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BN Hot Topic: Mothering at its Best? The Battle of the Tiger Mum!



Which African child doesn’t have a story or two to tell about their mother’s strict ‘no nonsense’ attitude? Who didn’t receive those well planted knocks on the head or had an instant feeling of dread seep into their stomach at the loud screeching of their mother’s voice? African mothers! We love and celebrate them!

Truth is there is no school that teaches women how to be ‘good’ mothers and with the effects of globalization becoming more prominent, we now see first hand how different cultures reflect different parenting styles. Recently, various news and social media have been set alight by Amy Chua’s recent book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mum”.

The book which essentially is Chua’s biography contains several references to her strict traditional Chinese parenting style. In her article titled “Why Chinese Mums are Superior” published in the Wall Street Journal, Chua lists a set of rules which she enforced on her children. According to her, her 2 children where NOT allowed to;

  • attend a sleepover
  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • watch TV or play computer games
  • choose their own extracurricular activities
  • get any grade less than an A
  • not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin.

While Chua’s book and strict mothering rules has attracted great criticism in the West, we in Africa are no strangers to the harsh realities of ‘strict’ parental guidance. I remember when I was growing up, one of our family friends, who was a single mother, never needed any excuse to beat her child. It was almost like a daily habit. If she didn’t eat properly with her knife and fork she would get flogged, if she didn’t wash the car early enough another flogging would ensue. Even her visiting uncle would contribute to the regular  flogging process. While my mother never hesitated to put me right when ever I was going astray, I did find our family friends parenting techniques a bit harsh and more akin to the days of slavery!

So when does parenting become too much? Are all forms of discipline good for a child, after all the poplar saying does say ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’! Does the Tiger Mum have a point? Are we in our bid to adopt more flexible ways of parenting becoming lax and thus producing children who lack disipline and are therefore unable to excel in their chosen fields?

Or is ‘strict’ discipline over rated? Does it do the younger generation more harm than good? Should we adopt a more flexible posture were we allow our children to express themselves and perhaps use more conventional methods of parenting? Will this produce more socially adjusted and confident children?

Let’s discuss!

Photo Credit:

Glory is the host and executive producer of Inspire Series, the web talk show which uses the collective stories of everyday women to inspire others. She believes women are more than hand bags, hair, make-up and other externalities and is passionate about about pursuing purpose and living above societal conformities. She is also a day dreamer, and romantic at heart who loves TV, food and family. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @inspiredbyglory and read more from her on


  1. Karimah

    January 31, 2011 at 10:48 am

    Chineke… Really??? Those rules are harsh o.. kilode… agreed parents differ but these mahd rules doesn’t make the child better o… while mumsie would flog us with anything she saw (till popsie asked her not 2 kill his children), she never stopped us from attending programs in skol. she would even buy us wat 2 wear. enuff activities… and nobody forced anybody 2 come 1st in class… No TV ke? no extra-curricular??? I woulda died… btw, one of us did graduate with a 1st class o… as against some families i know whose children went to skol and from skol, lessons till 10pm…. then skol d following day… lessons during the holidays (mehn, life was hard for them)… anyways, guess every parent has their own idea of wat discipline should b… i remember watching once some 10 years back a woman who also said she didn’t allow her children 2 watch TV, play games or get involved in other school activities… but how would d children b balanced in life???

  2. Karimah

    January 31, 2011 at 10:52 am

    and i don’t support being strict (which is relative depending on the parents)… you can be firm yes… but strict??? popsie was firm… mumsie was bordering on strictness and firmness till she saw dat we would rather go talk 2 popsie than come meet her…. and i know a thousand (exaggerating) families who had strict parents and turned out d other way…. in Africa, being strict tends 2 bring out the rebels in the children cuz either dey start 2 show u now or d slightest opportunity dey have… say when they go 2 uni or leave d house, dey become somefin else…

  3. Ready

    January 31, 2011 at 11:44 am

    See Glory trying to avoid the issue of the third instalment of Kidnapped. Let’s talk Glory…what’s the P? What’s the deal? Wharido? Wetin dey shele? There will be a Part 3, right?

  4. D.O.T.M.H

    January 31, 2011 at 11:57 am

    There’s another part in Proverbs that says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child. But the rod of discipline drives it far from him”. I guess all children need to be disciplined in one way or the other but that power should not be abused by the parent.

