Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua

A new book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by author Amy Chua is stirring up controversy everywhere. In the book, she explains why she feels successful children are reared in the same style as that of her strict immigrant parents. Using the strict and disciplinary “Chinese method,” she is determined to raise to successful daughters, contrary to the “Western standards.” While some people don’t agree with this method, many of us were raised with the same tough parenting.

All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their child’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and merited inner confidence.

In the interview on the Today Show, host Meredith Vieira is completely shocked at what Amy Chua has to say. It’s hard for “Western parents” to grasp this method of raising kids. The truth is that this style is what drove many of us during our younger years. For better or worse, it has what shaped us today.

This book is currently #1 on Amazon for Asian American Studies. You can get your copy here.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua

Excerpt from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua

This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. It’s also about Mozart and Mendelssohn, the piano and the violin, and how we made it to Carnegie Hall.

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.

Part One

The Tiger, the living symbol of strength and power, generally inspires fear and respect.

The Chinese Mother

A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it’s like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I’ve done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:

* attend a sleepover

* have a playdate

* be in a school play

* complain about not being in a school play

* watch TV or play computer games

* choose their own extracurricular activities

* get any grade less than an A

* not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama

* play any instrument other than the piano or violin

* not play the piano or violin.

I’m using the term “Chinese mother” loosely. I recently met a super-successful white guy from South Dakota (you’ve seen him on television), and after comparing notes we decided that his working-class father had definitely been a Chinese mother. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise.

I’m also using the term “Western parents” loosely. Western parents come in all varieties. In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and say that Westerners are far more diverse in their parenting styles than the Chinese. Some Western parents are strict; others are lax. There are same-sex parents, Orthodox Jewish parents, single parents, ex-hippie parents, investment banker parents, and military parents. None of these “Western” parents necessarily see eye to eye, so when I use the term “Western parents,” of course I’m not referring to all Western parents—just as “Chinese mother” doesn’t refer to all Chinese mothers.

All the same, even when Western parents think they’re being strict, they usually don’t come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments thirty minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It’s hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that “stressing academic success is not good for children” or that “parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun.” By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be “the best” students, that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and that if children did not excel at school then there was “a problem” and parents “were not doing their job.” Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

This brings me to my final point. Some might think that the American sports parent is an analog to the Chinese mother. This is so wrong. Unlike your typical Western over-scheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) schoolwork always comes first; (2) an A-minus is a bad grade; (3) your children must be two years ahead of their classmates in math; (4) you must never compliment your children in public; (5) if your child ever disagrees with a teacher or coach, you must always take the side of the teacher or coach; (6) the only activities your children should be permitted to do are those in which they can eventually win a medal; and (7) that medal must be gold.

19 thoughts on “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom by Amy Chua

  1. Erin Hazen

    I like this story. It is of a mother with high expectations…who is not afraid to go against the grain and put her own successes and failures out there for us all to see. Some may look at her methods and gasp while others will simply take notes. I think Mrs. Chua is courageous to share her methods of parenting and her story with us. No one way of parenting is right or wrong, as no two children are the same. I, for one, cannot judge her methods as I would not want anyone to judge mine. This story isn’t a manual or a “how-to”…it is simply a story of one mother in her journey of raising two girls.

  2. Jordana

    While I agree with some of the author’s points and the general idea, I think she goes for the jugular a bit hard here. Western parents aren’t going to see this and go “hmm, I can see that as being valid” they’ll just be like “Chinese parents are mean and horrible dictators!” It’s a shallow examination which will result in a long-lasting shallow impression that will be harder to shake off for Chinese people than that piano piece she forced her daughter to learn.

    Of course, I’ve only read the excerpt, but if the rest of the book is like the excerpts I’ve read, then my opinion still stands.

  3. Linda

    I do think Amy is so right about the western culture we have lots our way with our children and education
    we are more involved with their little league sports, modeling, and everything else but their education values. I see why we rank 23 in science and 43 in math in the world. The Chinese rank 1st either in math or science. Sad that many people sit here a criticizes her and her parenting style, maybe we could learn something from their culture.

  4. Jim

    This concept is not new at all. I came across a similar scenario as an undergrad in my Psych 101 course back in the early 1970’s. Then the concept was tied to a different ethnic nationality, if I remember correctly it was referred to as “Jewish Mothering.” Bottom line I believe the underlying message Ms. Chua is trying to make is that too much liberalization is not going to prepare your child for the real world either. As she indicated in so many words, repeatedly telling your child “you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread” is not going to make him/her great.

