Move over Tiger Mother - there's a new cat on the block.
Perhaps you're familiar with the super-strict mum who pushes her kids to be the best at school, sport, and music - no matter what the cost. It's a parenting style made famous in 2011 by the Chinese-American author Amy Chua and her best-selling book "The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother". Well, there's another feline in the parenting world: Cat Dad.
Cat Dad takes a more softly, softly approach to parenting - preferring to be emotionally sensitive, gentle and relaxed about rules and discipline, in the belief that it will make their offspring self-sufficient and independent. The term has been trending on the micro blogging site Sina Weibo because of a hit Chinese television programme, "Tiger Mom Cat Dad". The two lead characters are, as the title suggests, a fierce Tiger Mom and a chilled-out Cat Dad. Their styles collide as they try to raise their young daughter.
While Cat Dad may not be as well known as Tiger Mother, he's actually been around nearly as long. One of the original Cat Dads was Chang Zhitao, a father from Shanghai who went head to head in a debate with Chua shortly after her book was published. Despite having vastly different approaches to parenting, both Chua and Chang had daughters who were accepted into Harvard University.
And as if the Tiger-Cat fight wasn't enough, there's also another animalistic parenting persona coming from China. Wolf Dad is even stricter than Tiger Mom and is epitomised by Xiao Baiyou, a father who believes that "beating kids is part of their upbringing."
"Just as their names suggest, Cat Dad prefers a gentle approach to children's education, while Tiger Mom and Wolf Dad believe that education is a painful process," says Vincent Ni of BBC Chinese. "It's been a long time since Chinese TV aired such a drama that captured the two seemingly conflicting education philosophies so well. While closely following the drama, Chinese audiences also took to social media to discuss, share and voice their different opinions of the way to raise kids."
More than 80m people tuned into "Tiger Mom Cat Dad" and the series finale attracted tens of thousands of comments on Weibo. Some defended Cat Dad: "I think there is too much bullying going on in their household. It's completely disrespectful. There's no consideration whatsoever towards the man," one user commented. Others saw the dad as a weak character who wasn't compatible with his wife: "I think the tiger mother and the cat dad should divorce," one viewer wrote. "I really hope a wolf dad and tiger mother can be together. This type of 'warm man' (Cat Dad) is a not real man."
Tong Dawei, the actor who plays the Cat Dad in the TV show, posted an image of himself and his daughter to his personal Weibo account with the tongue-in-cheek caption: "Mum went out when the water pipes were broken. Daddy held back his tears and mended it before she came back." It got a huge reaction - over 63,000 likes and 5,000 comments - including the remark "As a man, I could in no way be like the 'Cat Dad'" - proof that even when life imitates art, being a Cat Dad still hasn't really caught on in China.
Blog by Anne-Marie Tomchakand Kerry Allen.
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