Thursday, January 20, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

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Have you heard of this book yet?  If you haven’t yet,  I predict you will.  Let’s  just say it is garnering its fair share of attention and controversy. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a true story by Amy Chua and it describes how she parented her two daughters in “The Chinese Way” and the extraordinary results she achieved.    The book is her attempt to answer the question she was always being asked about how Chinese parents are able to raise such stereo-typically successful kids.   She is  highly accomplished herself and is a Professor of Law at Yale.   Her parenting in “The Chinese Way” is an extreme contrast to the way most Westerners raise their children and as a Westerner myself, I was cringing my way through most of the book.  However, having said that, I have to say that a lot of what she did is admirable .  I never questioned her love for her daughters LuLu and Sophia.  The intensity of her love, and her high expectations is what propelled her girls to unbelievably high success.    One daughter mastered the piano and played at Carnegie  Hall at the age of 14 and the other was considered a prodigy and mastered the violin.

Here is a short list of some of the things her girls were not allowed to do:

Attend a sleepover

Have a play date

Be in a school play

Complain about not being in a school play

Watch TV or play computer games

Choose their won extracurricular activities

Get any grade less than an A

Not be the #1 student in every subject gym and drama

Play any instrument other than the piano or violin (because they were believed to be the most difficult and therefore the most worthwhile),  not play the piano or violin

My very Western kids are guilty of all the above.  :)

“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences”  ~ Amy Chua

This is one point where I agreed with the author.  I think there is a lot of truth in the statement quoted above.

“Western parents worry a lot about their children's self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child's self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there's nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn't.” ~ Amy Chua

I used to say to my husband when our kids were in Elementary School that if a kid blew his nose and used a tissue, they would give him an award.  I have lost count on how many certificates my kids have been given over the years.   Most of them meant nothing to my kids.  They were a dime a dozen.  Here in America, blue ribbons and trophies just for participating are passed out to everyone.   We have gone overboard in recognizing everyone for everything and the real world doesn’t work that way.  And because of this, I think we are doing a disservice to our kids.   I think it dilutes the sense of pride a child can experience from real achievement and takes away from the joy of success that comes with true hard work.  The trophies and ribbons that mean the most are the ones my kids worked hard to get.  They are the ones they worked their fannies off to achieve.     

Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence; rote repetition is underrated in America.” ~ Amy Chua

Her girls practiced for hours every day.  Hotels when they were traveling were booked based on whether there was a piano in the lobby, restaurant, or bar available for her daughter to practice on.   Tell me that’s not extreme?

And where was her husband Jed during all of this?  He is present in the book but not very well defined.  I would have like to have read more about their relationship.  Her extreme points of view and actions made me think there had to have been some major blow outs between the two of them.    But, reading her story we really never get a good sense about him.  He’s there.  He doesn’t always agree with her methods but he seems content to let her be the dominant and driving force in the family. 

“Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.” ~ Amy Chua


So while I disagreed with most of her methods, the prime example was when she called her daughter “garbage” because she couldn’t master a piece of music she was working on (along with several other cringe worthy episodes),  reading the book I felt like I understood her motivations. It wasn’t a lack of love by any means that drives her to verbally “abuse” her daughters it was quite the opposite. It was the intense love and the belief that they could and would do better.   And although I was able to understand her point of view and motivations, they were very hard for me to relate to.  She does, however, a remarkable job of explaining the stereotype. 

Practice makes perfect!

My thanks to TLC Book Tours who provided me with a copy of this book to read and who have linked to my review and other blogger’s reviews of this book on their website.


EliFla said...

Probably this is a book to read....unfortunately I am not mother yet...but I have a question...not for you or for Amy...but for her daughters: Are they happy?

It's important to be the first, (I prefer my normality)but even to have the possibility to fall and know that's no a problem because you're not alone!!!

Your post is really intertesting, thank you. Hugs, Flavia

Anonymous said...

When I grew up in the 60's we had to earn trophies and praise. I think children now in the U.S. are coddled by their parents and it shows in their attitudes. They expect the world to reward them before they've proven themselves.

I caught just the tail end of an interview with this author earlier this week... hope to see it in full again.


Katherine Thomas said...

Ooh, it sounds very controversial. Not sure I'm up for that right now. I've seen many, many different parenting styles in my classroom. I hope the author of this book doesn't stereotype the "western" parenting methods, just as we try hard not to stereotype "eastern" parenting methods... I applaud you for addressing it, though!

Denise said...

Wow, what a controversial subject that can be, I can imagine I would agree with some things but disagree with MANY things in this book... amazing how different we all are!

From Beyond My Kitchen Window said...

I saw her on The Today Show. She is a little extreme. I think everything in moderation. I have know doubt she loves her girls. But I must say their house has to be stressful.

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the quotes you included - they are so true! This sounds like a fascinating book, one that I could relate to in some ways and cringe at in others.

Thanks for being a part of this tour!

Ti said...

This lady is the extreme. I do agree that kids these days need a bit more structure. A lot of parents tend to want to be friends to there kids as well as parents and that rarely works out.

While reading your review, I was reminded of my friends in school who had parents that operated the way this lady does, and you know what? Those kids grew up to be pretty successful too. All doctors or lawyers with seemingly perfect families.

She might have something there...

Esme said...

Great review-there was a story about her in People this past week. I agree that Western children get praised for just blowing their nose. There has to be a balance.

Esme said...

Great review-there was a story about her in People this past week. I agree that Western children get praised for just blowing their nose. There has to be a balance.

Jenny said...

I think you did a great job of explaining while you didn't agree you understand her motivations. I felt pretty much the same way!

Inner Earth Jewelry said...

I think one thing is for sure, she put alot of time, energy, passion and dedication into her kids. They were her top priority.