June 19, 2011, - 3:18 pm

TERRIFIC!: Honoring a Tiger Dad on Father’s Day

By Debbie Schlussel

I’ll post my Father’s Day tribute to my dad shortly, but in the meantime, I wanted you to see this excellent Father’s Day tribute from the son of an Asian immigrant to America.  Many of us value parents who seek to ensure our happiness, but this is a different take that sees that parents who teach their kids how to achieve in life and become responsible adults is far more important. It’s also a great story of the American dream plus fatherhood.

Anthony Youn on His Father’s Influence

Tiger Dad Made Me Who I Am Today

By Anthony Youn, MD

“Tiger mom” Amy Chua has nothing on my dad. I’m talking traditional old-school Asian father. He was strict and uncompromising and raised me the way he was raised. Without having a Tiger Dad, I wouldn’t be the man, husband, father, or doctor that I am today.

My dad grew up on a tiny rice farm in rural South Korea with his parents, six siblings, a dozen chickens and a pig. Their home consisted of three small huts, one for sleeping, one for gathering and one for cooking. Their stove was a metal grate over an open fire.

My grandfather made his living farming a small plot of land, mainly growing rice and collecting eggs from the chickens that served as both food and pets. My grandmother raised all seven children, cooked, cleaned and cared for the animals. They spent almost all their earnings on food and repairs on their primitive home. The little money they had left over, they put in a jar to save for my father’s education.

As the eldest son, the hopes of the entire family rested on my father. My grandparents planned to use their savings to put my dad through medical school, after which he would move to America, become a successful doctor and pull his family out of poverty.

Like many Asian immigrants of his generation, my dad persevered through extreme hardship in order to move overseas. Ultimately, he arrived outside of Detroit, a penniless foreigner speaking almost no English, having no friends, and with only the rudimentary skills of a foreign physician. But he also brought a dogged determination to better his life and the lives of his family. He also defined success in the old Asian way: Success did not mean happiness. Happiness was something you didn’t have time to worry about .

As an Asian American, born and raised in Michigan, my Western culture emphasized “happiness.” This was the opposite of what my Tiger Dad said. Forget happiness. I had to be a success. My dad decided I would be a doctor the day I was born. I often wished my dad weren’t so strict. But now I see why: Being a doctor paid for the education of all six of his siblings, and pulled his entire family out of brutal poverty. I once asked my dad what he considered to be his role in the family. He said he saw himself as a stepping stone: one who knelt in the dirty water of the river to allow his family, and children, to step over him to reach the other side.

Dad has retired with grandkids to enjoy and enough financial security to relax. My wish for my Tiger Dad is that he has found not only success but also happiness.

Anthony Youn, MD, is author of In Stitches, a memoir about growing up Asian American and becoming a doctor.

Dr. Youn was lucky to have such a hard-working dad who taught his kids what was important in life. Sadly, many American kids simply don’t have a dad in their lives at all.

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7 Responses

Thanks, Debbie, for this uplifting story.

Happiness is a by-product. If you have right principles, good character, and you pick (or are given) a worthwhile goal, you’ll be happy.
Not sure who said this, but-The main purpose of life is not to be happy but to be GROWING.

tiarosa on June 19, 2011 at 4:19 pm

That was a nice read Debbie thank you for posting that. I agree that a father and husband is responsible for how his children turn out. My father died in a tragic motorcycle accident in ’95 when I was just turning 10 years old. But what I do remember of my father is that he was an American hero who served this wonderful country of ours through 3 tours in Vietnam, he worked hard so my Mother could stay home and raise me, and although he was absolutely strict when it came to my appearance,grades, clean room,manners,etc. he always found the time to be a father and hang out with me.
My mother never remarried but I always had male role models such as my Uncles and my Grandfather who taught me the foundations of becoming a man and learning how to provide for your family.

When my wife and I met we were both surprised neither one of us had a child out of wedlock. We also got married 1 and half years later and it’s going on 5 years now. You know why? Because my Father taught me that for every action there is a consequence. We didn’t do it ass backwards like other people our age and have the kid first then MAYBE get married.

The problem is now that there isn’t really a chance for young men to learn how to become men because of the mothers wanting control and the men not knowing what a man is. It’s a viscous cycle that continues to spiral out of control. I mean 12 year old boys shouldn’t be walking with a twist and gossiping with 40 year old women about Jc Penny’s while these men hating broads giggle and think it’s “cute”. It isn’t cute, it’s downright disturbing and confuses the boys.

So, although this Father’s Day I celebrate my Dad’s memory just like years before…I also know deep in my heart that this Holiday will soon be a thing of the past and replaced with a new name and new ritual such as praising a women for having a Uterus.

Sorry for the long post and as always Debbie keep up the good work!


Matt on June 19, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Matthew, Congrats on your dad. You had a great one.

    Occam's Tool on June 20, 2011 at 12:58 pm

America is in such dire need of men like both Doctors. Men ARE important. They are important to their wives, families, sons and daughters. They are so needed and should NEVER be dismissed.

And just so you know feminism is a HUGE waste of time, I was once not just a feminist…but a pretty militant one at that. I fell for all the um-gala-gala of that waste of a movement. Luckily, as I grew older (I started pretty young) I saw what a fraud it was. I saw that women were more involved in keeping themselves down than men were. That got my attention.

DS was NEVER a feminist (I assume) and yet my beliefs mirror hers almost exactly. In fact, I have never seen someone with more strong beliefs THAN ME on these issues of fatherhood and motherhood and out-of-wedlock births etc…and DS may have even stronger ones…if that is even possible!

When all is said in done, my sojourn into feminism was a HUGE waste of time. I don’t think I hold on to ANYTHING I believed during those lost years. That proves it’s a huge waste of time…and fraudulent to boot.

Skunky on June 19, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    Thanks, Skunky. Both my kids are homeschooled. My daughter took her 2nd grade California Aptitude Test and came within 6 questions of a perfect score. (My son has reading difficulties but is even better than she is on math, so, he too, is being homeschooled.) She asked me how she did after the scores came back, did she do well?

    I told her “No, you didn’t do well. You had one of the HIGHEST scores in the whole country. You did better than merely well.”

    She ran to my wife and told her that daughter mine was so excited by what daddy said that she had a nosebleed.

    Yeah, dads are important. I tell my kids how fantastic they are and how much I love them every day. I also tell them to behave well and especially in public, which is why I always get compliments on them.

    Thank you for your beautiful comments, Skunky.

    Occam's Tool on June 20, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Absolutely beautiful!

Naomi R on June 20, 2011 at 2:00 pm

OT: I’ve read “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua. It was a good book. she’s a professor at Yale Law School who successfully managed time for her career and raising her children. Tiger parents assume strength and not fragility in their children. I think all parents should assume strength in their children.

Matthew on February 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm

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