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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

The Power of 'Tiger Mothers'

Published February 11, 2011 6:13 PM by Glen McDaniel

Talk shows have been abuzz about writer Amy Chua’s recent essay in the Wall Street Journal on “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior.” Those who read her companion book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” were especially appalled about the screaming, control and insults used by Chua to raise her daughters Sophia and Lua.

Some psychologists say the constant emphasis on work and unquestioning response to directions border on child abuse. Chua counters that she is proud of the current success of her daughters and point to the fact that China surpasses America in many areas of academic performance and productivity. Would we as a society be better off if we adopted the Chinese style of parenting as Chua suggests?

While that thesis is open to debate, it bears consideration that some work attitudes and practices typical of Chinese culture and parenting might be useful at work.

Team work: The overall success of the team is more important than individual success. Personal ambition and interests should sometimes be subjugated for the good of the many.

Practice: Repeat an activity until it becomes second nature. Seek help if needed to become more adept at a task, to make an activity second nature or at least less tedious or daunting. Do not give up and delay pleasure if that is what is needed for success.

Seek (and act on) feedback: Ask the people who matter (boss, customers, colleagues) how you are doing and then correct course accordingly. Criticism can be hurtful but constructive criticism can always be used to improve performance. Aim to be the best always. In this competitive global market it is not sufficient to be good; one must have a competitive advantage. Chua explains that Chinese mothers teach their kids hard work and giving up fun temporarily for long term success, because in the real world success comes only through superior knowledge, acquisition of skills and the habit of hard work.

She writes:

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. To get good at anything you have to work hard. If done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something -- whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet -- he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun.”

While the parenting style of “Tiger mothers” can be debated, deliberate adoption of some of the practices might well make for success in business.


I read that book and it does have some good points. There is good and bad in it. I believe that kids need structure and must be pushed to do their best. But kids need balance. They need physical exercise not just sitting in the house studying. They need friends to learn how to get along with people.

Too many bookish kids cant relate to other kids and fall for all the temptations because they are so naive. Also this woman was borderline cruel to her kids. She was abusive. They bossed them around and made them feel guilty unless they were the best at everything they did. Nothing was fun for the kids.   That said, the lesson we could learn is that we have to work hard, study and practice if we want to be good. If we do the minimum, then we will BE the minimum. Too many newer laboratorians now are willing to settle for the minimum.

The new crop of techs should be brighter, harder working and more committed to the profession than we were. Sadly that is not the case and the profession will suffer for that.

Marva Thompson March 14, 2011 6:46 PM
Decatur GA

I had a teacher in med tech school who was  like a tiger mom. She did not play. We had to know our theory  behind every test and procedure. After a test  or quiz she would post grades on the bulletin board, and we would have to do labs on weekends until we got them right. She worked part time at the hospital lab and working with her wa sthe same way.

If we were doing a test and it didnt work none of us could go to lunch or go home. This is in the olde days when enzymes took hours and careful attention every step of the way.  She believed in doing everything right and that everyone should work before play. That was almost 30 years ago and I still work that way.

Too many of us now want to do short cut and want to leave problems to someone else. Over the years, labs would fall over themselves to hire her students because they knew they were getting the best. We all passed our boards on the first try. Tiger moms are not just our biological mothers but they all make us better people.

Josephine Rojas, Chemistry Tech March 1, 2011 10:27 PM
Dallas TX

My parents are Asian and I know exactly what this author is talking about. Part of the reason is that as immigrants to this ountry they wanted what was best for us. We had to be better than them and be better than other kids to succeed in this country. We had to study hard, get good grades, do the ballet, piano and everything. They did not ask us if we wanted to do it and failure was not an option.

I hated it then but as an adult I realize  it has made me a better person and  I marvel at how lazysome  people can be. There is very little work ethic, very little ability to withstand tough times. Yes we definitly could learn something from tiger moms.

Marlene Tang February 12, 2011 2:09 PM
San Francisco CA

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