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Education Mama

"The first day of kindergarten, I watched all the parents say 'have fun!' when dropping off their kids for the first time. My mom said to me, 'Alan. Today is the first day of school. You will do well. Go to Harvard. Become good doctor. Make money.'"

The diametric opposite of the Open Minded Parent is the Education Mama, a mother (and it's usually a mother) who is obsessed with her children's education and pushes them to succeed academically, no matter the cost. She will shell out thousands of dollars to send her kids to private school or move to another town with good schools, and her kids will be forced to surrender their social lives in the pursuit of good grades. And God help her kids if any of them gets anything less than an A. This trope is especially pervasive in East Asian families (due to the pervading Confucian tradition placing a heavy emphasis on education and due to the extremely cutthroat education systems found in Asian countries), to the point where it's become a stereotype that all Asian parents are like this. Such parents have been given the name "Tiger Moms."

Contrast: Parental Abandonment, Open Minded Parent. Compare: Jewish Mother and My Beloved Smother. Can turn your child into a "Well Done, Son" Guy if all goes according to plan. If it goes pear-shaped, it can lead to a You Are Grounded moment, or worse still, teen angst or teen rebellion. In the worst cases, particularly in East Asia, the end result is attempted suicide, the Hikikomori, or even snap violence against the parents.

The Stage Mom is when this trope is applied to performing arts instead of academics. Jock Dad, Nerd Son is when this trope is applied to sports.

Not to be confused with Cooking Mama.

Examples

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     Advertising  

  • This Tim Hortons commercial has a Chinese son and father at the grandson's hockey game. In the flashback, the father often berated his son for playing hockey when he should be studying. It was revealed that the father would secretly watch all his son's hockey games And now, he proudly watched as his grandson played.

