Taming the ‘Tiger Mom’ Stereotype

This series on ethnicity and 2e takes a closer look at how twice-exceptionality intersects with ethnic stereotypes, often adding another layer of “difference” to students.

What does it mean to be an Asian American? Asia, with 17 million square miles, includes over four billion people in 48 countries, speaking more than 2,300 languages. In other words, there is plenty of diversity.

Perhaps the biggest thing Asian Americans have in common with one another is mainstream American prejudices about who they are.

In a recent University of Iowa study, “Nothing Fits Exactly: Experiences of Asian American Parents of Twice-Exceptional Children,” Soeun Park found that societal expectations, sometimes influenced by stereotypes, “may complicate the experiences of Asian American parents who have twice-exceptional children.”

From her dorm room in the University of Pennsylvania, where she is finishing her doctorate in psychology, Park tries to unravel some of the tired stereotypes about Asian American 2e students.

“This study was a learning experience for me,” she says. “I grew up in South Korea and as an Asian person, I can say that we, too, internalize some of these stereotypes.”

The trope of the Tiger Parent, inadvertently popularized by Amy Chua’s ironic 2011 book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, doesn’t really show up in Park’s study — or in many others — except as an oversimplification.

“When you Google ‘Asian American parents,’ you get ‘Tiger Moms,’” Park says with a laugh, explaining the stereotype of strict, harsh parents who want their children to get all A’s. “Of course, that is not possible or practical for everybody. The ‘Tiger Mom’ doesn’t exist in reality.”

What does exist within the few studie...


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About Stuart Matranga

Stuart Matranga is an author and journalist who has written for Rolling Stone, Maxim, and other magazines. As a teacher, he specializes in students who are reluctant readers. Stuart has extensive experience teaching and working with twice-exceptional students.