"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" – is Amy Chua right?
Having been raised by Indian parents, I'm not so outraged by Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."
Raised in the US by Indian parents, I wasn’t allowed to attend sleepovers, school dances, or the prom; I almost always aced my exams and brought home A’s at the end of the year, the result of hours of diligent study, often with my father by my side, patiently tutoring me. Though mild-mannered and gentle in their child-rearing, my parents had high expectations of their children. Even though they were never actually spoken, we clearly understood those tacit expectations. And it worked. How many families have graduated all four kids as valedictorian of their (albeit small) graduating class? Followed, four years later, with four more summa cum laude college grads?Skip to next paragraph
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Clearly, my parents did something right.
Perhaps that’s why I’m not outraged by what is perhaps the first book of 2011 to unleash a firestorm of condemnation. In “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” Yale law professor Amy Chua recounts her experience raising her two daughters “the Chinese way:” no play dates, no sleepovers, no school plays, no TV or computer games, no grades lower than A, no class ranking less than No. 1 (except for gym and drama).
Ms. Chua makes the case that Western parents, with their emphasis on self-esteem, free expression, and individuality, produce soft, coddled children with substandard achievements. Chinese parents (as well as others who parent with Asian or “old world” values), Chua argues, understand that a strong foundation can help guarantee their children’s success, and therefore take on the weighty responsibility of ensuring their children’s academic and extracurricular achievement – whatever it takes.
“Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches,” she writes. “Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently….That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child,” Chua writes.
All of which Chua’s two daughters experienced. Chua recounts the time her then-seven-year-old daughter Louisa couldn’t master a piano piece and tore the score to shreds when Chua forced her back for more practice. “I taped the score back together and encased in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu’s dollhouse to the car and told her I’d donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn’t have “The Little White Donkey” perfect by the next day…. I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hannukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years…. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent, and pathetic.”