BLOG: Why tiger moms fail to raise leaders — 9 ways to develop confidence in kids (Part II)

By Assunta Ng

“Believe you can succeed and you will.” — David Schwartz, author of “The Magic of Thinking Big”

Tiger parents’ motto, “Because I said so,” no longer works effectively in society, especially in America. Forcing your kids to do well in school might not be enough for them to compete in today’s world.

We have to get to know our children, love them, and develop them as they grow. Of all the nonmaterial gifts you can give as parents, one of the most significant is to ensure your kids are confident in what they do.

Fifty percent of accomplishing a task lies in the belief that you can do it.  Feelings of confidence increase strength, according to Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

Confidence is the prerequisite for a successful leader. Leadership can be taught, and so can confidence. You can’t lead if you don’t have a clear sense of self and self-esteem.

This concept might be challenging for Asian immigrant parents. Raised by tiger parents themselves, many Asian immigrant parents don’t have a positive self-image. They still live with scars and traumas from their own childhoods for having domineering parents who raise them with an iron hand.

From left: Tracey, Riley and Raymond Hsia (Photo provided by Tracey Hsia)

How can you expect your kids to believe in themselves if parents are timid and lack self-esteem?

Leading by example can inspire your kids, not only when they are young, but when they grow up.

Former attorney Tracey Hsia was class president at her high school. Although she never pushed her son to run for class president, it is no coincidence that her son, Riley, a senior, ran for class president at Newport High School in Bellevue. She credited her son’s confidence to joining Boy Scouts, which gave him solid leadership skills.

2. What is your child most afraid of?

The way to develop courage, said Dale Carnegie, author of “How to Win Friends & Influence People,” is to do the thing you fear to do and get a record of successful experiences behind you.

Remember, challenges often change your children’s lives. Make your child realize that challenges and changes create opportunities.

3. The right rewards

When your kids do something wonderful, you don’t have to reward them with money. You don’t even have to give them anything material. Try to give them rewards that can inspire their imaginations, because they can use that tool to accomplish more.

How about rewarding them with a great experience, such as a trip, a healthy snack, a picnic, or another type of adventure for a task well done?

4. Translate meaningful experiences into life skills

When my 10-year-old son wanted to be a paper boy for The Seattle Times, I said no. I worried that dogs would bite him, and that people might take advantage of him by not paying their bills. Tiger moms like me are often too protective. Anxiety rose when I even imagined that I might end up collecting bills from my neighbors.

Looking back, I am ashamed even to share this story as publisher of the Asian Weekly. How foolish was I not to think of the merits of allowing him to deliver papers?

Collecting money builds skills and assertiveness. Developing customer relations strengthens people and sales skills. Fighting adversity makes us stronger. Don’t we all learn after making mistakes?

“Disbelief is negative power,” wrote David Schwartz, author of  “The Magic of Thinking Big.” “When the mind disbelieves … the mind attracts ‘reasons’ to support its disbelief,” he wrote.

5. Foster self-esteem

In hindsight, I was silly to deny my son the opportunity to deliver papers. Being a paperboy develops a kid’s independence. What happens when a boy learns to earn money at the age of 10? It boosts his self-worth and self-esteem.

Perhaps, the tiger moms’ flaw is overemphasizing academics and not thinking about developing confidence in their children. If there had been problems in delivering papers on time, it would have helped my son develop time-management and problem-solving ability. Those are skills that are important to leadership.

Instead, I just let fear paralyze us. I set a bad example for my children by not thinking rationally and strategically.

6. Extracurricular activities

Parents have to realize that learning shouldn’t be restricted just to computers and books. If your kids are shy, the only way to open them up is to make them join a group so they can learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Participating in sports also develops teamwork, collaboration, creativity and decision-making skills in children.

Getting involved in school clubs is another great way to meet new friends and build character. I would recommend that kids consider joining Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. Their programs emphasize leadership and many other life skills. They give a good foundation.

Many of our community leaders were scouts, including Bill Gates Sr. and Jr., philanthropists Phil Smart Sr. and Scott Oki, a U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and the owner of Tsue Chong Noodle Co., Tim Louie.

7. Volunteering

If you can teach your kids that volunteering is a privilege and everyone has a responsibility for the welfare of the community, you would be remarkable parents. Understanding gratitude and not taking things for granted are signs of maturity and humanity.

Volunteering teaches youth to be selfless and give back to their community. It will also help them to develop a sense of pride and knowledge of resources in their community.

Go to your friends and neighbors and ask them how your kid can make a difference. Observe them after their involvement. What changes have you discovered in your child’s development? Better yet, join your kids in volunteering. It will bring your family closer together.

8. Run for school office

Why not get a step further if you want your kids to be comfortable to be leaders? Encourage them to run for leadership positions such as class president, even when they are in grade school.

Win or lose, they will get to see a whole new world. They learn to support their schools, how to speak publicly, organize and develop the ability to represent their peers, talk to principals and teachers.

In a leadership position, your kids can learn how to speak up for himself and other people. It is a vital skill in the United States.

9. Confidence and communication skills grow together

Having assertive kids can cause challenges. My older son took many debate classes in high school. As his team’s captain, he was in charge of training fellow students and fund-raising for the department.

However, I was not amused when he practiced his debate art on me. There were times I wanted to slap this “little monster” that could argue his way to get what he wanted.

However, the skills he learned helped his career. He has been invited to emcee several big events for his company. With self-assurance, he never fails to ask questions in a room full of people.

Being able to ask questions is an important skill. That’s not something you can learn from a classroom. It takes practice, courage to start asking, and intelligence to size up situations and process information quickly. It has to do with self-awareness and analytical and observation skills combined with a critical mind.

Tiger moms’ authoritarian style discourages discussion from children. But it’s never too late for you to change your attitude and your approach to parenting.
If you can add more pieces of advice to this list of developing confidence in children, please let me know. Good luck to all the parents who want their sons and daughters to aspire to be leaders. (end)

To read the publisher’s blog in Chinese, visit

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2 Responses to “BLOG: Why tiger moms fail to raise leaders — 9 ways to develop confidence in kids (Part II)”

  1. Nam-Phuong Nguyen says:

    Assunta, I’ve recently found your blog and enjoy reading it besides the already fantastic articles in the NW Asian Weekly newspaper. I kept this particular issue because of this article you wrote to remind myself the key points of raising leaders and less a tiger mom. Raising 3 teenage boys and 1 tween in these times are challenging enough with so many distractions. I’m learning to listen to them, foster self-esteem, being a good role model for them. Thank you for reminding me all these wonderful points and I hope my young leaders become the successful community leaders you write in your articles in future issues.


  1. […] BLOG: Why tiger moms fail to raise leaders — 9 ways to develop confidence in …Northwest Asian Weekly, on Thu, 10 Oct 2013 12:36:47 -0700… that you can do it. Feelings of confidence increase strength, according to Norman Vincent Peale, author of “The Power of Positive Thinking.” Confidence is the … How can you expect your kids to believe in themselves if parents are timid and lack … […]

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