Rating: 4/5 stars.
I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times my own tiger mother has called me stupid, worthless, or pathetic due to receiving an A- or for not excelling in every subject at school. She once called me pitiful for recycling, stating that I should spend my time studying instead of caring about the environment.
When I tell my friends these things, one of two things happens. Either they cry out in disbelief and sometimes accuse me of exaggerating, or, they shake their heads and mutter a sympathetic “I know” (the latter is what my closer friends usually do). Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother proves that there are many “tiger mothers” out there, willing to do whatever it takes to make their children succeed – even if it means pushing them to the edge of their limits.
I assumed along with others that reading this book would be a painful experience. It wasn’t. Amy Chua’s writing is clean and effective, nothing less than what I would expect from a Professor of Law at Yale Law School. There were a myriad of funny moments as well as instances inundated with tension – reading this book never got boring, which is why I finished it in one day.
Now, for the whole Chinese vs. Western debate, I pulled a few quotes to exemplify my opinion on this argument.
“For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong.
If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise their child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure.
If a Chinese child gets a B – which would never happen – there would be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the Chinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child.
In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children’s psyches. Chinese parents aren’t. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”
I can see the benefits of Chinese parenting, and I agree that most Western parents are too easy on their children – and I don’t mean that stereotypically, either. I have an aunt who raises my cousins in the “Western” way, believing that they should just try their best and see what comes of it. At times I’m envious my cousins are treated this way while my own mom curses and screams at me for the smallest nuance, but sometimes I’m glad that my mom has instilled a drive for perfection in me (though part of that drive is a part of my own personality).
My over-arching opinion is that the mindset of Chinese parents – assuming that their children can achieve excellence – is better than the Western attitude of simply “try your best”, but the Western method, which uses kindness and compassion, is better than the Chinese practice of shaming children and harshly reprimanding them. In the end, there is no one perfect way to raise a child, but I believe that it should include a healthy mix of these two styles fitting the child’s specific needs.
Overall, I enjoyed this book. As you can see from my verbose review, I was greatly affected by it – it’s no wonder the popularity of this book skyrocketed immediately upon its publication.
If you’re a parent or thinking of becoming one, I highly recommend reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.