     Anime and Manga  

  • Mrs. Yamada in Tonari No Yamada Kun is a classic example.
  • Chi-Chi in Dragonball Z acts like this towards her eldest son, Gohan, wanting him to be a scholar and avoid the violent lifestyle of his father. In the end, Gohan becomes a scholar (though he still enjoys martial arts), and she ends up pushing martial arts training on her second son Goten much the same way. However, Gohan himself repeatedly states that he likes being a scholar.
  • Yukimitsu's mother in Eyeshield 21. She doesn't even know he's on the football team, because he's been telling her he's at cram school, although when she learns about it, she takes it rather well.
    • The only reason she DOES take it well is because the team is a championship caliber team and so looks even better for college entry: A student pulling in nothing but As? Dime-a-dozen. An all-A student who also plays high-level sports? That's a fierce combination for college application. If the team had sucked you'd can bet your arse she'd have come down on him like a ton o' bricks.
  • Sailor Moon: In Ami's introduction episode, Beryl and Jadeite discuss "education mothers that are as fierce as demons" before setting up an Evil Plan in a cram school. Still, Usagi's mother Ikuko is shown as being somewhat more of an Education Mama, as well as Ami's own mother Dr. Saeko Mizuno in the live-action series.
    • With Ikuko, this is a Justified Trope, since any parent would be understandably mad when their kid keeps getting 20s and 30s on their tests with no show of improvement.
  • Miyuki Gotou of Noein starts off this way toward her son Yuu, even cutting him off from his friends so he can study more, to the point where he was clinically depressed and showing signs of incipient psychosis. Thankfully, she lightens up later in the series, after a Journey to the Center of the Mind.
  • Pokémon: The mother of one of May's earlier coordinator rivals also was like that, as a cover for her own childhood traumas with her parents.
  • X1999: Male example: Satsuki's father. She ultimately gets so fed up that she uses her computer skills to arrange Mr. Yatouji's death in an accident.
  • Digimon Adventure
    • Another male example: Jyou Kido's father, a well-known doctor, pushed all of his three sons to become medics. The eldest, Shin, complied but chose to work abroad rather than with him; the middle son, Shuu, successfully rebelled against him and is studying Digimon; and Jyou actually reached a compromise with Dad and became a doctor out of his own will, but in Jyou's own terms —specifically, he became the very first doctor in the Digital World, according to the epilogue.
    • It's hinted that Sora Takenouchi's mother, Toshiko, was like this before the girl was spirited to the Digital World. Add a well-intentioned but workaholic father who works in Kyoto and, well, poor Sora had huge identity issues that took quite a while to be resolved.
  • Marmalade Boy: Kei's parents were like that at first, but more in the art fields since Kei was an excellent pianist. That led to Kei running away from his parents and become extremely selfish and possessive of Miki, the first real friend he's had. Later, though, they make amends.
  • Paradise Kiss: Yukari's mother Yasuko.
  • Fushigi Yuugi: Miaka's mother. The manga hints that she became like that after her traumatic divorce.
  • Male example: Kyouya's father in Ouran High School Host Club.
  • Shizuru Kuwabara of YuYu Hakusho adopts this role for her younger brother Kazuma in the Three Kings Saga, wanting him to get a good education and job. From what we see of Kuwabara later (which isn't much), she succeeded.
  • Bakuman。
    • Takagi's mother is this, for which he consistently scored top in his school, but the pressure of it all leading him to rebel by choosing a career in Manga. This was confronted early in the series when he said he's go to the same cheap college as Mashiro so he could skip classes when needed and focus on writing manga. It's implied that she wanted him to study so that he can "avenge" his father, who was fired from his job after Taking the Heat for his boss. However, when he called her out on this, she was apparently willing to allow him to live as he wanted. His mother apparently has no such standards for Akito's older brother, who is fooling around in college around the start of the series.
    • Mashiro's mother also follows this in the early parts of the series; she's the only one in the household who doesn't approve of Mashiro's goals to be a manga writer and constantly encourages him to study instead. When she notices him playing video games instead of studying, she angrily tells him he won't even get into Minami high if he continues at that rate.
  • In The World God Only Knows, Yui's mother is an overbearing one, not letting her daughter do anything she disapproves of, forcing Yui to become a Yamato Nadeshiko. Not strictly academic education but close enough.
  • One of the stand-alone stories in Mitsukazu Mihara's IC in a Doll had a woman who would give her son a timed math-test every morning and yell at him when he cried or was two seconds slower than her friends' children. It turns out this is out of stress; partly because she thinks her husband is cheating on her (actually, no. He's a crossdresser and the lipstick stains and perfume on his clothes is from him) and partly because she has a bit of an inferiority complex. It didn't end well.
  • Taichi's mother in Chihayafuru, but extends to any competition (just look at all the trophies and certificates in that one room of his house!). Ever since Taichi was little, his mother always wanted him to be the best at everything he did, so much she would chastise him harshly for not getting first place. Chihaya personally calls her "Mrs. Pressure" because of all the stress Taichi gets from living up to his mother's expectations.
  • Kei Yuzuki's mother from Vampire Princess Miyu. Not helped by him being both Book Dumb and The Unfavorite compared to his brother and sister.
  • Medusa from Soul Eater calls herself this to explain her treatment of Crona.
  • Spencer's mom from Tokyo Pig is an inversion. She wants him to focus on exercising instead of his schoolwork.
  • In Saki, Nodoka's father seems to be this, disapproving of her decision to turn down going to Tokyo's best prep school to go to Kiyosumi, although she manages to get him to consider letting her stay if she wins the tournament.
  • In Dramacon Bethany has to sneak around her mother Mary's back just to be an artist as a hobby, because she refuses to accept the idea of Beth becoming anything less than a lawyer with impeccable grades throughout her entire educational career. Mary also makes it quite clear that if Beth ever attempted anything else she'd flat out disown her. In the third volume Beth finally confronts Mary on this and states that she will accept a job offer from a manga publishing company if she's offered again, and her mom pulls I Have No Son the moment Beth refuses to do what she wants. Moments afterwards, Mary is almost killed in a car crash and the two reconcile as she recovers in the hospital.
    • On the opposite end, Beth's aunt Jaz is a lot more supportive of Beth's dreams and offers her the advice Mary should be giving her. Jaz is clearly a decent mother to her own children, and states they always do good in school even though she never nags them. She's quite prompt to call her sister out for her domineering behavior, and doesn't give her any slack even when she's just woken up from being in a car wreck. She was that pissed at Mary for trying to abandon her own daughter.

