Both my wife and I were born in Malaysia. So by default we are Asians by heart. I immigrated to US 30 years ago and my wife has been a US citizen for more than 20 years. So, the big question is do we considered ourselves fully assimilated. The answer is definitely yes, with the exception of one when it comes to raising kids.
We continue to rely on what we learn from our parents when we were growing up. One of the family values that we instill on our kids is what it means by true Asian upbringing, and that is what most Americans call “tiger” value.
I think a lot of people misconstrued what it means to be “tiger” mom or dad. To me, “tiger” mom/dad means continue to expect the best from our kids and at the same time instill strong responsibility in their behavior. At times we consider ourselves very strict, but at the same time we allow our kids to have certain freedom. And at all times, we expect them to do “very” well at school but without sacrificing time to explore.
I consider myself very strict when it comes to achieving their (my kids) best in their education. As a “tiger” dad, I don’t think I will ever be satisfied with mediocre grades. There is considerable debate when it comes to pushing our children when it comes to education. Most Americans allow their children freedom to “explore” and getting As in class is a secondary objective. However, I believe in setting high expectations or our children will never strive to achieve that spot.
For example, most American families will celebrate their children’s grades when they improve from C to B. While at the same time saying B is good enough and A would even better. My family is the opposite. Instead of celebrating good grades, we will say great but “not good enough”. If my kids receive a B grade, instead of celebrating his achievement I would say what happened to getting A? Setting the bar higher and higher will allow our kids to jump higher and higher.
However, I would like to point out that we are not like most Asian families in Asia that getting bad grades equal to shamed for life. We push our kids but not to the level that they fall off the cliff. We have heard news where Asian students committed suicides because they did not receive the grades they were expecting and they feel they let their parents down.
Instead we try to encourage our kids by giving them examples of life where aiming high is extremely important. We all know doing well in school means better opportunities in the future. At their early age I told my kids that they don’t want to work in McDonald’s as a career because it is not the most lucrative work. Most employees are paid minimum wage and promotion within the fast food restaurant is far and between. And my son is learning first hand because he started working at Chik-fil-a as a part-time job during high school. He hates the job because it is tough and doesn’t pay well.
Another example that we constantly told our kids are our family and friends in Malaysia. My wife’s immediate family in Malaysia were never educated. To this day, they continue to struggle economically because they are constantly searching for the next “big” money making opportunities. On the other hand most of my childhood friends who went on to higher education in Malaysia are living more comfortably because they have more secured and higher paying jobs.
It is true that doing well at school does not guarantee a bright and better future. At least getting good grades will open more doors than having the doors slam on our kids faces. So being a “Tiger” mom or dad will ensure that the doors will open wider and close slower.