Thursday, February 2, 2012

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother; Amy Chua




Author:  Amy Chua
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Edition: audio
Reader: author - Amy Chua (very good)
Source: Library
Date Completed: 2/1/2012
Rating: 4/5 (as a memoir) 1/5 (as a parenting role model)
Recommend: yes

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the brutally honest memoir of a Chinese-American mother, and how the Chinese parenting style, she used to raise her two daughters, is so different, and in her opinion, superior to the way most Western parents raise their children.  In the author's opinion, Western parents were too easy on their children, and too worried about their self-esteem.  The result is often soft-hearted, thin-skinned children instead of tough resilient ones.  Western parents, according to Chua, don't push their children enough to be the very best they can be, and she claims that they also allow their children to make too many of their own decisions.  According to Chua, Western children often select activities that she deems are not in the child's best interest. Examples of these are,  cheer leading, drama club or any other sport or activity that you can't win a medal in.

Amy Chua and her husband Jed Rubenfeld, are both Yale Law professors and authors. The couple agreed early on that Amy would decide on the parenting style for their daughters, and as for religion, the girls would be raised Jewish like their father Jed, even though Amy was raised Catholic.

High expectations, and respect for authority were a given, and the girls were raised to believe that "nothing is fun unless you are good at it". To achieve this, one had to work hard and endure long hours of practice, practice and more practice. After school the girls often had to practice up to (4) hours each evening.  Building confident and successful children was all that was important to this mother. When it came to studies, a grade of (A-) was unacceptable. The girls, Sophia, the oldest, and Lulu, the younger child, were never allowed to have play dates, sleep overs, watch television, be in a school play, play computer games, nor could they choose their own extracurricular activities. Friends outside of school were not allowed, as they had to fit them into a busy schedule, often  for a year in advance.  In school, not being #1 was never an option.  The only subjects that were not important to Amy for their daughters was gym and drama -- in Amy's world, if you couldn't win awards it wasn't something worth spending time on.

Sophia was always respectful and eager to please her parents, she was tops in her class gifted as a Suzuki piano student.  She was subjected to rigorous lessons, special teachers and the girls even had to practice when the family vacationed.  Amy even chose hotels based on whether a piano would be available for Sophia to practice on.

Lulu was also highly intelligent, and a talented violinist, but she was a rebellious child with a mind of her own. She was a girl who often went head to head with her mother with neither willing to back down.

I'm not going to elaborate on the parenting methods Amy Chua used on her girls.  You probably wouldn't believe me, and you really should read this book for yourself.   At times while reading this book, I felt a bit like a voyeur, peeking into the windows and looking at the daily life of this family. Honestly, had that been the case, I probably would have called CPS (Child Protective Services) on at least a couple of occasions about this mother.

Although her tough Tiger Mom style seemed, in most cases, to produce the results she was hoping for, I wonder what price the girls paid emotionally in their attempts to please their mother, and how she will be remembered by the girls later on.  It always seemed like nothing they did was good enough for their mother, and that they could have done better.  Even though the reader did learn a little about Jed, the girl's father, and the way he was raised as a child, I got the impression that Jed rarely interfered with the demands placed upon the girls by their mother.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely, even though I don't agree with her parenting style,  and I also thought she carried this huge chip on her shoulder.  Perhaps a blend of Chinese and Western parenting styles might be the answer to raising a smart, self-confident and sane child.

48 comments:

  1. This is one of the book which I must read - especially after your review!

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    1. It is really an eye-opener about a somewhat "foreign to me" way of child-rearing.

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  2. It is more or less the Asian concept of life - hard work and more hard work! Most parents have had such hard beginnings that they want their children to take every advantage available to them which would not have been available to the parents. Maybe something difficult for people to understand - especially those cushioned by a social security system which looks after one from the womb to the tomb.

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    1. Mystica, you do make a good point when you stated that not everyone has the advantages many take for granted: "especially those cushioned by a social security system which looks after one from the womb to the tomb."

      I work with a Chinese woman with (2) talented and driven sons. Both were tops in their class and excelled in piano, violin and swimming as well. Although the family can well afford it, they don't go out to eat, don't own laptops or iPhones, and boys spend their weekends practicing, performing in church etc.

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  3. I remember when this book came out and I intended to read it then. This is a good reminder. I know that I won't agree with the parenting philosophy, but sometimes I do think that my generation perhaps gave our children too many choices. Parenting styles swing the pendulum from far one direction to far the other. It's interesting to think about.

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    1. Kay, I do agree that most American kids have too many options, and if allowed to make all of their own decisions the results could be disastrous. Compromise and I've always lived by "don't sweat the small stuff"....let the kids have choices, but the important stuff needs adult guidance.

