Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother: Reflections of a Peaceful Parenting Mom

By Kristina Dott © 2011


I was asked to read and review Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother before its release date of January 11th. When I said yes, I had no idea I would be opening the cover of one of the most controversial books among U.S. parents in a long time. I tried to skip the news reports and media furry that surfaced, wanting to read with open eyes and a fresh mind. This proved to be difficult. Everywhere I turned people were talking about "tiger mothers" - from the playground, to the PTAs, to the sidetracked collegiate department-head meetings. Some news reports were contemplative, others over the top and exaggerated. Friends said, "Oh, I don't think it fits with peaceful parenting... It'll be interesting to hear what you think." And so, with a bit of excitement and determination to see for myself what Chua's lessons were all about, I started in on her words:
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 actives
  • 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

The more I read, the more I related - both to Chua and her daughters. You see, my own mother was a "tiger" of sorts. While she did not take it as far as Chua (we did have the occasional sleepover for once a year birthday parties, we were in junior high and high school musicals, and we all played instruments other than the piano or violin), there are many similarities between the expectations my mother had for us, those that Chua has for her daughters, and those her parents had for her. To be quite honest, in many ways, I agree: accepting nothing less than excellence, more often than not, leads to excellence.

Note here, that "Chinese Mothers" don't always come from China (and they are often not mothers but fathers as well). Chua writes, "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..."

My own mother is of English and African blood, born in the Midwest heartland of the United States. She parented us in the style that her military ("tiger mother") father before her had set as an example. Anything less than the best was unacceptable in our home. A few tears filled my eyes as Chua relayed the story of her own father attending an awards assembly. Chua received second place, and her father was furious. "Never, ever disgrace me like that again," he told her. As an early high school student my parents were invited to an awards assembly where I would be given an award. My mom discovered ahead of time that I was, in fact, not at the top of the pecking order. I'd be given the equivalent of a silver medal. She refused to attend the ceremony. Even now, 20 years later, that one still stings just a bit. But a part of me also wonders if it was things like this that shaped me into who I am today, and Chua into who she is. Both successful in our own regard and doing what we love. Chua is sure to emphasize that tiger mothering is not the same as being a monster - everything that is done is built on a foundation of love and compassion and high expectations - this is how parents raise children who succeed and are then happy with themselves and with life.

I'm going to skip the in-detail retelling of the most commonly reported (and exaggerated) aspects of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (those that bring the most hate mail into Chua's inbox). For example, calling her daughter, Sophia, "garbage" (something she says she does regret, and wishes she could change) and forcing her 7-year-old, Lulu, to practice "Little White Donkey" on the piano for hours on end "right through dinner and into the night" without breaks for the bathroom or even a drink of water until Lulu finally mastered it with a, "Mommy, look - it's easy!" and continued to play the piece over and over on her own...

Thinking of my own children, one tiger mother moment that got to me the first time I read it (empathizing more with the children than the Chinese Mother at the time) was the card that Lulu made for Chua on her birthday. Seeing that it was "a piece of paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front," Chua gave the card back to Lulu and told her she did not want it. "I want a better one - one that you've put some thought and effort into. I have a special box, where I keep all my cards from you and Sophia, and this one can't go in there." I imagined my youngest son handing me his colored cards full of love and I cannot fathom rejecting one. Wouldn't it be special all the same - in its own sweet way? And maybe this is where Chua has more tiger in her than I do. "Everyone is special in their special own way. Even losers are special in their own special way," she tells her husband in one discussion. Ouch. And yet... in life, there are winners, and there are losers, and you can't be both. For a Chinese Mother, making sure that your children are winners is love.

The Chinese Mother expects her children to only attend the most elite university programs. In this way, three of the four of my siblings and I failed our tiger mom. We all hold multiple advanced graduate degrees and doctorates, yet our schools were, for the most part, not top ranked. One brother attended the best academy for oral surgery - but me, well, I sit here today writing and working most of my hours from home, and investing in the mothering of my own children - putting a career on the back burner for now and much to the chagrin of family members who frequently ask, "So when are you going to start using your degrees again?"