     Comic Books  

  • Young Justice: The reluctant superheroine Arrowette had this problem with her mother, who was once the original Arrowette.
  • Watchmen: Laurie "Silk Spectre II" Juspeczyk had this problem with her mother, the original Silk Spectre.
    • Though played oddly in that her education is primarily focused on being a Superhero.

     Film  

  • The Breakfast Club: Brian's parents may be the nastiest, most cynical example of this trope on celluloid. Emotionally, they treat the poor kid like garbage, apparently don't care about his suicidal tendencies, and it is strongly implied they are living vicariously through his academic achievements. Damn.
  • In The Langoliers, during one character's psychotic breakdown, we see that his father was this trope, Up to Eleven. The lecture the father gives for a B is roughly equivalent to any other parent lecturing for getting an F.
  • Akeelah and the Bee has a male Japanese version in the form of the main rival's father. Luckily, all was resolved by both of them winning the contest.
  • Election: Tracy's mother.
  • Dead Poets Society: Neil Perry's father. He wants his son to be a doctor even though it's not where Neil's heart is. The poor boy manages to have the best marks but still, students' theatre is a no-no for his father as it might distract him.
  • Mud's dad in Camp Nowhere. To be fair, Mud is a smart and proactive kid, but his dad keeps complaining that Mud has wasted potential, and repeatedly does all that he can to get Mud to grow up as soon as possible (and for the record, Mud is 12). Mud eventually learns to stand up to his dad, and does so at the end of the movie.
  • Mrs. Watson in Sister Act 2. It's made quite clear, albeit obliquely, that the reason she disapproves of her daughter's desire to sing and instead tries to force her to focus only on education is not a general "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" or "you have to have better opportunities and do better than I did" mentality, but because her husband tried the same path, failed utterly, and left the family destitute. So it isn't that she disparages Rita's dream, but that she finds it impractical and unrealistic and is afraid pursuing it could cost her, the same as happened to her.
  • An Education: Jenny is very talented and hopes to read English Literature at Oxford. She works very hard on her dream, but she also wants to enjoy her life, listening to popular music and reading modern literature. Her father approves of her intentions of going to Oxford, and he pressures her even more to study. Ideally, she should only study and improve her Latin, and as far as music goes, her playing the violin is just fine. He simply does not want her to be distracted by anything inappropriate. However, he's also fairly kind and understanding, and Jenny's mother knows how to influence him.