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  4. I'm torn about reading this one. Although, like Mystica said, this is pretty much the Asian way of life and I grew up on a much milder version of it, I don't agree with the author's thinking. Maybe I should get the audio for the car.

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    1. I think you would enjoy the audio. I'd love your feedback!

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  5. I haven't read this book yet, I'm not sure if I will. I guess I should see if my library has an audio copy.

    I saw an interview with the author, one year later. While she's proud of her parenting and children, I got the feeling that she may have wished she didn't include some things (or that they weren't written like they were). Sounds like she feels she was misunderstood.

    My husband and I are/were strict parents (not like this author though). It's interesting to look at our son today versus his childhood friends.

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    1. I wasn't a strict parent, and my children did well in school and never got in trouble. Maybe it was luck, but i prefer to think of it as a mutual trust that made it all work out.

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  6. I have avoided this book, because after seeing a few interviews with Amy Chua, I didn't really feel like I wanted to put another cent in her pocket. But I do think it would be very interesting to read the girls' versions of events. Great review!

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    1. Yep, I hear you and that's why the library audio satisfied my curiosity and didn't cost me a dime.

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  7. I do think Americans worry about self esteem too much but it sounds like the author goes way too far in the opposite direction. I bought this book when it first came out but haven't gotten to it yet.

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    1. Kathy, I loved for you to read it and give us your take.

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  8. I will get this one from the library, because I also feel like Col. My parenting style is so different than this, and I am much more of a hands on and emotive parent. I don't keep my kids from doing the things that interest them, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I think that Amy Chua borders an abuse with all this, but it has made me eager to read the book! Great review today!

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    1. I'd love your take on this one. I believe their needs to be a combination of both choices and limits that need to be decided by parent AND child.

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  9. Hmmmmm, I would have to ponder that for a while!

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  10. I wouldn't dare listen to this while driving. I'd wreck the car for sure. I had heard a lot about this book, enough to make me very angry, and sorry for those two little girls. Actually I don't agree with what is now the norm for raising American kids either. The mothers I know smother their kids, take care of everything, and send them out into the world totally incapable of handling real life. Oh I can just hear the protests now!

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    1. We see that at our college. When a kid had his cell phone stolen, he contacted his mom to call us to report it, when he was right in the library. Some parents do too much.

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  11. The question is: how much do we push our children, so that they'll be productive and successful? Although I may not agree 100% with the methods of this "Tiger Mom", there's a great deal to be learned from this Chinese philosophy and approach, which is about truly striving to be the best.

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    1. I wonder what the incidence of peer pressure, bullying, and even suicide is for these children who are not allowed to have friends or do the things other kids their age are doing?

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  12. I agree with Col that reading the daughters' account of their lives sometime in the future would be the more interesting read.

    I find Chua's approach to life and parenting to be depressing, but I did enjoy your review!

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  13. I thought this memoir was one of the most memorable I've ever read. It was thought-provoking about raising the expectations that we have for our children. And while I agree that many of her methods are completely unacceptable to me, I do think that a lot of parents in America don't spend as much time pushing their children to reach their full potential especially academically. It's so much easier just to let them play video games for hours on end (I'm speaking from experience of watching the parenting style of many in my small community).

    I definitely think that she crosses the line though, don't get me wrong. But I also think she had some valid points about the weaknesses of "American-style" parenting.

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    1. I hear you Alyce, American parents can be too lax in wanting to be more of a friend than a parent at times. She, however, just didn't give her girls the option of doing anything she didn't see as worthwhile -- friends interrupted their rigorous routine.

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  14. Excellent review! Who's to say what style of parenting is the "best"? I'm sure everyone you know has different ideas on how to bring their kids up. Even in marriages, this can become a bone of contention.

    I agree with Kay though that kids today get too many choices. I think this would be a most thought provoking book.

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    1. Me too Kaye -- too many choices and peer pressure and bullying is a huge problem for those kids who don't fit the mold of the typical teen.

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  15. Reading your awesome review confirmed that this book (and the Tiger Mom) will probably annoy the heck out of me. Thanks!!

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  16. This was an interesting review of a book I confess I hadn't heard of but will now definitely read. In the Caribbean we used to have pretty much the same parenting philosophy as that of the Chuas - that children are not to be coddled and should study hard and make themselves useful. "Children should be seen and not heard" was commonly heard as was "spare the rod and spoil the child." Now with a greater understanding of child psychology and greater penetration of American cultural mores, we've seen quite a slackening of the very tight controls parents wielded. We've also seen increasing youth crime and there are many, particularly the older heads, who believe the two are linked. I don't. I think worsening economies and greater gaps between the rich and the poor are to blame but, at the same time, I do believe that children aren't receiving the level of parental guidance that they need.

