Thursday, August 25, 2011

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

First of all. If you haven't read THIS ARTICLE in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior" by Amy Chua you need to read it. Now. Go read it.

I read it back in January when it came out and caused a HUGE controversy here in America. Are Chinese mother's superior? Why do they raise such stereotypically successful children?

This article is basically an excerpt from Amy Chua's book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." It became so controversial because in the excerpt you read Chua's accusatory words, blasting "Western" parents for being too soft on their kids creating a "soft" generation and culture. For example, she says "Even 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 30 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."

Some of the rules she outlined for her daughters (she has two) state that they can never:
• attend a sleepover
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• watch TV or play computer games
• choose their own extracurricular activities
• get any grade less than an A
• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin.

I wasn't particularly interested in reading a book, specifically one that was written by someone who believes they are a better parent than me and want to shove it in my face. This was the book they chose for book club however, in hopes that it would spark lots of discussion.

I have to say, I loved this book and I highly recommend it. The article in the WSJ caused a stir, but I think once you read the book you truly come to understand her, and her point of view. She is a very funny writer and you can tell she has a deep deep love for her daughers. Everything she does is for them, and even though she takes steps that I would never take (such as rejecting birthday cards that she didn't think were very artistic or meaningful, and calling her children names, telling them that she would burn their toys if they didn't perfect their musical talents...) she does it out of love.

As the book goes on, she realizes that while this model of parenting has worked with her first child Sophia, she realizes that if she were to continue with her second child Lulu she would lose the relationship she had. She humbles herself and gives into the "Western" parenting model. It is not a how to book, it is a parenting memoir. At times it is insulting, and shocking...but for the most part, it's a book about a mom trying to figure out how to do right by her two daughters.

There was a follow up article in the WSJ written by Sophia Chua, Amy's daughter. I found it very interesting.

Personally I believe it is all about balance. You teach, and you teach and you teach and you are strict when you need to be and you give tough love when you have to but you also show love and compassion to your children, which I think this book does for the most part. There is more emphasis on the strict than the compassion but if the kids know she loves them then who's to say she did it wrong.


Marivic said...

My mother is of part-Chinese ancestry and was a Tiger mother. I've read the article and followed the controversy with interest, but I will reserve my comments for future face to face conversations except maybe to point out that for better or for worse I've chosen to be the exact opposite of a Tiger mother :-)I do want to also say that I greatly appreciate that you chose a positive perspective. It's great that you said "who's to say she did it wrong." Thank you. And that's why even though I hardly ever comment on your blog I am doing so on this one. :-)

Georgia said...

I have found it interesting to watch the parenting of my Japanese Sister-in-Law, Nana. She has three of the smartest boys in the world because she pushes them so hard. There is no resentment to be found in her sons, but they all learn to read around 2 or 3, they know and speak at least two languages each, they are math geniuses, and they all know they are expected to have doctorate degrees (even the 3-year-old). They also travel the entire world and I think they are very mature and have great social skills. There is something to be said about a high expectation level being set when they are young...

Georgia said...

P.S. This is the second blog I follow which has a recent posting about this book....Interesting.