Tiger mom Dr. Diana Ponsky balancing it all

Am I a Tiger Mom? My Experience as an Asian-American Mother

When I am asked what it means to be an Asian-American mother, my immediate thoughts go to Amy Chua’s ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom’. If you are unfamiliar with the term, a “tiger mom” is defined as a strict or demanding mother who pushes her children to high levels of achievement- a common parenting style in east Asia. It was this style that influenced how my four sisters and I were raised. As the eldest daughter of Vietnamese refugees who fled the country on a small fisherman’s boat, I recognize the spirit of the tiger mom figure in myself.

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My mother and aunt expected so much from my sisters and me, and it was difficult for us to make them proud. When nothing but 100% is accepted, it is very easy to disappoint. But as I’ve grown up and started raising my own family, I’ve learned to keep expecting 100% of myself and my children–but in effort, not results. I expect my daughters to be independent, and to do things without pressure from me. I expect that I’ll still make mistakes, even with 15 years of parenting experience and three kids under my belt. But by taking the time to work with my children, I can still be involved and show how much I care.

While I wish my kids came home from the hospital with a manual, the truth is you write one yourself. When I’m deathly afraid of “messing up” my daughters, my husband grounds my idealistic goals. Although our social and cultural backgrounds differ, we have common ground in our approach to our parenting and our focus on hard work and education. It becomes part of our “manual”.  We try to foster a spirit of hard work, and stress that loving what you do makes the work a little easier. But while we want our kids to strive to excel, we both value curiosity and the love of learning more.

It’s this love of learning that got me where I am today, and it’s what I hope for my own children. I want to leave them with the resources to be capable, confident, and contributing human beings, regardless of their situation in life. I want them to learn to live their life according to their conscience, ideals, and personal boundaries. I want my daughters to define and earn achievements on their own so they can be proud of themselves too.

So, am I a Tiger Mom?

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I’m a mom to three daughters, ages 15, 11 and 9, but I’m not a tiger mom. I know these tiger moms well. I respect how much they value children honoring and respecting their parents, and how highly they esteem repetition and dogged perseverance as necessities for success. I understand why they want their children to take care of them in their old age (ha!), but as my husband and girls have taught me to love life and not waste a single minute, I want them to learn the same. I want them to go after life with unchallenged confidence. To be tigers themselves.


This article was written by Dr. Diana Ponsky. Dr. Ponsky is a renowned facial plastic surgeon in Cleveland, OH and is double board certified by the American Board of Facial Plastic Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology. As one of Cleveland’s premier facial plastic surgeons, Dr. Ponsky has performed over 1500 rhinoplasties emphasizing the importance of form as well as function.

Click here to book a consultation with Dr. Diana Ponsky. Click here to view before and after photos.

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