Amy Chua’s book on Chinese parenting “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother” is polemic, but unflinching look at one woman’s model of parenting.
Amy Chua’s book stirred up a lot of discussion and outcry at the beginning of the year. I knew about some of the stuff that was in the book based on excerpts and some interviews that I had heard then. Last week, Shanthala came across a copy of the book in the library. Here are some excerpts from the first few chapters of the book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” :
Despite our squeamishness about cultural sterotypes, 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 Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of 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.
Unlike your typical Western overscheduling 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.
According to Sophia (her first child), here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her parenting:
1. Oh my God, you’re just getting worse and worse.
2. I’m going to count to three, then I want musicality.
3. If the next time’s not PERFECT, I’m going to TAKE ALL YOUR STUFFED ANIMALS AND BURN THEM.
In retrospect, these coaching suggestions seem a bit extreme. On the other hand, they were highly effective.
Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can’t. Once when I was young – maybe more than once – when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me “garbage” in our native Hokkien dialect. … As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me.
Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say “You’re lazy, All your classmates are getting ahead of you.” By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they’re not disappointed about how their kids turned out.
I’ll have more to say about the book in a later entry.