I've oft been known to say that in the West, our "mothering doesn't matter" to society or those around us (although in my heart of hearts I believe it matters more than anything). Through Chua's book, I can see now in a new light how Chinese mothering matters a great deal - and how Asian culture may just hold these tiger moms in higher regard for the successes they bring out in their children. After all, there is no way to deny a mother's influence (or love?) when she invests hours upon hours of her time in you each and every day of your upbringing. Being a Chinese Mother is not easy. It takes a great amount of devotion and dedication - persistence, patience, and pushing. Certainly, it is much easier to sit on the couch and let your children watch Wonder Pets, or drop them at day care while you run to the gym, or enroll them in afternoon soccer so you can meet and chat with friends. Chinese Mothers are anything but lazy or selfish. Chua cites studies that show Chinese parents spend approximately ten times longer every day than U.S. parents, investing in their children's academic practice and endeavors. To the Chinese Mother, this is love.

And I understand where Chua is coming from... I expect my own children to succeed. I know they are capable of getting all 'A's if they work diligently, and I expect nothing less. To me, college is not even an option - in fact, graduate school is not an option - it is fully expected for any child of mine. As it was for my mother's children. And while I fall short in my own tiger mothering (I don't drill my children for hours a day), I do align in my own self-reflection with Chua's report that Chinese mothers "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' [at home]."

However, I am likely investing a bit too much concern for immediate happiness into my own mothering than a good tiger mom would. How often do we in the U.S. hear a parent say, "I just want him to be happy!" And, "Her happiness is all that matters." Chua writes, "Happiness is not a concept I tend to dwell on. Chinese parenting does not address happiness." She admits though, "This has always worried me. When I see the piano- and violin-induced calluses on my daughters' fingertips, or the teeth marks on the piano, I'm sometimes seized with doubt." The fear of failure, and the need to be successful, is just too powerful to give up practice-practice-practice for immediate and fleeting happiness. But does the laissez-faire manner of Western parenting really lead to happiness? Does the Chinese way of parenting lead to unhappiness? "When I look around at all the Western families that fall apart - all the grown sons and daughters who can't stand to be around their parents or don't even talk to them - I have a hard time believing Western parenting does a better job with happiness." Chua notes that her intense focus on her daughters' success is the vehicle to help them find genuine fulfillment in their life's work (as she did) which then leads to happiness.

I look around, and again, I relate. My siblings and I are all ubber happy in successful paths because our mother pushed us so hard, set the bar so high, and expected nothing less than the very best. At the same time, I look at friends and family whose parents did not challenge, push, drill and hold very high expectations, with even higher involvement on behalf of the parents, and they are often ho-humming their way through life without any real passions, drives, feelings of success, motivation, or self-determining "happiness." An example of this can be seen in the high school my husband attended. It is a laboratory school in the Midwest where the overall manner of teaching is quite "live and let live." Students often select their own curriculum and are encouraged in their creativity, but not so much in hard sciences, learning, and being challenged. I've mixed feelings about this. Because while self-expression is sorely needed, and the arts absolutely play an important roll in our lives, being completely laissez-faire in education has led to year after year of valedictorians from this high school failing out of college. What does this say about the school's ability to prepare kids for real world experiences and expectations? What does it say about the school's "love" for their students? Through her book, Chua seems to suggest this is the antithesis of love for our children and good parenting (or good schooling).

Program for International Student Assessment Test Patterns

For all the attacks that have been sent Chua's way, she does have a point. China (in great part because of its very involved parenting and pushing kids academically) is doing better than most of the West in terms of schooling and those areas we'd typically define as "success." Results for the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) were released this past December and we saw the stark contrast between Shanghai (far ranked #1), Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea versus the U.K., U.S., France and Spain that were all middle-of-the-road. Education experts analyzing the outcomes simply explained that Chinese students work harder, with more focus, and for longer hours than Western students do. And it is their parents making sure the work gets done. For mothers like Chua, it is Western parents doing a great disservice to their own children, and their futures in the world, to neglect their academic success and studies in this way.

