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Thoughts From a Former Tiger Mom

Dear Dr. Kim,

This is out of character for me but I feel compelled to write to you so I'm letting down my guard and following my heart.

I have much to be thankful for. I had responsible parents who took care of all my essential needs growing up. Being immigrants from China, they didn't believe in brand names and luxuries. They were all about buying only bare bones necessities and saving the rest for the future, including my university education. What my parents lacked in warmth they compensated for in making sure I was never going to be hungry or homeless.

I met my husband when we were in university. We both went on to get graduate degrees, me a masters and my husband an MBA. To make a long story short, my husband has done really well in finance and with his full support and encouragement, I decided to be a stay at home mom from the time our children were born.

Around the time our children entered middle school, I couldn't deny that my relationships with them were deteriorating. I worried and still worry that they'll grow up entitled and won't have the work ethic to make something of themselves. Without realizing it, I was raising them with the mindset of a tiger mom ala Angela Duckworth. The problem was that I could tell that our children were closing themselves off and no longer being open and honest with me. It took me a while but I realized they were probably feeling about me what I feel about my own parents: that it's better not to talk too much because it will probably lead to more lecturing.

It was one of your newsletters or maybe one of your instagram posts that was a turning point for me. You quoted Dr. Shefali and wrote about how the best thing we can do as parents is to become more whole ourselves. You opened my mind and heart to the possibility that my parenting style and mindset were more about taking care of my needs than about supporting our children.

I won't lie, it was really uncomfortable and even painful for me to honestly unfold all of my own issues that were the driving forces to my tiger mom approach. Through introspection and counseling, I realized that at the heart of it, I was feeling like I haven't accomplished anything on my own. I know some friends and relatives whisper about me being a princess, not having to work because my husband does so well, how I'm doing yoga and having coffee dates while they are working. I do a lot to take care of our home and to raise our children, but the whispers had caused me to view our children as validation for my existence. I didn't want to admit it but I realized that how our children turn out, what schools they go to, what careers they have, I was looking at these things as indicators for how I am doing in life. The fighter in me was thinking: all of you can be jealous of me but my children are going to be far more successful than yours.

I never would have considered it before, but my children had become trophy kids to me, here to show everyone that I am working hard to be a great mom and make sure that my children are successful.

I have since realized that I am a better mom to our children and feel closer to them when I am not consumed by how they are doing in school. Every day, I remind myself to think more about their emotional well-being than their grades, what schools they will go to, and what their career paths will be. To this end, I've also realized that it helps a lot to limit my contact with other parents who have a tiger mom mentality, and as I think you know, there are many among second generation Asians.

Whenever you share something on parenting or quote Dr. Shefali, I feel encouraged and more centered. You have become a source of support in my quest to be a better parent Dr. Kim. Thank you for sharing as openly as you do. You should how much you have meant to my family and I'm sure to many others. Keep up the inspired work!

Gratefully yours,

Jenny C.


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I agree with Jenny. Whenever dr. Kim posts quotes from dr. Shefali, or thoughts on parenting, I am inspired and motivated in the best ways to be a better person and parent. thank you

Please share the Dr Shefali quote. I am a parent adult children but it is becoming more apparent to me , through family and neighbours , that my children will most likely find me burdensome as I age. It is making me feel that I need to plan for my long term care. And quite frankly feeling depressed that it won’t matter what or how much you do for your kids this will probably be the case.

Along with Dr Shefali books, I also highly recommend books for those who have children: "Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids" by Dr Laura Markham, "Hold On To Your Kids" by Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D. As for becoming whole, to me, "Inner Bonding" by Margaret Paul Ph.D. and her courses have been a true blessing.