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    1. You make some excellent points. I think parents were more strict 75++ years ago, when families were often larger, money tighter, etc. At least this is what I was led to believe by people from that generation. It was also a simpler time when moms often stayed home, families ate all of their meals together etc, but when (2) parents work, things are different and rules tend to loosen up it seems in some cases.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts today.

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  17. This is an excellent review, Diane! I'd also like to see the girls' version of the story, but am still very curious to read or listen to the book - surely one of the most thought-provoking memoirs out there.

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    1. JoAnn since you are the mom of girls as well, I'd love to hear what you have to say about this one. See if the library has the audio!

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  18. I like how you did the ranking!! I felt like a voyeur reading this book too. I can't believe how candid she was about her actions. It just shows you how different her style is from the "American" style. You make a good point about Jeb … he is almost a non-entity in the book in a way. I'd love to have her daughters write a book and share their view of this way of life. Still, I think she has some valid points, even if her own personal style feels too extreme. Great review!

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    1. I know, I think it's fine to encourage you kids to try harder and do a bit more, but the way she drove these kids without any real choices for them -- seems just wrong. Love to see how they will raise their own kids some day.

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  19. I think she would drive me crazy! But you've got meinterested in reading this one!

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    1. Staci, if you like audio books you should try to get this one from the library.....unbelievable.

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  20. I've read enough excerpts from this to know that reading it would really just tick me off. I am all in favor of high expectations for your kids. I am all in favor of helping discipline and hard work. But you can push too hard -- who wants to take all the fun out of life for your kids? (And for yourself - it sounds like an exhausting way to parent.) I would not want my kids to look back on their childhood and remember nothing but being forced to study and practice and being denied all of the fun things that their friends (if they were allowed to have any) enjoyed. I think she's really an example of taking a good idea TOO far.

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    1. Lisa....you uttered my sentiments exactly! Thank you

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  21. Diane: I am sort of sorry that I didn't press my kids harder...They are doing fine but still I feel I was too modern in my approach, maybe...

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  22. Absolutely Diane, A blend of West and East is better. Amy is overdoing it. But did you see the opening quotes on the book? She said it was a story about her family, and Supposed to be a story about Chinese Parenting better than the West, instead she was humbled by her 13-year-old. Looking at it this way, Amy is sharing her experience, it's up to us to make the deduction. I read this last August but didn't review it. I'll try to re-read it again. Thanks for the review!

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  23. This is a great blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. Thanks for sharing such a nice information to everyone.

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  24. Thank you for a comprehensive review and evaluation of the book, ie, giving the memoir 4/5 and parenting model 1/5. ;) I've read the book too, mind you, I myself am a Chinese mom, but no tiger. I was aware of Chua's previous publications (history/political) so was quite interested in this book. But after reading it I was quite surprised by her 'method'. Like her, I'd believed in the potential of my son, but unlike her, I'd strongly valued exposing him to an all-round education, yes, including drama and theatre, and the social aspects of growing up by encouraging him to hang out with friends. With science and technology so dominating in our society, that's why all the more I'd motivated my son to pursue the humanities and the arts... He's now in professional school after graduating top of his class in college.

    A major argument against the 'Tiger Method': Simple, just look at her husband Jed. He's also 'successful', isn't he, according to Chua's standard of measurement. Why doesn't she look at his upbringing and see why someone with a mother who used the laissez-faire method can also bring up a high achiever, law professor, a published novelist?

    I'd also question her definition of "success"... only the top. While reading the book, I found the absence of values such as character building, humility, faith, compassion... Further, considering both herself and her husband have books to sell, I've this to say: bad publicity is good publicity.

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    1. Arti, it was so great to read your comments on this books, since you are a Chinese Mom. You raise an excellent point about her husband's success and smarts even though his parents were not strict and demanding.

      Thanks for taking the tine to comment.

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  25. Interesting that the author read it herself. Sounds like she wouldn't trust anyone else to do it ;) I was raising pretty strict and I hope to raise Gage in a similar way, only with a few changes. Pushing your kids to be the best they can be is different than raising them to be the best and it sounds like the author was only interested in the best. But, hey, as a new parent I learned fairly early on that I shouldn't judge another's parenting style lest mine be judged!

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  26. I had friends in high school who had parents like this one. I have to say, they all turned out to be really successful, happy people. Yes, their childhood and teenage years were somewhat traumatic with the numerous piano lessons, extra tutoring sessions and having to miss out on football games and fries with blue cheese dressing at the local hang out, but now, they are so glad that they had parents who were so strict.

    I could never be that strict with my own kids but my kids could easily use a bit more structure.

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  27. I am reading this soon - it was nominated for the memoir category of the Indie Lit Awards.

    I was raised by fairly strict parents who were determined to instill a work ethic in my brother and me. Although I am grateful for everything my parents did for me, living with all that pressure was difficult at times. I am interested to see how I react to this book.

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