She points out in her January 11th Today show interview that just as so many Westerners look down on the Chinese Mother way of doing things, Asian parents don't exactly hold Western ways of parenting in high regard. "To be perfectly honest," says Chua, "I know that a lot of Asian parents are secretly shocked and horrified by many aspects of Western parenting, [including] how much time Westerners allow their kids to waste - hours on Facebook and computer games - and in some ways, how poorly they prepare them for the future. It's a tough world out there."

Reading Chua's description of the differentiation between American "sports" parents who often think they are being strict and getting ubiquitously wrapped up in their child's athletic events, versus the Chinese Mother, I thought that I was reading my own mom's rule book. In fact, these were each points I clearly knew my mom played by - and those I experienced repeatedly growing up - my tiger mother's rules to a T.  Chua writes,
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; (3) 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.
Believe it or not, amidst the hate mail for her open and griping tail of her Chinese mothering style, Chua has received her fair share of gratitude. Often, it comes from adults who finally grasp the love that resonated through the actions of their own "Tiger Mother" growing up. She tells TIME, "People have said that after reading my book they finally understand their parents and why they did what they did. One man wrote that he sent his mother flowers and a note of thanks, and she called him up, weeping." Others have written to Chua "to say that they wished their parents had pushed them when they were younger, that they think they could have done more with their lives."

 Amy Chua with her daughters, Lulu and Sophia, and husband, Jed Rubenfeld.

Chua's daughters (now in their teens, Sophia heading to college this fall) seem to already reiterate this appreciation for their mother's Chinese way. They are happy to be successful even at this young age - having been the best of the best already, with promising futures ahead. They each plan to mother their own children in the same fashion (with the occasional sleepover tossed in). After discussing this at length with my siblings, we all agree that if anything is certain, our mother's drive for our achievement spurred us into the locations in life that we are at today. It is her love for us that compels her (even today) to expect nothing less than the best. We are deeply and sincerely grateful for this gift she gave us, even if there were bumps and bruises along the way.

In the end, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, is an honest, often humorous, always raw, look at one Chinese Mother and her self-reflection of what worked, what didn't work, what she's proud of, what she believes in, and what she'd likely do differently if she had it to do-over. This is her memoir - a sorting through of past experiences, and a tale of how one 13 year old's rebellion taught this tiger mom a lesson in the end. Through her words (while not meant to be a parenting manual) we become more informed about the differences between raising children the Chinese way versus the Western way. And we may just be forced into some uncomfortable realizations that none of us are perfect, on either side of the globe. Maybe we all have a bit to learn from each other - for the sake of our kids.

In the film, Mulan, set in China, the main character, Fa Mulan, overcomes many a challenge on her quest to both protect and please her father. At the end of the story, Mulan returns to her family's home with both the Emperor's crest and the villain's sword - powerful symbols of her great achievements. She is surely greatest in the land. She bows and presents them to her father, needing his approval for her excellence. He was the "tiger mother" in her life. Her father takes the crest and the sword, tosses them to the ground, and sweeps his daughter off her feet into a giant hug that goes on forever. She, after all, means much more to him than all the successes in the world.

