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.