Book Review of Beyond The Tiger Mom

A Look at How Asian and American Parenting Affects School Success

follow up to Battle Hymn of Tiger Mother
Cover of "Beyond The Tiger Mom". Tuttle Publishing

It often seems like everyone has advice for today's parents on what is best for a child's education. There is a lot of advice and different sources often contradict one another. Two groups that often appear to take different approaches to education and how parents should support their children's education are Western (European and North American) and Eastern (Asian) styles of education.

Both systems can claim success in different areas.

  • Some Asian countries have made tremendous progress by claiming the top spots in international test scores in math and science.
  • Western schools have strived to encourage creative and innovative thinking, which has lead to a culture with a strong literary arts system and cutting-edge development.

About the Book

The 2016 released book "Beyond The Tiger Mom: East-West Parenting for the Global Edge" (Tuttle Publishing) by author Maya Thiagarajan, explores the ways that both cultures approach parenting school children.

Author Thiagarajan attended schools in her native India and in the U.S. and has taught in the U.S. and Singapore. She is also a parent of school children herself. Her diverse background led her to compare and contrast the various approaches between the two cultures to see what works as well as where and why it works.

The book is broken into different chapters that compare Western and Eastern parenting on a given topic.

Each chapter begins by describing which group seems to be more measurably successful in the topic, then moves to:

  • How parents in each culture approach the topic in the home.
  • How it is taught in the schools.
  • How the overall cultural attitude relates to the topic.
  • What educational research says about how to approach the topic.
  • Ends with a summary of actionable tips that parents can choose from to enhance their child's education for the given topic.

The chapters cover math, reading, exam skills, balancing work and play, dealing with failure and cultural markers towards family and education.

Benefits of "Beyond The Tiger Mom"

This book covers a tremendous amount of information. Author Thiagarajan covers the major subjects of a child's education with her own diverse cultural background and then goes even further by including discussion points gleaned from diverse mothers living in Singapore.  

Singapore is a modern cultural melting pot with families from all over the East while remaining heavily influenced by the West.

We read frank comments from these mothers who have strong opinions on how to support their children's education, while still having doubts over what may really matter in the long run. These anecdotes are compared to experiences in American schools. 

The book doesn't take a solid side in saying that one system is clearly better than the other.

Rather, the author shows that each system has areas where it performs well and other areas that could be improved. 

The diverse viewpoints that are combined with a discussion of research and actionable tips are really where this book shines. A parent from either culture can read through this book to reflect on what they are doing that is working and what other parents are doing that they may want to try. There is no single prescription offered. A parent can read this book to get a different viewpoint and then take what would work best for their own family.

The chapters covering the importance of work and play balance can be of particular use for today's busy parents. Children in both cultures are struggling to get enough quality play time and the results are a decline in physical and mental health. The author discusses how tired her Eastern students are with their long hours of studying and compares that to the busy American students who are scheduled heavily with sports and other extracurricular activities.

Drawbacks of "Beyond The Tiger Mom"

The book focuses on upper-middle class families that have the resources available to provide extra tutoring and long, involved hours from mothers who can heavily monitor their child's education. Some of the eastern mothers interviewed for the book actually took a year or more off of work to help their children study for a high-stake exam that would determine what schools their children could go to. 

Many modern families have two working parents or only one parent who does not have the time or money available to support their child's education to the level of the parents profiled in this book. While the actionable suggestions can be modified by busy parents, the modifications are not included in the book.

The other potential drawback is a result of how fast some educational practices are changing in American classrooms.

The book was released in 2016 and a few details about how math is being taught with a strong emphasis on understanding and little to no emphasis on memorizing facts already dated.  The adjustment process the nation is undergoing with Common Core State Standards and other rigorous standards has already begun to mellow back to include more memorization of important facts than mentioned by the book. The same could be said about grammar and punctuation.

Who Would Benefit From "Beyond The Tiger Mom"

Parents from either culture who grapple with what the best way to support their child's education at home would gain much to think about from reading this book. The book includes very little discussion specific to parents of children with learning disabilities or other learning differences, so parents with very specific issues will find only general advice. 

The suggestions given in the book are considered the best research-based practices that parents can use. For example, the chapter on math skills suggests several different math games that parents can play with their children to develop stronger numeracy skills. The final chapter suggests specific books to encourage a deeper understanding of Eastern and Western cultural values.

A book sample was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

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