Maybe this is what it boils down to: how do you define success? Achievement? Happiness? Because, depending on your answer, you may or may not want to interject a little more tiger mother into your parenting.


~~~~



Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School. Her recently released book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother can be found here. She is also author of Day of Empire: How Hyperpowers Rise to Global Dominance and Why They Fall and World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability. Chua's Wall Street Journal article, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior," which includes excerpts from her book, can be read online here. 


26 comments:

  1. I think that's part of why I am definitely NOT a full-on tiger mother-- to me success is not solely defined in academics and prodigy. Sure, I want my son to be successful, but I also want him to be a loving person, a light unto the world. It's not that academics aren't important, but rather that development of the whole person includes more than academics.

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  2. I can actually relate to her too. I strive to be a "peaceful parent", but I also want my daughter to have drive when she is older. I personally feel that it is a matter of balance- wanting your child to feel as loved and treasured as they are, and wanting them to be as successful as they deserve to be.

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  3. I wonder how tiger mothers would respond if they had a child who simply could not excel at academics? I had a son who, despite the best attempts, could not read until he was 10. The only academic thing he excelled at was bible quizzing-in his high school years. He spent so much time on it, though, that if he had spent that much time on every academic subject, there would not be enough hours left in the day for studying, chores, eating and sleeping.

    Or, a child who was very gifted athletically? Another son brings me as much joy watching him pitch a good ball game as to watch my daughter play her violin in orchestra. He was a natural from the time he was little. He walked at 8 months and never looked back. Every sport he tried, he was very good at from the beginning, often better than those who had played for a number of years.

    I was a little curious about parents not attending if their child was to get 2nd place. What if all the chinese mothers refused to attend a ceremony for the same reason, because they all expected their child to be #1? There would only be one set of parents in attendance. Now, here in America, that scenario would be unlikely, bwecause we are at the point where we don't even want competition because someone loses and my, oh my, that might hurt their self-esteem. But if Asian parents all have the same mindset, it seems highly likely and so, what would be the point of a ceremony?

    I would agree that we here in the West expect very little of our children, and many spend way too much time in front of the TV, playing video games or simply "hanging out". We actually expect our infants to grow up quickly and be independent, but allow our teens to be lazy and remain dependent on mom for things they should do on their own. We tend toward laziness ourselves and don't want to invest heavily in our children; we are far more concerned with a healthy self-esteem and good feelings than high achievement, etc.

    I know I could use a little more "tiger" in my mothering and expect more than I do, but this seems extreme to me. There needs to be balance....between expecting nothing and expecting too much.

    TammiK

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  4. I was raised very differently. My parents told us to do our best and not sell ourselves short. However, if our best did not amount to more than barely passing a subject that would be fine for them if we really tried. However, they did not accept bad grades if they were due to watching too much tv or spending too much time with friends. After doing our best our parents wanted us to be able to support ourselves and be able to get a family of our own. They didn't expect us to go to college if we didn't want to ourselves, they didn't have very much education in life and still managed. My brothers and sisters finished high school and all got manual jobs or in shops but I am the only one who went to college. My decision to go was totally my own and I am glad there was no pressure to go. Had I failed miserably but tried very hard I know that would have made my parents as proud as my mother was when I graduated (my father died when I was in high school).

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  5. What about disabled children? The Chinese are very prejudiced against disabled people i wonder if this is where it stems from?

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  6. here was my response:
    http://happytogetherish.blogspot.com/2011/01/if-she-is-tiger-i-am-crap-no-idea.html

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  7. My other issue with Chua's model is the idea that success is always measured THIS way, by THESE standards, which are fairly narrow. What happens to the gifted, bright child whose gifts lie in more unconventional directions, like messy art and sculpture, or international relations, or heck, what if the kid is deep down inside destined to be a bassoon virtuoso? Yes, I absolutely agree that pushing our children to be their best is crucial. Homework before play--duh, as far as I'm concerned. Mediocre slapdash work insufficient. (My second grade son has done some of his little second grade homework assignments 3 or 4 times, till they are done to our satisfaction.) And absolutely, if a teacher/coach/whatever addresses me about a problem with my child, I will ALWAYS side with the adult unless it is made absolutely clear to me subsequently that the adult is in the wrong, and even then I would never dream of confronting the adult on that in my child's presence.