     Literature  

  • Little Men: One of the Men men from the title, Billy, had an Education Papa who drove his promising student son to mental handicapping and physical frailty. He then dropped him off at boarding school in shame.
  • Little House on the Prairie: Ma Ingalls, who was a teacher as a young woman and hoped to have one of her daughters follow in her footsteps. Her main reason for wanting her husband to choose a place to settle down, already, was so her four daughters could get a stable education. Also, the rest of the family and she are determined to do whatever it takes to send Mary to the college for the blind in Iowa. This benefits Mary in more ways than the academic: one of the facets of the school's education is teaching the students to work around their blindness and do things for themselves. When Mary returns from her first year, Laura notes that she moves around the house quite easily instead of staying put in her rocking chair, and unlocked and opened her travelling trunk quite as though she saw it.
  • Widow Kang from The Years of Rice and Salt mercilessly drills her youngest son in the Confucian classics, in order to make a proper scholar out of him.
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Katie Nolan is told by her immigrant mother that education is the key to rising in America, and to that end, she should make her kids stay in school longer than she did and read them a page a day from the Bible and the collected works of Shakespeare. How well this is or isn't working is a constant source of worry for her.
  • Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old. The subtitle pretty much says it all.
  • DV-9, in Galaxy of Fear, has elements of this. He's an advanced research droid who, after his employer/owner adopted two kids, got press-ganged into babysitting duties. Since he's a very advanced droid he feels like this is a waste of his talents, but still is determined that the Arrandas be as educated as he can get them and is exasperated and annoyed by their lack of motivation. While marking Death in the Slave Pits of Lorrd, or How I Spent My Inter-Term Break he leaves this note.
    As this will be the last assignment you will receive from me, I have seen fit to give this rambling and uneven collection of information a passing grade — however, you may find your uncle is not as forgiving as I am.
  • British statesman Lord Chesterfield, as shown in his Letters to His Son. He expected his son to learn not only Latin and Greek, but to speak the important languages of the continent - that is, French, German, Spanish and Italian - as well as his native language. Not like the average speaker, but at the level of a courtier, with spirit and perfect manners. Also, he should have a foundation in geography and history. And know the basics of various arts and sciences, like architecture, geometry, astronomy, logic... And know about the important parts of economy of the various countries, their political/judicial systems and military. Or rather, gather these informations by himself while in other countries. After all, he expected his son to become a minister one day. Note: His son was fourteen when he left Britain for the "grand tour". Also note that the Earl did not expect his son to learn to play a musical instrument, deeming this as below a gentleman's dignity.
  • In Isaac Babel's Odessa Tales, Edwardian Age poor Jews from Odessa push their boys to learn music, violin being their instrument of choice. Even if the kid had no musical talent at all. They scrabbled together the last coins to pay for a violin and music classes, seeing the musical career as one of the few paths out of the miserable existence in the Tsarist state. When the hero's father finds out the boy had dodged the music classes, he chases him with openly expressed murderous intentions.

     Live Action TV  
  • LOST: Eloise Hawking combines this pressure on education with neglect and emotional abuse.
  • Cold Case: In "Knuckle Up", the victim's father sends his son into a private prep school and obsesses over his grades. It didn't end well after the son lashed out on him and left, marking this occasion as the last time he saw his son alive.
  • Law & Order: SVU: A pre-teen girl is murdered. Her father epitomized this trope. She and her sister were forced to kneel on grains of rice on the basement floor while their father drilled them on different topics. It turns out that a schoolmate from her incredibly prestigious school (who had been up for over a week via drugs studying for exams) snapped and killed her out of jealousy. So basically there was an entire school full of kids with parents like this.
  • A second-season episode of Law & Order featured an Education Mama who also had a large helping of racism against Asians. When her son's Asian-American classmate looked like he was going to beat him for a prestigious scholarship, she murdered him.
  • Glee: Flipped around with Mike Chang's parents. His mother is the understanding one, while his father flips out over an A-minus, or, as the episode calls it, "an Asian F."
  • MacGyver: Ma Colton when it comes to the education of her youngest son Billy. She seems to have given up on the older two.
  • The Doctor Who episode "The God Complex" implied that Rita grew up in a household like this. Her worst fear is her doctor father's disappointment in her grades, despite the fact when we meet Rita she's already a doctor.

     Professional Wrestling 
  • Parodied in Survival Tobita's Saitama Pro Wrestling Company, which featured Tobita fighting different monsters. One of them is Education Mamagon, whose gimmick was that he would force Tobita to read a book during the match.

     Video Games  
  • Persona
    • In Persona 3, the mother of seven year-old Maiko forces her to attend cram school and other lessons constantly, on top of neglecting household chores like laundry that Maiko is forced to do in her place. (And that pressure is on top of the stress she faces dealing with her parents' bitter divorce.) Fuuka Yamagishi's parents similarly obsess over her education due to their own inferiority complexes, to the point that one of the reasons she participates in SEES is to escape from them. Another student from Gekkoukan High also complains about her parents being like this, forcing her to do nothing but study in her free time.
    • Returns in Persona 4. Shu is a kid who is under pressure from his mom to be the best. This leads him to cheating on a test and expulsion, though with the Protagonist's help, he gets over this.
  • Luis Lopez's mother in The Ballad Of Gay Tony has a hard time trying to convince Luis of going to school.
  • Lan/Netto's mother Haruka in Mega Man Battle Network is a benign version of this. Yes, she harps on Lan to get his schoolwork done constantly, but this is a good thing, because he has a severe case of Brilliant, but Lazy.
  • Minor NPC Suzanna in Xenoblade Chronicles is defined as a "study-mad housewife". She asks you twice to collect things that will help her son Moritz study harder.

