Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – a review

Title: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Author: Amy Chua

Sarah P’s pick

This is the account of Amy Chua, a Professor of Law at Yale University and the mother to two girls. Chua follows what she calls the Chinese way of bringing up children rather than the Western way (although she does acknowledge the term Chinese mother or Western parents does not apply to everyone from these cultures).

The children had a strict upbringing- no TV, no play dates, no sleepovers and high expectations- no grades less than an A, hours of music practice daily, extra Maths drills and Mandarin lessons.

I was curious to see how she enforces this – I struggle to get one of my daughters to complete her homework and practice her music a couple of times a week for 10-15 minutes!

Chua goes a lot into the philosophy of why she brings up her children this way and the different beliefs between the cultures. For example “For Chinese people, when it comes to parents, nothing is negotiable. Your parents are your parents, you owe everything to them (even if you don’t), and you have to do everything for them (even if it destroys your life).” She expects obedience from her children and believes (as Western parents do) that she is dong the best for them. Chua puts a lot of time, effort and money into her children but admits it is a struggle and at times you feel hated by your children.

Her older daughter is the model child- good student, helpful at home, played at Carnegie Hall at the age of fourteen. However the younger daughter resists and fights back.  After reading this book I was left wondering if the results are worth the effort and the lost childhood of these children (and undoubtedly many others). But then I definitely fall into the camp of Western parent and I am still struggling to get my daughter to do her homework!

4 thoughts on “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – a review

  1. I have admire her determination and strength in getting her children to achieve academically and intellectually perhaps. However, this style is the norm for many asian parents of all types. It is also a ‘western’ style in many ways, but they wouldn’t write a book about it perhaps. It’s not a style I would copy but it has many good points for consideration.

    Maybe the ‘western’ people Amy knows aren’t as harsh and dogged as she appears to be. But their aspirations and efforts are just as worthy and the results are equally high.

    In every culture there are many smart people and not so smart, it is genetics and environment together form people. Laziness doesn’t pay off in the examination room for anyone. All students and parents need to keep this in mind. If you want a choice at work and study at University etc., you must work for it, as like in China and other high population countries there are always plenty of people who will take your place.

    If the reason behind the study and hard work is understood then it will be much easier to coach rather than drive children to study in any culture.

  2. This was an interesting book to read for someone curious about different parenting styles.

    While I agreed with Amy’s comments about Western parents being lazy when it comes to their kids, I also thought that her parenting technique was at times a little extreme.

    Overall a good book.

  3. This is my two cents contribution as a Vietnamese mother of 4. While Asian people on the whole put heavy importance on being academic, let’s not forget that abilities and talents are God’s gifts – you cannot push and “forcefeed” your kids to have all A’s in their study and end up being doctors, professors etc… I’ve seen in my experience among my acquaintances of such forceful cases, and the results were hell for both parents and children, much resentments in the family, and the end outcome not as expected.
    I’ve brought up my kids in much the same relax way I’ve been brought up myself: study is must and a given, as it is good for yourself as a person, and a white collar job is easier on your life than a blue collar one – especially when your parents are refugees to this country, with no heritance to pass on to you 🙂
    I also believe in hardwork – what I call the Hare and the Tortoise mentality: if you work just a little bit harder, like a good athlete training everyday, it should keep you above the average grade. So during HSC time, my kids all have extra tutoring classes on whatever subjects they felt they were not up to scratch, to give them extra boost.
    Beside that, my kids all had a very normal, “western” childhood, except for my daughter – and she still talks about it with lots of resentment : “I’m never ever allowed to a sleepover”. Because I don’t want her to develop a bad habit of sleeping out of her own home – which at that time, I believed would lead to early sexual awareness and activities so common with western teenagers.
    On the whole, my mantra is: respect the kid’s individuality and abilities, while all the same instill them some discipline and some expectations – and whatever the end result, all is good.

  4. Being a mother, a Chinese mother, I understood the tiger mother’s anxious and desire. But I don’t share her concept and opinions of happiness, don’t admire her ways of dealing with her kids. High achievment is, of course, very good, for a kid, and for everyone.
    Every kid has potential in one way or another. Although what you have chieved is important but not the most important aspect of your life. The two daughters of the tiger mother, have already showed different personality and individuality. Weather they eventually become a professor like their mother, or a shop assistant, like a lot other ordinary people, they’ll have their unique life experiences, and not less smarter than anyone else on the earth.
    They might be happy and might experience a lot pain, or even regret their choice of life later on, however, that’s all part of life.
    Education is to let a kid become a better person – independent, decent, and kind, to become a real person, but not to become a tool to shine faces of his/her parents; or become a tool of the system.

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