    But I am no Tiger mom. My children know when they screw up, but they also know that I love them no matter how much they screw up. My children know that they need to work hard and try their best, but they also know that everyone succeeds at different levels. My children know that piano lessons will begin in the next few months, but they also know that if they really want to play the trombone, and are willing to work hard at it and give it their best, I will support them.

    Chua wants her kids to be the best; I'm all for that too. But Chua wants her kids to fill HER idea of what "best" is, in every aspect of their lives. I want to raise a couple of smart, self-motivated, disciplined nonconformists who know how to think and go after what needs going after, whether the world approves or not.

    Call me a Platypus Mother. No tigers need apply.

    :-)
    --Jenn

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  8. Why has the creativity index of American youth been declining for decades?

    Why is American kids' creativity index decreasing sharply starting from 1990s while Asian kids have developed a balanced and advanced brain functions between left and right sides, which means Asian Americans have not only advanced skills in reasoning, logics, math, science and languages but also advanced expertise in creativity, imagination and music like China's young pianist Lang Lang?



    In the Chinese Tiger Moms debate, most Americans have argued that it was creativity that had boosted up US to its current monopolistic glory while Tiger Cubs under Tiger Moms' extreme pushes may have practiced a lot but lack creativity overall. Also, IBM recently polled 1500 Wall Street business leaders who have been managing the largest firms in the world and led to a conclusion that the first priority in developing leadership is creativity, otherwise one business would not be able to handle ever-increasingly fierce competition due to deeper and deeper globalization. In the meantime, a country's overall creativity can finally translate into job opportunities and thereby contribute to the fast growth of its economy. In the past, US has held an unbeatable position in creativity in almost any area from patents to technology innovations to business operations to everything that people need or businesses operate. Unfortunately, per Newsweek, "For the first time, research shows that American creativity is declining based on tests on 300,000 American children yearly." What went wrong and how can we fix it? Will Chinese Tiger Moms' tough discipline be a possible solution to stop bleeding of US creativity among our youth?

    Tiger Mother Professor Amy L. Chua on a daily basis forced her daughters to practice piano and violin for 3~6 hours and most American parents regard Chua as in violation of her children's personal interests, wills and choices, thereby leading only to a mechanically passive repletion and thus contributing almost nothing to their own creativity development. However, brain cognitive development theories prove those American parents wrong in this regard. Based on the working devision of human brain, the left brain is mainly for developing verbal and language, reasoning and logics, and math and science while the right brain is in charge of imagination and creativity, insight and intuition, and arts and music. Since Asian Tiger Cubs have an unbeatably monopolistic position in academics supported by all factual data in all college admissions offices or testing arenas like ETS SAT across the board, which is mainly controlled by the left brain. If Asian kids were to quit enough volume of practice in music and arts, then their right brain's functionality would be diminishing over time, dubbed as "Left Brain Geeks" whose personality traits show stubborn, reasoningly logical, mechanical and less compromising, and high performing in math, science and logics. Smarter than others, Tiger Mother Chua forced her two daughters to practice 3~6 hours music either on piano or violin by denying their overall accesses to TV shows, video-games and social media networking like Facebook friending. This, ironically to their benefits, Tiger cubs have struck a balanced development in their brain, thereby de facto rendering them better-adjusted, more creative and more holistic.


    Please go to our Tiger Moms Parenting Battle Hymn blog site at http://Blog.TigerMoms.net for the chart by Bureau of Labor Statistics and read more.

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  9. I don't think the pushing Amy Chua describes is universally "Chinese" parenting. In my experience -- I come from a Chinese family and taught in an area with fifty to eighty percent Asian students -- some parents demand and push, and some don't. What comes from the culture, I think, is the value on education and the effort parents are willing to put into their children's education.

    Almost all the parents of my Chinese students found ways to meet with and talk to me (and other teachers in my schools had similar experiences with their students' parents). If the child was falling behind, they would help with homework and hire tutors. It was not so much that anything less than the best was not good enough, but that it was a sign that help was needed. (Again, with some parents the strategy was to demand more, be disatisfied, disapprove, but not all parents. Not even most. Not even close to most.) If a child went from an 'A' one year to a 'B' the next, there was concern; it wasn't just assumed that grades would go down as the years went by, or that poor grades are a result of poor teaching. (And really, if the poor grades are because of poor teaching, who suffers from lack of attention to the child's learning?)