     Web Original 

     Webcomics  
  • Nanase's mother in El Goonish Shive (the page image) is one of these. She even insists on her children speaking Japanese at home, so they'll be just as fluent as they are with English.
  • Emily's mother in Misfile, mainly because she had to drop out of school to take care of Emily at a young age.
  • Mei-Li (Lin's mother) in Kevin & Kell, who is a Tiger Mom in more ways than one.

     Western Animation  
  • King of the Hill: Kahn. His wife Mihn is like this to a lesser extent, but Kahn is always pushing his daughter to study, learn, and practice the violin. Worse still, it isn't even for her benefit. Kahn sees an intelligent, successful daughter as a requirement for the "perfect life" he's been seeking, so he can rub it in the faces of everyone he knew growing up. Also, his father-in-law was famous general who seems to view him with contempt.
  • Implied in an episode of The Littles with an "education papa". When the episode begins, he threatens to send his daughter to a private school "where [her] friends won't be such a bad influence on [her]", unless she gets straight A's on her report card, resulting in her running away from home.
  • In Batman Beyond, one episode had a Valedictorian student whose mother was like this. He had the second-best score on a school-wide test, falling short of Max, and his mother considered it terrible. The show, however, demonstrates why this attitude was bad; her strict upbringing drove him to become a member of the Jokerz just to have some freedom.
  • One of Virgil's Asian and Nerdy classmates in Static Shock has an Education Papa. Virgil sees his father studying with him and berating him one day when the poor guy got a 99 on an essay. He later develops Hulk-like powers.
    "Dad, it's just one point."
    "One point away from a perfect score!"
  • Mrs. Ping of Detentionaire, to the point that she's a teacher at Lee's school. “It was one lousy C, mom. In gym! That's not even a subject, it's like, some guy's name!”
  • On Daria, Jodie's nouveau riche parents push her into every extracurricular activity possible. This is augmented by Jodie's own perception (possibly inherited from them) that she needs to prove herself as a black student in a school that's primarily white.
    • All There in the Manual: The Daria Database has one picture of several character's new year resolutions. Jodie's imply that she actually dives into extracurriculars to escape her parent's behavior in this regard as much as to please them.
    • Daria's own parents, especially Helen, try to push her towards more extracurricular activities to augment her perfunctorily good grades. Daria, however, is not as much of a doormat as Jodie; in the end, Helen usually has to either bribe her or find something worse to threaten her with.
    • However, Jodie does wish she could have more freedom to just enjoy her spare time instead of filling it up with extra work, especially during the summer, and her parents aren't exactly above having her do extracurricular work that would make them look good. However, they finally concede in Is It College Yet? after realizing Jodie applied to Turner, an all black college, behind there backs, for the sake of being among people like her and being able to relax for once.
  • Olga from Hey Arnold! was so pressured to be perfect by her parents that she winds up mentally unstable when faced with failure (A B-grade makes her suffer a complete mental breakdown), to be, as she put it "A wind up doll expected to preform perfectly.'' After Helga reveals she forged said B-grade, she admits that she'd rather be like Helga is to her parents. Since she had been built up as The Ace, it serves as a nice deconstruction.
  • One episode of The Proud Family showed that the father of the Chang Triplets is an education papa. When Dijonay switches with the Chang Triplets for "Cultural Switch Day," she brags to their father about how she got a B in math, in which he retorts to "B stands for 'better work hard to get an A'", and makes her study more.

