tiger mother
n. A loving but strict mother who demands from her children obedience, respect, and academic excellence.

Example Citations:
Amid all the psychosocial caterwauling these days over the relative merits of tiger mothers and helicopter dads, allow me to make a pitch for the quietly dogged parenting style of the New Caledonian crow.
—Natalie Angier, "Nurturing Nests Lift These Birds to a Higher Perch," The New York Times, February 1, 2011

Tommy Koh, ambassador-at-large at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and chairman of the country's National Heritage Board, has another, far simpler theory. "There is more spontaneity, joy, and warmth in Singapore than we are given credit for," he says...."Most of us have been brought up by tiger mothers, but we have retained our sense of humor and love of life," Koh says.
—Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, "Forget Chewing Gum, Try the Murtabak," Newsweek, February 14, 2011

Earliest Citation:
I would like to see Oxford and Cambridge turned into graduate universities entirely devoted to research, which at a stroke would cool the ardour of the "tiger mothers" of Holland Park and Hampstead determined to set their three-year-olds on the path to Oxbridge, whatever the human cost.
—J G Ballard, "Now parliament is just another hypermarket," New Statesman, May 9, 2005

Finding the earliest citation for "tiger mother" was tough not only because the phrase is used most often to refer to the mother of an actual tiger (with the second most popular reference being to Kultida Woods, the mother of golfer Tiger Woods), but also because the phrase is often used with distressing ambiguity. To wit:

"My sister calls us 'tiger mothers', because we're so protective," she says.
—Jane Hutchinson, "Be my baby," Sunday Telegraph Magazine, May 8, 2005

The tiger mother in Danielle decides Clementine must go back to school with Nahema in the new term.
—Anna Maria Dell'oso, "Suffer the children," Sydney Morning Herald, May 2, 1998

She had been an unwanted Newark French teacher until her . . . Uncle had a lucky hunch about Fonstein. They were married and, thanks to him, she obtained her closure, she became the tiger wife, the tiger mother, grew into a biological monument and a victorious personality ... A figure!
—Saul Bellow, The Bellarossa Collection, quoted in John Podhoretz, "Rescued Jew tries unusual ways to show gratitude," The Washington Times, October 4, 1989

Finally, I should also point out that in Amy Chua's infamous book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the phrase tiger mother appears precisely zero times (except, of course, in the title). Yup, I was surprised, too.

Related Words: