Truth be told: I am a tiger child

May 2, 2013 — by Devin Zhao

“Why did you make these simple mistakes? How are you going to improve next time?” my mom threateningly asked me while going over test scores, her every word nipping on my mind.

“Why did you make these simple mistakes? How are you going to improve next time?” my mom threateningly asked me while going over test scores, her every word nipping on my mind.

Meanwhile, I sat across from her, sweating up a storm and struggling to think of a mediocre excuse to relax the situation at hand.

“I’ll … try my best?” I answered, unconvincingly.

OK, so I’m probably exaggerating about sweating puddles on the floor, but you get the idea. This kind of “Tiger-interrogation” isn’t really a one-time thing for me.

My mom constantly reminds me that the effort I’m putting into school and extracurricular activities is not my best, and that I should always strive to be the top in all my classes. Of course, she doesn’t really say it that quietly.

I am supposed to put academics as first priority, so I sometimes decline to participate in community projects or to hang out with friends simply because I am “busy.”

I burn test instructions into my mind by writing them over and over as a punishment for not following them.

I am constantly being compared to other successful students.

From a first glance, my mom’s way of teaching would cause anyone experiencing it the first time to immediately hate her.  However, after living through it for — let’s see, 16 years — I  feel that my mom is just doing her best to make me successful, and I respect her for that.

My mom told me that when she was growing up in the Fujian Province in China, she lived in a household with little money, so she had to work hard to secure a better future. As a child, my mom had to keep up with her studies and was in  charge of her household since her parents were at work.

When she was 15, my mom was already off attending some of the best engineering colleges in China and later, Japan. By contrast, my household responsibility consists of becoming more responsible, and my most stressful educational venture was choosing classes for sophomore year.

Whenever I ask my mom for help when studying for a test, she could easily leave me hanging. Yet she stays up with me for however long it takes me to grasp a concept. I noticed that ever since I began asking my mom to help me study for upcoming tests, my grades improved dramatically.

Her reprimanding of my not following test instructions has helped me be more alert on tests, and to follow the instructions to the end. Her harsh punishments have forced me to work to not make the same mistake twice in order to avoid incurring the same punishment.

In the end, I think that my mom, with her unique style of teaching, has transformed me into a genius of hard work. What my mom has instilled is not the talent of actual genius, but the ability and determination to work hard to achieve my goals.

To be honest, I question whether or not it’s worth it at times. Why am I putting myself through all this stress and pain? No one else would be able to handle it.

And that’s what I realized — few others would be able to handle the kind of stress I’ve been put under. I don’t mean to sound cocky, but I truthfully doubt that many students could withstand my mom’s particular brand of tiger parenting.

Truly, if I’ve gained anything, it’s resilience. Resilience in the face of failure, resilience in the face of insurmountable tasks. And I wouldn’t want my mom to be any other way; after all, the only way to create real diamonds is through pressure, right? 

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