'Tiger Mom' Attacks Kid for A-Minus: Would You Get Involved?

The fur flies as a "Tiger Mother" berates her daughter for getting an A-minus.

May 11, 2011, 10:10 AM

May 11, 2011 -- Ever since author Amy Chua pounced onto the scene earlier this year, coining the phrase "Tiger Mother" and touting strict Asian parenting as the key to her children's success, a swarm of controversy has arisen, with many parents proclaiming their way of parenting is superior. In her book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," Chua explains that she uses the term "Asian parenting" loosely and that Tiger Parents can come from any number of immigrant communities.

Either way, out of the woodwork have come other self-proclaimed experts, branding their ideal parenting skills with such phrases as Helicopter Parents, Hippie Parents and Ostrich Parents, to name a few.

Although Chua says her best-selling book isn't a parenting guide but instead a memoir, there is no doubt that her Tiger Mother style of parenting is fierce and has been met with intense scrutiny. In her book, she writes that Chinese parenting in America "is a never-ending uphill battle, requiring a 24/7 time commitment, resilience and guile."

She also writes, "Tiger mothers view childhood as a training period." And with that in mind, we thought we'd have our own trial run, taking her lessons straight from the tiger's mouth. We hired two actresses -- Rachel, to play the role of the Tiger Mother, and Misha, to play her daughter -- to see how people would react if they saw a mother berate her daughter for earning an A-minus on a math test.

Watch the scenario unfold on "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET

We brought our Tiger Mother and daughter to the bustling City Limits Diner in White Plains, N.Y. Shortly after our hidden cameras started rolling, the claws came out. But were they our Tiger Mother's or the customers'?

As Rachel begins to lay into Misha, it doesn't take long for customers to notice.

"This is good?! What happened? I don't understand!" says Rachel. Without a sound from Misha, Rachel continues, "This is ridiculous. Nobody in our family gets an A-minus, period."

At a nearby table, school psychologist Silvana Martone has heard more than enough, and raises her professional concern. She interrupts, "Excuse me, I work with children. Speaking to her that way is not going to help her. OK?"

Rachel replies, "I want her to be excellent -- that's why I'm doing this. And I'm sorry if I disturbed your lunch."

Martone retreats, all the while keeping an eye on Misha as the berating continues.

As soon as Rachel leaves to use the restroom, Martone takes the opportunity to ask Misha a few questions. "Sweetheart, look at me," she begins. "Is this how your mommy treats you all the time?"

"She just wants me to be perfect," Misha explains, quietly.

Just before Rachel returns, Martone reminds Misha, "If you ever feel that you are in danger in any way, you dial 911, you hear me? OK? Remember that!"

As we break our scene, we can't help but ask for her professional advice. "The approach is everything," she says, "and sometimes they can't always, you know, succeed to your expectations, and that's OK. You have to accept your child for who they are."

With new customers seated nearby, Rachel repeats the disruption by ripping into Misha: "You're an embarrassment; you are a disappointment. No daughter of mine is going to get an A-minus. You know what? You're not going to eat now!"

Taming the Tiger: 'You Have This Child Petrified!'

These words may seem ridiculous, but in her book Chua recounts similar ploys: "I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner … no birthday parties."

It takes mere minutes for Rachel to catch the attention of an unsuspecting mother and daughter, Ann and Gina Capicotto. For 20 grueling minutes, they listen to this verbal abuse without a word to the mother. But like Martone, when Rachel leaves the scene, Capicotto swoops over to console Misha.

When Rachel returns, she asks Misha, "Are you bothering people? Are you talking to people? What's wrong with you?"

Little do we know, Rachel is in for a surprise.

"Leave her alone! What is wrong with you?" says Capicotto.

"She's doing her homework," Rachel counters.

"And you are yelling and screaming at her! This is ridiculous! You are a disgrace!" cries out Capicotto.

When Rachel tells Misha this is her fault, Ann lashes out, pointing at Rachel: "She didn't do it to you! You did it to yourself! You have this child petrified!"

With that overwhelming response, we decide it's time to break the scene.

Capicotto later admits tearfully that her heart broke for the child and that she didn't want to leave her with Rachel. She wasn't the only one who felt Rachel's words were over the top. Coincidentally, it turns out our Tiger Mother actress, Rachel, was raised by Tiger Parents.

"[My parents] didn't mean to make me feel bad," she says. "They knew that I would come out of it and feel stronger. That's their philosophy. It stirs up a lot of emotions in me, but I'm also very close to my parents, so I also don't want to portray them as a stereotype. I want to show that it's coming from a place of love."

In her book, Chua experiences a change of heart about "Tiger" parenting after her youngest daughter rebels.

In an interview with Juju Chang on "Good Morning America," Chua said, "Obviously, at some point I started to lose touch, but then luckily I listened … and I pulled back."

Chua's oldest daughter, Sophia, has started a blog titled "New Tiger in Town" to counter her mother's critics. She writes: "When the whole world's calling you a mindless robot, you kind of get the urge to start talking!"

Sophia was recently accepted by Yale and Harvard. Does this prove Chua's point that her style of parenting is indeed superior? That's up to you to decide.

Watch the scenario unfold on "What Would You Do?" Friday at 9 p.m. ET

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