    As a child of a Chinese family, I experienced the demands and academic attention Amy Chua describes in fits and bursts. Throughout secondary school, I was a straight-A student. Yet, I don't feel that I got the education I needed. I know how to write tests; I know how to work the system. I didn't learn the things I wanted to learn and I didn't know those things were available to learn until I was too encumbered with adult responsibilities to immerse myself in them. The challenge that I needed was not provided by being top student. My grades-oriented Chinese mother didn't know how to provide that for me. In other words, grades aren't everything. There is simply more to life.

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  10. I think that the critical piece of information with regard to parenting is whether there is respect in the communication. Without some measure of respect there is the danger of belittling someone so much because they didn't get the gold medal, that they think of themselves as unworthy... and low self-esteem. It worked for this woman, but I suspect that she had many discussions with her daughters about her goals for them.

    There are not just two options in parenting... demand your kids do the work and expect nothing less than first, or essentially "unparent" by not providing any rules or expectations. These are not the only options... and peaceful parenting does not fall into either category. I'm stunned to find that no one here has commented on this, as I see that peaceful parenting lies in between. In my opinion peaceful parenting espouses good communication and loving respect, while holding high expectations and allowing the child some age-appropriate choice in their day.

    I also believe that happiness is important. Stress and pressure bring with it high blood pressure, heart problems, and chronic diseases. I believe that there are lots of people who weren't #1 at what they did, didn't get gold medals every time, and yet, turned into happy reasonably successful adults. Myself included.

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  11. A friend and I were talking about this online the other day. I had heard so many awful things about Chua's book and upon reading it for myself, I was astounded to find that I did not find her parenting wrong or abusive or any of the other adjectives I'd heard thrown around. I felt like she was parenting with different definitions of success, achievement, what is best for her children, effort, respect, etc. than I was and that was all. Nothing right or wrong about her way or my way, just different.

    My friend and I agreed that nothing is absolute - not the most suitable means of child-rearing, nothing - and she said "since nothing is concrete, we need to ask ourselves this: was her parenting respectful?"

    I disagreed. I thought we needed to ask: did she achieve her parenting objectives and were her children satisfied? And the answer to both of those questions is yes. She parented in such a way that she felt fulfilled her goals (with some adaptations along the way, some successes and some failures, and so on) and her children have answered that they were satisfied and indeed plan to parent much the same way when they have children of their own. I think it's disrespectful to keep my kid up all night playing the piano, but she doesn't. Respect is a sociocultural construct, as far as I'm concerned, so it doesn't matter what I think ro what she thinks - we're both right and we're both wrong.

    A third friend interjected at that point. She pointed out that she thought that if we asked Chua, she would say that it was disrespectful to our children to accept less than the very best our children are capable of.

    I think she really nailed it.

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  12. I think that so much of the media attention about this book jumped on a few sound bites and really didn't delve into the meat of the book. I'm so glad that you kept an open mind and found so much to identify with here.

    Thanks for such a thorough review and for being on the tour!

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  13. I am really surprised to read something like this on a site called Peaceful Parenting. But here are my thoughts:

    Calling your daughters garbage and forcing them to play piano without bathroom breaks for hours on end is abusive. I struggle with calling her methods "parenting" of any form.

    Her ethnicity is beside the point when it comes to being a mother. The science of attachment theory applies to human beings, not just upper middle class white women in the west. Can a mother be both strict as well as bonded to her child? Yes, I see this all the time. But what Chua advocates goes beyond healthy psychological norms for human beings. I think it speaks to how abusive regimes affect our daily lives and most intimate relationships.

    The question isn't whether China is outpacing the West academically. The question should be: What kind of society has China created?

    One where women do not have the power over their own reproductive systems. One where baby girls are routinely left out in the cold to die. One where democracy is a dirty word and people are killed or imprisoned for speaking out. One where workers and children are exploited by greedy corporations with the blessing of the government. One where children are routinely beaten by parents and educators.

    If the Chinese way is so much better for children than our lazy American style, then why is Amy Chua raising her children in the US?

    Perhaps it is because with all our lazy excesses and episodes of the Wonder Pets, America offers Chua something China cannot:

    The freedom to speak as she wishes (even when others vehemently disagree with her).