  5. D.O.T.M.H

    January 31, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    p.s- how far with the “exclusive” pictures of Dakore and Olumide’s wedding? You promised.

    • BC

      January 31, 2011 at 2:57 pm

      Smiling. I thought about that last night.

    • Ready

      January 31, 2011 at 8:24 pm

      I’ve thought about that a lot. BN better do a fantabulous thoroughly detailed presentation.

  6. RMG

    January 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I don’t believe in setting so strict rules and restricting a child so much(like watching TV- instead,certain programs should be restricted,forcing the child to aquire some specific skills,e.t.c) ..I also don’t believe in “child dailogue” now when i say child,i’m referring to anyone below the age of 5. At that early stage,they know little or nothing about being disciplined and just want to do whatever their mind(s) so deem fit. Being so strict probably does more harm than good because at the slightest opportunity of freedom(in the absence of the strict parent(s),the child breaks loose.

  7. Temiloluwa Adebayo

    January 31, 2011 at 12:27 pm

    LOL @ those rules. Although to be honest, I had a few if my own share of extra strict rules too. I hated them then but now I think they are part of what made me who I am today. So in the end, I think it s all good mehn. I think I might be a relatively firm parent too, lol

  8. Hali

    January 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    I thank the good Lord every single day for my Tiger Mum upbringing, well the African version anyway, although I played the violin from ages 12-14…

    Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that kind of upbringing makes you jaded, with a been there done that, got t-shirts attitude. You get to a stage where nothing moves you.

  9. Ib

    January 31, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Do everything in moderation.Those (her) rules are beyond strict,even from a chinese perspective…i would know cos i have chinese friends.
    Anyway as for expressing themselves,my parents allowed me to but not to the extent where id say “Get out “!”I hate u”!”I dont want to talk to u” typing it gives me the shivers..However,i think as parents we have to be firm with our kids…we are their parents not their friends..Children these days have it TOO easy if u ask me.a spank here and there never killed anyone,besides..kneeling down is another efficient way.Remember,DO EVERYTHING IN MODERATION..

  10. Uchechi

    January 31, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Do what works for you and your offsprings, one doesn’t have to follow certain laid down rules.

  11. Chipii

    January 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    This CHua woman’s parenting skills are quite harsh. But I do still believe in the “Spare the rod and and spoil the child” adage. I have seen the effects of ignoring this adage-and also the Bible’s advice regarding the discipline of a child, in my own home. My lil sister has been terribly spoilt by step-mum and frankly, it is sad! I don’t like excessive beating and instilling of fear in children but beating and verbal correction are very much needed in the upbringing of a child.

  12. fokasibe

    January 31, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    I like strict, but this here is too much joor! No sleepovers/playdates? No geting B’s, C’s? No watching TV? No choosing their own extracurricular activities?

    May I ask this control-freak mom when her kids actually get a life??

    • fokasibe

      January 31, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      Besides when her kids fail/fall, they will fall hard!!! Nonsense! She should teach them about LIFE!!

    • butterfly

      February 24, 2011 at 11:14 am


  13. Chichi.

    January 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    The key word here is GLOBALISATION! Because we are now exposed to a variety of parenting skills we find fault in the way we are being raised. Whereas our mothers never compared how they were raised to the next person, so to date still believe that being a tiger mum it the way!! I support discipline (certain ways), but not abuse or intimidation. Most African mamas intimidate their kids. One can set boundaries for their child, but they need to know when to loosen the rope a bit. Sometimes these acts of discipline causes a child to lack confidence or have low self esteem. On the other hand it can drive them MAD!! AS in every given opportunity, they will show you PEPPER!! Im 19 going on 20……to mumsie, im 9months going on 2yrs!! They is no chance for me to grow up or be my own woman!! Although she has raised me well, she has pushed me away! And that is something African mothers should be aware of. Discipline is good, but be careful….you dont want to have raised a good child, only to have them run away from you after years of hard labour!!!

    • Iceprincess

      January 31, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      hmmmm…aptly said.

    • Chipii

      February 1, 2011 at 2:24 am

      very very nice. i can relate to this.

