed. But, today it seems that the wife/mother is now the champion, the intelligent, sensible partner while the husband is little more than a grown up kid who needs to be chided like a child or explained in simple language how to make a wise choice about whatever it is the commercial is pitching.

I don't think either image is right for the 21st century, but I definitely do not approve of the downplaying of the male role in the home. As a mother of both boys and a girl, I don't like to see this role reversal technique in advertising. I want my boys to be strong men, able to make the decisions in life without feeling inadequate and I want my girl to feel her husband is not just another child she has to raise and but superior to. I am not sure how we got to this situation, but some of the husbands I see on tv sitcoms and commercials make me want to scream at the women asking them why on earth they married someone as weak as the men or portrayed and ask the men why on earth they were attracted to someone who obviously had little respect for them.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 18, 2016 at 8:59 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Wife and Mother, Thanks for sharing your views on this. Glad to hear you are putting your views into the real world with your own children. I don't think most women want a man who is a grown up child. And it can be complicated because we don't know the dynamic in any given relationship. Maybe she treats him that way and over time he acts that way. Maybe he is that way and doesn't truly want to mature. There's a term for that from Jungian psychology, Puer, meaning the eternal boy who doesn't want to grow up. Taking the time to be sure of the person you're marrying is critical. That's why I think premarital counseling is so valuable.

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 20, 2016 at 8:41 am

@Wife and Mother,
Exactly! Have you noticed the same exact thing has happened with children's literature? Raising a boy, I have had to quiz librarians and scour lists trying to find hero boys who are not just screw ups who accidentally do good, while the girls are the wise ones. The pendulum has swng way to the other aide, from when Pippy Longstocking was the only independent girl in children's lit.

There are some very frightening statistics about uneven outcomes in education now, as girls are achieving at that level in much greater ways and numbers. We are leaving our boys behind in an attempt to right an adult societal imbalance. I would love to see your take on that topic, Chandrama, and how it affects young couples, especially that women are now so much more represented on many college campuses.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 20, 2016 at 1:32 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Clarity,
Data shows that little has changed for boys/girls in education in the last 100 years. See:

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 21, 2016 at 1:06 pm

That's not what your link showed. Your post didn't address the uneven outcomes issue that I brought up - what you posted was a 2014 magazine article with a very narrow look at limited data with sweeping conclusions, yet doesn't look at the outcome or emotional health issues at all - if you aren't interested and have a perspective based on very little information, why not just say so? It is also valid to have a perspective based on a little bit if data and a lot if personal experience, that contradicts the consensus, but it's usually good practice to be clear about that. It does not diminish my respect for you on the topics you do write expertly about.

The fact is, women are going to college at a disproportionately higher rate than men now, and that imbalance is relatively new and growing. Boys are also more likely to experience environments unsuited to their learning styles, more likely to have discipline problems, etc. The effect of bad schools has been shown to be worse for boys, see below. The magazine article you posted is almost irrelevant to this point.

I consider you normally to take a more reasoned and open approach. Here is a Pew Research publication on the issue, one of many discussing the trend in uneven gender educational outcomes - college attendance and graduation. OK, you perhaps aren't interested in the issue, but readers should know that there is growing reason for concern, and your magazine article did not address that. Women college enrollment gains leave men behind
Web Link

Here is also a very recent [2016] Washington Post article that cites more recent research - and discusses the ways we are failing boys (including the narrow data you provided, not disputing it):
Web Link
"Now, in a new paper released Monday [2016], the economists [from MIT, Northwestern, and U of Fla] have found additional evidence that bad schools exacerbate the differences in academic achievement between boys and girls. "
"This just adds to the overall panoply of evidence that disadvantageous childhood conditions are particularly pernicious for boys,.."

It's not something inherent and immutable, as your article implies. Solving sexism in the workplace will not happen by studiously ignoring what is happening with boys and shorting their educational and emotional needs. I suffered from sexism as a woman in a STEM field but that does not make me want to ignore what us happening with boys. Social injustice is never solved by more social injustice.

More to the point here - you are ordinarily more direct and clear than this! I hope you take the feedback in the spirit it is intended, because I respect and benefit from your blog.

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 21, 2016 at 1:19 pm

This is wikipedia, but there is a citation:

"Many parents who home school their children observe that there is a smaller gender divide in academic test results. One study by the HSLDA revealed homeschooled boys (87th percentile) and girls (88th percentile) scored equally well. "
Web Link

Point is, even the study you cited my simply represent an even longerstanding unaddressed educational bias against boys in educational systems. It's not like our model of education has changed much in 100 years - but has for homeschoolers, where there is no appreciable divide.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Almanac Online blogger,
on Sep 21, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Clarity,
Sounds like you spend a lot of time thinking about education (which is not my area of focus). Thanks for sharing further information. When I see clients, I address the issues they bring to the room. Emotional issues are from earliest childhood, through school, into adulthood, and relationships all along the way.

Posted by Clarity, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Sep 21, 2016 at 2:32 pm

I guess what I was wondering (taking my own advice to be more clear) - With young women becoming disproportionately more educated, while traditional jobs not requiring education disappearing, is this affecting the problems people present, or is that not necessarily something we would see in this area?

Follow this blogger.
Sign up to be notified of new posts by this blogger.



Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Stay informed.

Get the day's top headlines from Almanac Online sent to your inbox in the Express newsletter.

Which homes should lose gas service first?
By Sherry Listgarten | 5 comments | 20,653 views

Boichik Bagels is opening its newest – and largest – location in Santa Clara this week
By The Peninsula Foodist | 0 comments | 2,728 views

I Do I Don't: How to build a better marriage Page 15
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,391 views

By Laura Stec | 14 comments | 1,272 views


Support local families in need

Your contribution to the Holiday Fund will go directly to nonprofits supporting local families and children in need. Last year, Almanac readers and foundations contributed over $300,000.