A Battle Hymn in Support of Tiger Mom

Tiger Mom, Tiger Moms, In Support of Tiger Moms
Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a simple story of a mom’s love for her two daughters. For her heartfelt stories in support of Chinese parenting, Amy Chua is a hero of our college admissions blog (photo credit: David Shankbone).

Eight years ago, Amy Chua released Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, a memoir that made The New York Times bestseller list and sparked a worldwide debate about how parents should rear their children. Some lauded the book as a treatise on how to raise children, while others derided Chua’s parenting style as oppressive, even evil. As we’ve worked with a number of Tiger Moms over the years, we steered clear of reading the book out of fear the subject matter would hit too close to home. But eight years after its release, we saw the book on the discount shelf in a local bookstore and couldn’t help but see what all the fuss was about. So what did we think?

Amy Chua’s Memoir is Self-Aware and Poignant

Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is no treatise or how-to guide on how to raise children — far from it. That was not the author’s intention. No, Chua’s memoir is just that: an often hilarious (the teeth marks on the piano!) — but not satirical — self-aware, heartfelt, and poignant memoir on raising her two daughters. Chua doesn’t deliver a sermon on how the Chinese parenting style is better than the Western parenting style. In fact, if anything, Chua, a child of American immigrants, sincerely describes the internal conflict she faced raising her half-Chinese, half-Jewish daughters in America while hoping to preserve important Chinese customs and traditions. As she writes of her memoir, “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 fleeing taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”

Like many folks who didn’t grow up with Chinese parents, we found Chua’s parenting style extremely intense to say the least. But who are we to say that the Western style of parenting is better than the Chinese style? Who are we to say that forcing a child to practice the violin for five consecutive hours is too much? It may have been five hours but four of those hours were wasted. So it was really just one hour of concerted practice, according to Chua. As Chua writes, “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.” When put like that, it’s tough to argue with either approach.

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5 Comments

  • elizabeth says:

    I read the book and loved it. She is spot on with her raising of kids.

  • Peg says:

    What a weird, tone-deaf, untimely post given current events. As I understand it, Chua is rightfully – at this moment – getting blowback (for her motivation+sketchy public statements) re supporting Justice Kavanaugh. When she was called out for the clear conflict of interest re her daughter gaining a clerkship she naturally denied+deflected. Guess who has a new SCOTUS clerkship with Kavanaugh? Tiger progeny. Gross. Seems a hagiographic piece like this would ay least acknowledge- it’s relevant to the lengths this woman goes on the ethics front, after all, particularly in the context of the admissions scandal. Enjoy her book, fine, but give better context. You’re supposed to be the “best” so #BeBest. Or wait….Is she a client of yours by chance?

    • Ivy Coach says:

      Thanks for your note. We’re not sure why it’s tone deaf to post a review of Amy Chua’s 2011 book just because her daughter happened to recently secure a clerkship with Justice Kavanaugh. While we stood staunchly against Justice Kavanaugh’s appointment as a Supreme Court Justice, Justice Kavanaugh has every right to appoint anyone he wishes as his clerk. And, so you’re aware, Amy’s daughter was supposed to clerk for him when he was a federal appeals court judge — before he was appointed to our nation’s highest court and before Amy ever wrote an editorial in his defense.

      Finally, while we stood staunchly against the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh, he — a man who fills the seat of the conservative Justice Kennedy who bravely helped legalize gay marriage in defiance of many fellow conservatives — is now our nation’s best hope for a moderate Supreme Court. So we’re mighty glad that Amy Chua’s daughter, a young woman raised by a pragmatic and endearing mother, will be helping to author his vitally important decisions.

      If you read Amy’s book and happen to support things like, say, equal rights for all or the immigrant experience, we suspect you’d be mighty glad Sophia secured this clerkship, too. And, no, Sophia was not our student. If she were our student, we certainly wouldn’t have encouraged her to focus so much of her time playing the piano, an activity that inspires yawns from admissions officers who implicitly stereotype Asian American applicants. But it worked out anyway for the Yale grad and we’re glad it did…because now she’s in a position to help make our country better and stronger.

  • Peg says:

    Don’t mean to argue -it’s your site. But you missed my point entirely by reducing this to socio-political issues and taking “sides.” The point is not simply Kavanaugh. It’s any judge/Justice. She’s a Yale Law professor and public figure of means with vast connections and networking to boost her kid. The goes out and supports the guy in a highly charged political environment while her kid is swimming in that very pool-whatever the court at issue. The conflict of interest is plain and troubling to every attorney I know familiar with it – her behavior elicits disgust in my parent circles even if they liked bits and pieces of her book. I’m sorry you see it differently. And I’m surprised you felt it necessary to publicly canonize Justice Kennedy and convey such trust in Kavanaugh. Yuck. We don’t care who the Justice was-it is bad ethics plain and simple and indicative of the rot underlying elite college admissions, politics, competitive clerkship, and the advantages that affluence affords in these contexts, which your business model boosts despite taking on a few pro bono vets (which is admirable but let’s not overstate it- you’re still part of the problem and I think you know that.) I have enjoyed your site and straight talk on most issues but you’re simply off here. Cheers.

    • Ivy Coach says:

      But Amy Chua isn’t a public official. She’s a law school professor. We fail to see the ethical dilemma raised by Amy’s highly talented and certainly qualified daughter, Sophia, receiving a Supreme Court clerkship with Justice Kavanaugh on the heels of the publication of Amy’s editorial in support of the then federal appeals court judge. As we mentioned, Sophia had already gotten a clerkship with Justice Kavanaugh when he was a federal appeals court judge — before he was appointed to our nation’s highest court. It’s quite common in the world of employment to take folks with you on your rise. It seems you’re suggesting it’s quid pro quo. Maybe it is. We believe, based on the facts we presented here, that it isn’t. And either way, we can’t fault Amy Chua for continuing to play the role of her lifetime: Tiger Mom. She loves her daughter. And her supremely gifted daughter now gets to help pen some of our nation’s most important decisions — for a Supreme Court Justice who, like his predecessor, has already demonstrated a willingness to swing left. And just as Justice Kavanaugh clerked for Justice Kennedy, we wouldn’t be surprised in the least to see a Justice Chau-Rubenfeld one day. Now wouldn’t that be something.

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