  14. BC

    January 31, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    This White lady I know was saying how strict Chinese mothers were the other day. I thought she was exaggerating. Apparently not.My take is mothers should stay in the middle. I say not too far to the left and not too far to the right. Balance is the word. I think globalization has done more harm to African values than good. I can understand why the Chinese would not want their kids to be exposed to TV. I support the way children are disciplined back home. However, African parents need to keep the lines of communication with their children more open. The children should be treated more like adults as they grow and not spoken down to like the kids they are not. That is one problem with African parenting. We are socialized to think like kids for too long. Children should be given more room to be assertive and think for themselves instead of being told they are kids and should stay in their place. Give them wings to fly as they age and trust teach them how to stand up for themselves.

  15. SmartOne

    January 31, 2011 at 5:02 pm

    Tiger Mums?

    What happened to Lion Dads!?

  16. shayogirl

    January 31, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    The same teeth a dog uses to bite her puppies,
    she uses to draw them near…

  17. wellsaid

    January 31, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    The key word here is GLOBALISATION! Because we are now exposed to a variety of parenting skills we find fault in the way we are being raised. Whereas our mothers never compared how they were raised to the next person, so to date still believe that being a tiger mum it the way!! I support discipline (certain ways), but not abuse or intimidation. Most African mamas intimidate their kids. One can set boundaries for their child, but they need to know when to loosen the rope a bit. Sometimes these acts of discipline causes a child to lack confidence or have low self esteem. On the other hand it can drive them MAD!! AS in every given opportunity, they will show you PEPPER!! Im 19 going on 20……to mumsie, im 9months going on 2yrs!! They is no chance for me to grow up or be my own woman!! Although she has raised me well, she has pushed me away! And that is something African mothers should be aware of. Discipline is good, but be careful….you dont want to have raised a good child, only to have them run away from you after years of hard labour!!!

    Exactly! Very well said. I am a full grown adult and yet, my mother still wants to control me. I keep her at arms length as a result of that. I think that many African mothers are very abusive. I feel for them because many have pushed their children away unknowingly. They will definately see Nwiiii in old age.

  18. partyrider

    January 31, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    first of all those rules are really funny 😀
    my mum single handedly raised myself and my elder brother.and i can say there were never laid down rules,but we were surly taught wat was right and wrong. but some how which i truly cant tell,mum had a way of keeping us in check.we watched all the TV(gud stuff though)we could till it was 9pm and after assignments,went for weekends at family friends houses,extracurricular activities,basically we had a social life too.that been said we both stayed on top of our my whole life i can only remember one slap she gave me and i fell asleep but flogging? never on any of us.but that shouting that can raise down the roof,we had dat once in a while 🙂
    one thing i will always be grateful for,she made us believe in ourselves,she told us verbal and with all the things she provided.from choice of career to any other stuff,she made us make our decisions without forcing anything on us,she only made us see different sides of the coin when it was the last born,i will always be her baby even when i get married 😀 but she treats me not as dat 2months old but as a gal who is growing into a woman,and i appreciate it..
    people can say mum spoilt us from the way she brought us up; sorry to burst ur bubble,i cant say we d best children,but i can look at myself and my brother and thank God and mum for the kind of training and upbringing we got.

    my point here with this long story is that,different mums with different skills or styles of training,but wat i have realised is that the very hard and harsh way doesnt always do it,sometimes the kids turn out worse cos they are eager to break out from the “prison” of their homes and end up exploring everything,gud and bad.
    some mothers are abusive,esp verbally.the child ends up having low self esteem,plus they end up pushing the child away.

    how mum did it,i dont know but i will always be grateful;esp for the spiritual upbringing.she always says dat if she got the kind of spiritual upbringing she is giving us,she would have bin a better person 🙂

    ok dis part is extra gist dat am too excited dat i have to share.i got a lovely birthday gift from her;a little booklet “to my daughter with love”.the most sweetest words a mum can ever tell her daughter is written there 😉 i will be 20 in a few hours,and mum has made me who i am 2day.i love her die 😀

    • lizzy

      February 1, 2011 at 8:33 am

      Make sure you replicate and let her know how much you love her too, its easy to keep it all inside thinking the other party knows…..Rgds to her and Happy Birthday to you.

