Get Your Teen Weekly Newsletter in your inbox! Sign Up
YourTeenMag Logo

Helicopter Parent vs. Tiger Parenting

Thanks to Amy Chua’s bestselling Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, we now have yet another parenting moniker at our disposal: tiger mom.

A tiger mom—or tiger parent—is a parent who pushes her children to excel. At times, she uses strategies that may seem excessive to the rest of us. She may train her children only to accept the best, never to accept “good enough” in their own work ethic.

While the tiger mom mentality most often sinks its teeth in when it comes to children’s academics, it can also come out in other competitive activities – such as music, sports, debate, dance – in which the tiger parent decides, “My child will do the best.”

Here at Your Teen we wondered: Are tiger parents the same as helicopter parents? They are, after all, very involved with their children’s lives. Are there any real differences between the two kinds of parenting styles? And, if so, what are they?

We asked our experts to weigh in.

Different Parenting Styles: Tiger vs. Helicopter

“I would say those are mostly different dynamics,” explains Dr. Lisa Damour, a clinical psychologist and co-director of the Laurel School’s Center for Research on Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “You can have super-demanding parents that expect a kid to manage. But the helicopter parent does not think their kid can manage.” In other words, where the helicopter parent will often do the child’s work for him, the tiger mom places the burden directly on the child herself. Both approaches can be damaging, but their motivations and strategies differ.

What’s more, tiger parents want their children to experience hard knocks, says Harvard-affiliated sociologist Hilary Levey Friedman, author of the forthcoming Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture. “Competitive parents recognize that no matter how great you are, you are going to face adversity at some point in your life. If you learn how to deal with that at a younger age, and in a safer environment, that’s a good thing.” Helicopter parents are known for their hovering. Tiger moms are more likely to step back and allow their child to suffer – so long as he or she ultimately succeeds.

Tiger Parenting is Different

So, despite the level of involvement in both kinds of parenting, it seems as though tiger moms are their own distinct breed. They are not to be confused for helicopter parents. In any case, the tiger mom is just the latest in the ongoing parent trend index. According to a recent article in the Washington Post, new parenting trends to look out for include a more equitable share of parenting duties as dual-income millennial families become more and more common. Additionally, many experts forecast a shift away from helicopter parenting and an embrace of a more relaxed approach focused on fostering kids’ independence.

Who’s to say what the next big style will be, though. We’ve had helicopters and tigers. While some may expect a similarly intense euphemism –  the drone dad? – to follow, perhaps something more mellow is waiting in the wings.

Related Articles