Battle Hymn Of the Tiger Mother
The buzz around the recent Chinese-parenting non-fiction book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has been insane! My boyfriend being Asian, it conjures up some great conversation between the different parenting styles of the East and West. Amy Chua’s book was very popular, but controversial, whether you love or hate Chua, agree or disagree with her extreme methods, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother makes for an interesting read.
Amy Chua is your stereotypical over-achieving Chinese parent. Both of her parents were wildly successful Chinese immigrants, and Chua herself was a Harvard Law graduate who works as a Yale Professor. When her first daughter, Sophia, was born, Chua took to her Chinese roots to instill an extreme determination, musical talent, and unlimited politeness and respect in her. Chua claims that Chinese parenting accepts nothing but the absolute best from their children, nothing below an A, and using stringent tactics that include no sleep overs, no playdates, no television, no participating in drama or plays at school, and most of all no choice. Chua also decides that Sophia must play an instrument, and chooses the piano to instill an appreciation of classic music, and keep Sophia from being like a lazy Western child.
While this doesn’t seem so extreme yet, it is Chua’s methods that are severe. Sophia must practice for hours every single day, birthdays and all major holidays are no exception. Whenever the Chua family was on vacation, they either found a hotel that had a piano in it, or they had to pay to rent one at a local music store for a few hours. Sophia’s practice was never compromised. Luckily for Amy Chua, Sophia is the perfect obediant Chinese first child, and takes to the piano like a duck to water. It is forcing Chua’s second child, Lulu, to play violin, that gives Chua a run for her money.
There are some seriously cringe worthy moments in the book. I really felt like I understood Chua’s motives 99% of the time, but the parts where, for example, she refuses a daughter’s birthday card because her daughter didn’t work hard enough on it, even made ME cringe. EEK! Here is an excerpt:
“Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young, maybe more than once, when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn’t actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.
As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.”
As much as her methods are extreme, Chua does see some pretty serious results, these all day and night rehearsals and constant barking are not in vain. The way she discusses the type of values you should instill in your child is really interesting, although insecure parents should beware, she is pretty harsh on Western parenting. You kind of have to decide for yourself what you think of her methods. It kind of made me wish that my parents had encouraged or even forced me to play an instrument or get good at something, anything when I was a kid.
The only part of the book I didn’t enjoy was the end, and I wish she had injected a little more scientific or psychological studies to back up her methods, just as a point of interest. In the end, I think she thought it was cute to include that she didn’t know how to end the book, but it REALLY just comes off then like she didn’t know how to end the book. Other than that, SO interesting.