    • partyrider

      February 1, 2011 at 2:43 pm

      thank you 🙂
      mum will hear

  19. Tosin

    January 31, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I believe children should be raised with tender loving care. If you can’t do it, leave them where they are 🙂 Seriously though, those who want to be lions and tigers should just work as soldiers, or do something that requires their “skills”. They should not work as parents.

    Meanwhile, this Tiger mom needs a tranquilizer and a real vacation that includes a nice shag. That’s my judgement from being on the other side. Poor kid(s).

    • Nike

      May 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

      LOLOLOLOL @ the shag part. My thoughts exactly

  20. NNENNE

    February 1, 2011 at 5:15 am

    The issue of discipline is not one shoe size that fits all! Every family is special and should do what works for them.I never had sleep overs, late night parties, went on holidays to relations houses when I was growing up.But my mother encourage me to go out more becuase I was a “book warmer”, and stayed at home a lot.My mother although very strict was very loving and would always show you the reasons behind every rule that she made.Today where ever I am, the teachings that she imbibed in me still resonates.People from other cultures who know me even apreciate it.I will not trade my chilhood for anything in the world.Discipline and all!!

  21. shanday

    February 1, 2011 at 8:01 am

    I think the tiger mum’s approach is far too extreme. Depriving kids from all those activities isn’t going to make them more disciplined. Those kids will grow up to be caged individuals and any slight opportunity they have to get out of that caged lifestyle, they will take it. That’s why you see some students in boarding school being very rebellious because of the upbringing they have gotten. I believe that parents should learn how to do things in moderation. When a child errs, his parent should let him know the reason why he has been disciplined. The problem with most parents is that they feel that if something worked for me, it will work for my kids. As a parent, your responsibility is to know your kids. Some kids behave better when they are canned, while others behave worse. It’s all about knowing the form of discipline that will be best for your child.
    Some parents try to live through their children. Maybe, when they were in school, they used to get bad grades, and they don’t want their kids to follow their footsteps. This isn’t necessarily bad. It becomes bad when a child comes out with a B grade, and the parents do not even congratulate him rather they say things like ‘the person that got A doesn’t have two heads’. Parents need to encourage their kids. The reality is that every kid cannot be an efiko. Encourage your kids to do better lovingly and not harshly. Help your kids in developing their strengths and improving in their weaknesses. Kids should be allowed to join clubs and societies at school bases on their hobbies. They shouldn’t be forced to do what they don’t enjoy. So many children are in science classes, when they are actually supposed to be in commercial or arts class all because of their parents.

  22. Changing Faces

    February 1, 2011 at 6:22 pm

    Let’s not rush to judgment so fast… The Chinese culture is different from ours. The qusetion should be, how did the kids turn out? And setting strict boundaries doesn’t necessarily mean she pushed her kids away! If one of the results of the strict regime is a published author, I dare say she must have done something right!

  23. Oma

    February 2, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    Lol. This is a joke right? this is too much oh.its good to be disciplined with kids but not to this extent irrespective of culture.

  24. Abayomi

    February 3, 2011 at 12:04 am

    Parenting is a great issue that must be handled correctly so as to achieve the purpose for it. For someone like me, I had a disciplinarian as a father and a ‘compliance officer’ as a mother. She never pitch her tent with me whenever my dad is giving me the drills. Even when I run to her for safety/cover all she tells me is ‘it is good for you’ simply because she believed my dad must be right.

    Sincerely, it helped shaped me till the present day because before I do anything the first thought will be, can I boastful tell my parents that I did this thing. It’s simply a case of train your child so that he can give you rest.

    These days, with all the cry about civilisation, child abuse and all sorts, it wont just work any more. A not too rigid and not too flexible approach I think should do the magic.

    Even with all the beating that I got, I am grateful to God for both of them, they really are God sent to me and as such I did a write up to appreciate the role my mother played in my life while growing up on my blog.

