Thursday, July 14, 2011
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
The complete subtitle of the book is: “This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”
From the exerpts that I had read from this book online, I was prepared not to like it and not to like Amy. However, I really liked the book. It is a well-written, open and honest sounding memoir. Amy tells how she is raising her children in what she calls the Chinese way, which she feels is greatly superior to the lazy Western way of raising children. Her younger daughter, however, rebelled completely at the age of 13 which made Amy have to re-think her parenting techniques and compelled her to write this book.
I think that Amy wrote it to try to justify to her girls how she raised them and to try to tell them how much she loves them and that she thinks she is acting this way to help them to reach their potential.
Most Western parents will find some of the things that Amy has said to her children and some of the things that she has made them do rather horrifying. She has micromanaged her daughter's lives and screamed at them to force them to practice piano and violin. Even when they travel, she finds places for them to practice their instruments and often also finds tutors to tutor them in practice sessions there as well. She once refused to accept hand made birthday cards from her daughters telling them that the cards obviously had taken very little effort to produce and were thus an insult to her. The girls later made nicer cards for her which she accepted.
I think there are some very positive things about Amy's parenting style. She is very involved in her daughter's lives. She sat through all of their piano and violin lessons with them, learning everything the instructors were teaching, taking notes, making drawings sometimes and studied music on her own as well, in order to help her daughters be succesful at playing their instruments. Her application of that, however, is what most people would find to be too much - screaming at her daughters, not allowing them to take breaks, making them practice for up to 6 hours a day or more.
I do think that Western parents and the US school system are too lax and we should raise our expectations some, more like the Chinese parents do because children are more capable than we give them credit for and our education system is far behind those in some other countries.
I don't, however, recommend screaming at children and degrading them and taking away all free time like Amy did.