     Real Life 
  • The documentary film Race To Nowhere fittingly enough, directed by a former education mama who after seeing her daughter get physically ill from stress and high standards made the movie as a refreshingly frank condemnation of this trope's transformation into a cultural phenomenon, taking its entire duration to deconstruct the entire concept, manages to lay bare its oft-overlooked detrimental consequences that burden the children raised this way, haunting them for the rest of their lives.
  • One of the kids profiled in The Overachievers: The Secret Lives of Driven Kids had one Education Parent from hell, leading his younger brother to later call social services.
  • Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a tongue-in cheek how-to guide for Education Mamas. The book chronicles her attempt to raise her children in the standard Chinese overachiever tradition (but in America!), and the inevitable culture clash than ensues:
    When Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.
  • It is generally believed that Ludwig van Beethoven's father beat his son to make him practice. However, this is disputed by some historians.
    • Neighbors who had a clear view through a window all said they could remember him quite frequently "standing in front of the clavier [piano] weeping." People who knew the family testified to his dad's harshness and unfairness, but also to his loving kindness and attempts to be a good father. However, the rock-bottom truth is that he was grooming Ludwig as a marketable commodity.
  • A extreme and tragic case of Truth in Television: Esmie Tseng's parents pushed her to her limits - where she was threatened with grounding if she got below 96% on her exams - to the point where she lashed out and fatally stabbed her mother.
  • Chinese-American Christina H weighs in. The article was sort of in response to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, but based on the assumption that people were taking it dead serious.
  • The "hardass immigrant parent" stereotype is inverted by British comedian Shappi Khorsandi, who says that she wanted to be a doctor, but her Iranian parents pushed her into show business.
  • Parents of mentally gifted children often fall into this role, encouraging their kids to work to the best of their abilities. This can lead to major anxiety problems, with the children believing that they have to be completely perfect at all times or their have failed their family/wasted their potential.
  • A "good" example would be China's Mencius. Legend says his mother moved 3 times (In an age before U-Haul) to make sure had a good educational environment. Worked out pretty well.
  • It's a rising trend in India for kids to be pressured by parents and colleges into getting way into the 90%+ on important exams. There are a bunch of colleges that actually have cut-off lists at 90%. And sadly enough it's gotten worse despite the rising cases of teen suicides all around exam or results time.
  • In recent years, the "first-generation" college student has become something of a trope in itself, folded into this. Normally, the student will mention that they're the first member of their family who has had the opportunity to get a college education, and it's revealed that the parents are like this, often because they are encourage the child to appreciate an opportunity that they themselves were denied during their youth. For a lot of people, this is Truth in Television, and it can be frustrating when a professional career counselor tells incoming college freshman to start looking at internships and part-time jobs to build up work experience, and the parents rather stubbornly keep telling them this: "No, you're going to focus on your studies, you'll have plenty of time to work the rest of your life."
  • The father of British philosopher John Stuart Mill firmly believed in bringing up his son through rigorous education. Mill was taught Greek starting from age three, and Latin from eight. His father prevented him from interacting with other children of his age and playing around so as to not "waste" his time. Suffice to say that Mill was not in good mental health as a result of all this, leading to a complete mental breakdown at the age of twenty. He still managed to sort himself out in adulthood and become one of the fathers of the philosophy of Utilitarianism.
  • Sara Ege, who beat her son to death for failing to memorize the Quran.
  • The parents of Burmese-American lesbian Emily Tay, the subject of the documentary No Look Pass. They want her to go to Harvard yet they want her to have an Arranged Marriage (to a Burmese man) and become a housewife. Their attitude extends to sports as well. While Emily's teammates chanted "MVP! MVP!" for her, her parents merely said she played "pretty well".
  • This dad pointed an AK-47 at his daughter over a B.
  • This Chinese father hired "hitmen" to kill his son's characters in an MMORPG because he blamed the game for his son's poor grades and inability to find a job.
  • K-pop rookies BTS debuted with a concept that involves rising up against overbearing parents forcing their own dreams of a higher education upon children who may not want that life.
  • Extreme cases of You Have Failed Me for bad grades are not unheard of. A father in the United Arab Emirates actually beat his son to death for getting bad grades in school.
  • The rise of hikikomori in Japan is attributed to this trope - there's so much pressure to succeed that one major failure causes a person to withdraw from society.

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alternative title(s): Tiger Mom
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