  25. Timma

    February 3, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Hmmm!parenting issues! just like someone pointed out its not a one size fits all thing.Being a mother of 2 boys myself, I can say discipline is ver necessary but then abusing or intimidating a child should be out of it, so the tiger mum’s view is a bit on the extreme.There are somethings my first child would do and i would caution him but he would keep at it till my younger brother calls him to order( we recently lost his dad), that is not to say I spoil him though cos from time to time I have been forced to hit him on his bum, my point is our parents trained us well, they were strict with us and we turned out well, why do we want to be lax with our children and expect them to grow up and be better than us. Recently, we did a lot of travelling(my boys,3yrs and 3months and I), Am presently on my annual cum marternity leave and came across some kids and their mothers that had me appreciating the essence of really training a child right,we were @ a friend’s place for some days and her nephews 5yrs and 7 yrs also came around,and she had to scold them severely using my boy as an example cos thru out the period, they were very choosy of their food, prefered to watch T.V all day, sleep late and wake up late, my boy watched with them but he would get up by 8pm to go to bed and ate whatever i placed on the table as he had been trained by his Dad and I to eat without complaints what we his parents provided.My point is due to globalization, most of the trainings our parents gave to us, we now see as child abuse and try to relax forgetting that we are who and what we are today, thanks to God and our Parents upbringing!Any child that says because the mother is strict would grow up and forget about her is only digging his/her own grave cos no matter how free handed you are, your children would do same!Please, we are Africans let us train our children right before we start having cases of children arresting their parents cos they tried to instill discipline and respect on them.

  26. Chinyere

    February 8, 2011 at 2:19 am

    I read Chau’s article ‘Why Chinese mothers are superior’,and I thought that Amy reminded me of my own Nigerian mother.Who sets the standard for what is parenting too much? Is it because her methods dont suite mainstream White media?-please! Critics can say whatever they please but no one can deny that Chau’s daughter was playing the piano at Carnegie Hall at the age of 14 and is now applying to ivy league uni’s!There is no such thing as being too strict,even though I was raised in the states my mother never wavered from her strict ways and I am eternally grateful.Sure I didnt have HALF the priviledges as my American friends but her so called strict methods kept me out of trouble and made me the DISCIPLINED woman I am today.

  27. notmadblackwoman

    February 8, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Where discipline is key to proper upbringing, I think the objective should be to guide the child in sound decision-making. One that allows the child to experience and live appreciating every moment of his/her childhood rather than suck out the fun and deprive him/her of the thrills of childhood.
    Some that have experienced extreme discipline will have a better say on this.

  28. my day

    February 22, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    I don’t believe children should be made to see their parents as only their parents and not as their friends. i sure will spank mine when and if necessary. I have always been a ‘screamer’ and sure will scream when they make me do so, but ultimately i want children who would be able to tell mummy stuff about their lives that other children would only prefer to tell their friends. I always envied a friend of mine who said her mum was her best friend. She would share everything with her mum, even asked her mum after she met and dated this guy for about six months whether she thought it was time for her to have sex with this guy! I think her mum did a very good job with not just her but all her kids. They all think the world of her and all of them turned out good. No TV? No sleepovers? well…i grew up with pretty much the same rules and though they did help me turn out nice, i dont think my folks are happy that i dont call home or visit or share my life with them as they would have liked. We dont have anything to talk about and sometimes i feel they dont have any idea what i am or am not capable of. I dont want that with my children. I would be firm, no doubt but i will not drive them away.

  29. butterfly

    February 24, 2011 at 11:23 am

    i read a similar book by jan woo, the joy luck club. it was a really moving read about oriental and western traditions embedded in four maternal relationships. it was really moving, funny too.

  30. Serene

    February 24, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    The Tiger Mum rules are extremely controlling and speaks volumes about her as person. She even wrote about rejecting her children’s hand made cards if they did not meet her standards, obviously she wears the pants in the family. I grew up in a Nigerian house hold where strictness went hand in hand with love too. I believe in the adage “spare the rod and spoil the child” but I do not believe in intimidation and abuse of parental rights. I am not aiming at being my child’s buddy, I am the parent not when I am trying to raise them into good, upstanding citizens but I do want my child to grow up in an environment where s/he feels safe, loved, appreciated and respected. S/he will have boundaries, s/he will understand the consequences of crossing them. The Tiger Mum is lucky that her children were not the rebellious types because there are some children that will blow all those rules and give her a mother’s night mare but they are still young so who knows when the effect of her rules might show up. Her children might be brilliant but I wonder about their social skills too.

    Sha, to each his own…abi?

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