  5. Susan

    It is not clear what is the intention/motivation of Amy’s book. She must agree with her parents’ style to make her successful and repeated that style toward her daughters. What made her suddenly wake up to confess her wrongdoing to the public? It’s terrible that she yelled “garbage” to her daughter, made her daughter to practice violin in a hotel and forced her 7-yr-old daughter to practice a difficult song on a piano. I am an immigrated Chinese mother and have both daughters who attended top 10 colleges. From her list of what Chinese parents do not allow their children to do, I have done only one – no boyfriends were allowed in high school. In my Chinese circle of friends, there were so many children graduated from top 10 colleges without her kind of parenting style. It’s her but not Chinese style. I admit that we are on the strict side to discipline our children but not act like so terrible as what she did to her daughters. I definitely value “Chinese discipline and guides a child to the right direction” instead of “leave him/her alone” because a child does not know what’s the best for their life.

  6. Tim Chua

    She born in America, her parents from Phillipine, where did she learn this Chinese parenting from. May be her parents treated her same way. Where is her Jewish husband, has no say in how to raise their kids or just doesn’t care. Only very few of the sick parents will treat their kids like her.

  7. Mev H

    I agree with some of of the author’s point, I think that our children will respect us as parents and appreciate authority. I also agree that it is a little over the top. Also that no one else would interfere with the process. I applaud her!! And hope that our country would look closer at the idea of it all.In the 60’s and 70’s children were innocent and did not think of doing the things that the children of today do. Yes there were some bad one’s but not like today.

  8. Emilia

    Hi, I’ll take Amy Chua over the White trash soccer mom any day! (And I might have my daughter play soccer some day.)

  9. celiacsis

    I don’t think parents can decide what their children will like and therefore they shouldn’t decide WHAT they do (i.e. football when your kid likes soccer better, violin instead of trombone, math genius over creative writing). It’s perfectly fine for parents to have high expectations and push their kids as hard as they see fit, as long as they believe that the kids aren’t working at full potential and they at least like the subject/instrument/sport, etc.
    Give your kids only one choice: to work their very hardest and be successful, but all the choices of how to achieve it.

  10. Amanda

    The author is the perfect example of what the Western mother used to be, hasn’t been since the ’60s, and needs desperately to reconnect with again. We see parenting the way it should be in the homeschooling movement these days, for the most part…in that part of our country who places God first in everything. We are raising a generation of self-esteem motivated, truly uneducated in many ways, spoiled brats who will not grow up to lead this country to the continued greatness it once had. Kudos to the author…many in this country could learn much and should read this book.

  11. Pet Fans

    Most adults and kids these days don’t know what’s needed to succeed in the real world. Therefore, parents and leaders with common sense need to offer direction and straight talk to push them to the next level. Self-esteem must be earned, not entitled. Be like the former American Idol judge, Simon Cowell, who’s harsh on the sub-par contestants and only passed performers who could excel at the next level. Steve Jobs didn’t have to ask what people want before he designed Apple gadgets. He just created stuff that make people want. Would you rather be a strict parent who raised kid like Venus Williams or a cool soccer mom who raised Bristol Palin?

  12. Sarah

    I am a Korean-American mother and English teacher. I am intrigued by Amy Chua. I see a lot of what I am going through with my own daughter. I am following the same tactic: attempting strict Asian parenting. Although I am definitely not as strict as Amy, being the product of lazy parenting myself ironically, I try to instill in my daughter the same sense of striving for excellence that many Asian parents do. Nothing but A’s is acceptable. She will go to the best college and get her doctorate. I am harsh with her, and I rarely coddle her. Recently, I experienced the same eye-opening transformation that Amy went through. It’s something about puberty that starts to change things. My daughter recently started breaking down and mentioning thoughts of just “dying.” Then I wouldn’t have to deal with her, she said. After a couple of blow outs, I decided to back down. See, the problem with strict Asian parenting in America, and I wish Amy had explained this to Meredith, is that it’s a paradox in America. The main problem is — what is the “norm” in the country? In Asia, the norm is to raise your children this way. Your friends are ALL having the same afternoon EVERYDAY: hours of homework & violin practice, or whatever the instrument may be. When all your friends are having the same afternoon it’s no big deal. And to some degree, when my daughter went to a magnet school, it was easier to spend all afternoon and evening doing homework and practicing the violin. Because all her friends were doing the same. HOWEVER, overall, in America this is NOT the norm. That feeling that others don’t have to do the same as you, when you’re a teen or going through puberty, when you’re being left out of some fun event, this is something that tears you apart. That is why I backed down. That is why she backed down. The key is: we backed down just a little. We still have extremely high expectations. That is why my Asian daughter will statistically succeed, and hers have already begun to do so. I’m sorry it’s true. I will still be on her ass everyday about homework and getting A’s and practicing her violin. I’ll just do it a little nicer.

