The Chinese-American author Amy Chua and her best-selling book ” The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” (虎妈战歌, 2011), brought up the image of a strict Mom who pushed kids extremely hard to be the best at school. Although her iron-first parenting methods sparked controversy in the West, her book was well-received in China, as it made Chinese parents more assertive in their parenting.
But now the term “Cat Dad” (猫爸) has become trending on Sina Weibo due to the popular Chinese TV drama “Tiger Mom, Cat Dad” (虎妈猫爸, 2015). The topic “The Battle between Tiger Mom and Cat Dad”(#虎妈猫爸大作战#) has been viewed over 25 million times and commented on more than 16 thousand times since the TV show was released in May.
“The right school is the ticket to success.”
In the TV hit ‘Tiger Mom, Cat Dad’, 7-year-old Qianqian (茜茜) is the daughter of strong-willed mother Bi Shengnan (毕胜男) and easy-going father Luo Su (罗素). She’s the little princess of the family. She is raised by her grandparents until Bi Shengnan realizes they have spoiled their daughter – other kids her age seem to have learned so many more things before officially entering school. She then becomes a typical hyper-disciplining ‘tiger mom’, aiming to help Qianqian catch up with her peers. However, her husband (the ‘cat dad’) does not seem to care too much about his daughter’s school scores, as long as she is happy.
Chinese parents like Bi Shengnan are well known for putting extreme pressure on their kids to do good in school. They make every effort to offer their kids the best education. To the majority of Chinese parents, the right school is the ticket to their kids’ promising future. Many of them have moved in order to get their children admitted to good schools. The term “School District Houses” (学区房) refers to those houses located within the range of primary or secondary schools. Children are ensured to be admitted to these schools after living there for a certain period of time. In the TV show “Tiger Mom, Cat Dad”, Bi Shengnan and the rest of the family pay more than double the price for an apartment in Beijing, so that Qianqian is eligible to enroll in a “key primary school” (重点小学) to get better education.
“I push my daughter now so she has more freedom in the future.”
Not satisfied with the level of education in their own district, Chinese parents are willing to pay high fees on an apartment so that they can send their children to the best schools possible. On Sina Weibo, a user named “Yoyo looks like Daddy” believes this is necessary, since a good school offers the right study environment and resources. “After all, the chances of kids becoming talented and successful without being pushed are very slim,” she says: “Parents don’t dare to take such a risk because we all only have one child in the family.” Stating that she is the mother of a four-year-old girl, ‘Yoyo’ stresses that it’s the parents’ responsibility to help children decide what is the best for them while they are young: “I push my daughter hard so that she can go to a good university in the future, and then gain more freedom to choose what she wants to do in the future. I want her to be able to choose meaningful jobs rather than being forced to do work she doesn’t enjoy at all. It’s all about the sense of achievement.”
Her statement also well explains the importance of academic achievements in Chinese society. Chinese students spend their entire youth working hard and preparing for the gaokao (高考), the college entrance exam, which is the only way to guarantee a bright future for most Chinese students. Therefore, Chinese parents push their child to achieve high scores. According to many parents, they are not trying to put excessive pressure on their children, but instead, are doing what is necessary to set their children up for a successful future.
User “Hanzi V” regrets that her parents were not hard enough on her when she was younger. She recalls: “My parents believed in happiness, and they thought it was my own responsibility to study hard. My mom used to ask me to learn a lot of things, but she gave up quickly after I lost interest. I’m not satisfied with my current state of life. Happy education only works for those kids who study consciously. I realized I was so naive and ignorant when I was a kid. How I wish my parent pushed me harder.”
“All my decisions are based on my mom’s wishes.”
However, a large number of users are inclined to “Cat Dad”, who prefer to give kids the right to choose whatever they think is the best for them. User “Spring” says: “I understand the parents’ cares and thoughts, but I do feel lost, as all the decisions I’ve made in my life so far are based on my mom’s wishes. I feel like I have lost the ability to know what I really want. Isn’t it a better idea to let the children obtain such an ability earlier? We all live once and life cannot be designed. Why do parents always expect their kids to realize the dreams they failed to fulfill?”
At the end of the TV show, daughter Qianqian gets depressed because the pressure and stress associated with school becomes too much to handle. It finally hits mother Bi Shengnan that a happy childhood is crucial to a child. “I’m not a tiger mom at all and my son is now doing his postdoctoral research on high polymer materials”, Weibo user “Fish is Flying” says: “I raised my son on my own, and he considers me as his friend. I don’t understand the intentions of these parents who put great pressure on their kids and themselves. The key is to teach the next generation how to behave and improve their learning methods. That’s all that really matters.”
By Yiying Fan
This article was published on What’s on Weibo.