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.