  13. ZK

    The more parents invest in their kids, more they are entitled to demand high performance like most Chinese parents have done. On the top of everything else, opportunities are not spread evenly across minority groups and there are not much room for them to stay in the middle where mainstream society readily claimed. A Chinese American kid eithere moves to the uppermiddle class or struggles at the bottom. So it is somekind of neccessity and actully easier for them to move up and strive for success.

  14. Not an idiot

    I found her book to be absolutely pitiful. For one, it completely ignores any form of development of the children. I have seen the whole “tough love” parenting technique used many times. For some, the kids turn out to be economically successful, but socially inept. Others collapse under the pressure. To claim that this method is the ideal method is extremely arrogant. There is a difference between having high expectations for your children and working them like farm equipment. This author fails to see the difference. Lets say that under the strict living conditions and criticisms, you have managed to produce a successful child. How will that child see the world? You see, my theory is that children who grow up in an environment where their own individuality is repressed will end up seeing the world in a darker shade. They fail to see the good in people and fail to place any commitment into something that is not essentially their own. They pass this on to the next generation and so on and so forth. It is a dangerous cycle that will eventually tear society apart. While many of our doctors were A students, what about our world changers? You have to be able to see good in the world in order to change it. By crushing a child’s sense of imagination and individuality, you essentially force a child to see only success and failure with no method to change one to the other. You crush their dreams, dreams that lead to new inventions and big ideas. This parenting style does not work. Amy can claim that it works because her children are still young, pumping in good grades. When you are that young, good grades seem to be all that matters. But in the real world, an A in math is worth nothing.

    I am a strong believer of positive emotions having a stronger effect than negative ones. Therefore, raise a child in an environment that not only challenges him, but also encourages him and allows him to blossom as an individual. This will lead to a more socially productive child than one raised under the reign of this “Tiger Mom.” Plus, his positive emotions will flood from his life to those around him and eventually his own children. A cycle of love is far stronger than a cycle of hate. If you are a “Tiger Mom,” sure I bet your kids bring in all the good grades, but when they leave the range of your whip and enter the real world, let’s see how they feel about their childhood. Let’s see how many of them become future world leaders. Let’s see how many of them actually change the world.

  15. Sandra May

    I found this book amusing. True, her methods were extreme but as a result her children are smart people and you know they’re going to be intelligent people. And she’s stereotyping, she’s just saying that there are more moms like her found in China than in the west. It’s true, so I don’t see what the big deal it

  16. Rich

    I Love Amy Chua. I had a friend who got left back in the third grade because his parents came from Italy. His mom used to beat him with a shoe when he did poorly in school. Now he flys 747-400’s for UPS. My mom was not strict with me and I never got anywhere in my career. I wished she had just a little of Amy Chua’s drive for her children.

  17. Sutanto

    I like a combination model between Chinese and Western teaching methods. I grow up as a Chinese-Indonesian but my mother also has a western philosophy so she teach me a combination of Chinese-western method and I like it. I can do whatever I want as long as I am responsible with what I do. My mother always tell me to do the best, hard working, and try to have a good mark in a school. I can play a video game, play with my friends, do some sports, etc but every evening I must study except weekend. When I took master degree in Europe, my mother told me also: you don’t need to be a number one but enjoy your life in Europe as long as your mark still good to have a good job. I did that and I am happy with this. In my opinion, what Amy tell in her book are good but off course for me, I will make some adjustments.

  18. Kay

    Amy Chua is a narcissistic mother. She gives many examples of her narcissism in her so called “memoir” with her sometimes abusive, draconian method of parenting. In her book, she says her oldest daugther at one point called her, Amy Chua’s, perspective as Manichean. Yes, Amy Chua had an evil/dark side in her parenting “method” toward her young daughters especially toward her youngest daughter from the age of three years old.

    Some of the stories Amy Chua gives the reader in her book shows she isn’t trustworthy: I think she’s an unreliable narrator in her own so called “memoir.

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