    The ability to choose her own career path.

    The right to determine how many children she wants to have.


    Does this mean that I think that Westerners are better than those from the East? Not at all. But she invites comparison by labeling her parenting style as Chinese. Perhaps it is only natural that an abusive parenting style would evolve out of being governed by an abusive regime.

    Children often love the very parents who beat them senseless.

    Sorry if this is a bit disjointed.

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  14. My husband was raised by a teacher, in Switzerland (different educational system) and chose not to go to high school, with the blessing of his teacher mother. Instead he chose a vocational school. Later, on his own, he chose university and eventually earned a PhD. He admits that had he been forced to go to high school, he likely would have stopped early, burnt out, and never gone to college. He often credits his parents, particularly his mother, for believing he was capable of making the best decisions for himself. My own parents only pushed me to do my best, not be the best. 6th place was just as good as 1st if I tried my best. College was something my parents hoped for (never having gone themselves), but never forced. Good grades expected, but effort expected even more. Parties, friends, sports, music, art, drama were all life experiences meant to be enjoyed. In the end I managed to earn a PhD from a highly ranked university as well. And would say that my husband and I are both quite happy in our life choices.

    The key, to me, is how success is measured. All top grades? Only #1? Not for me. Success to me is not measured by obvious, outward, tangible things, but an inner sense of peace and happiness.

    Chua's title alone was enough to put me off. Why should anything about parenting be a "battle?" http://borderadventures.blogspot.com/2011/01/lullabye-of-new-age-hippie-mother.html

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  15. I loved Amy Chua on The Colbert Report - you can really tell when listening to her that she wrote this book as a memoir of her own experiences and was brutally honest as a way of making fun of herself, working through her own upbringing and what was expected of her, and learning how to let go in the raising of her children. She didn't really write this book to tell the world that "Chinese mothers are superior" - not at all. She wrote it more as a humorous look back at her fumbles and mistakes... and it caused a huge fuss by those taking it too seriously. Her daughters are always there during interviews, and they have been given a voice to speak out on whatever aspects of the book, their mom, or their lives that they wish to. They are certainly not damaged and seem quite happy, accomplished, and satisfied with things.

    Colbert Report (Jan 25, 2010 interview):

    http://www.colbertnation.com/full-episodes/tue-january-25-2011-amy-chua

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  16. I am both! I have high expectations for my Homeschooled 4, they are expected to earn their keep with chores and keeping up those grades, they expected to be responsible and polite! and we are also a Military family ( yes, drill sarge...ant fathers tend to bring their work home to the little soldiers) BUT ! wait I'm also a homebirhting, co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, intactivst, non-vaxing, cloth diapering Momma too! Gentle But Firm! But, I'm also a lot more excepting, I have one son 2 years behind where he should be, I know his limitations, I also would never force a subject or activity that was hated by a child, I would never give back a hand made lovey... but I also am quick to realize when someone is being lazy ( and it happen a lot ) Children need and Want boundaries!

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  17. Interesting critique. Thanks!

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  18. There are lots of unhappy people that were raised by parents that weren't domineering, (parents that never pushed). But, their lives are not going to be found in any paper because Nobody cares about the "Nameless" them, (but you can find them hanging about doing nothing, or hanging out at gov'ment offices looking for hand outs). There are plenty of unhappy people raised by all kinds of parents! Because happiness is an individual Choice! 30% of Americans are on some kind of anti-depressant. Let us not always blame the mothers!

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  19. I think, what I want for my kids is not for them to be happy or successful. I want them to be honest, upright Christian people who live their lives respectfully and contentedly. I that means I don't indulge them so that they are always happy, and I don't berate or push them to be perfect. I treat them respectfully, and expect them to treat me and others the same way. I want them to honor their God-given talents (whatever they might be), live their lives well and never have cause to hang their heads because they were dishonest. I want them to live normal, contented lives and for them to be able to find joy in simple things, and to not depend on anyone or anything for that joy, but to have it inside.

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  20. There's a thing called middle ground. You don't want to be a parent who doesn't do anything at all, doesn't set standards for your children and have expectations. You don't want to be the cool parent who lets your kids drink and smoke and leaves them lost when they need guidance. But you don't want to be the sort of parent who thinks they are a movie drill Sargent. You don't want to expect perfection out of imperfect little beings when you yourself are not perfect. You don't want to be harsh, using name calling and just not respect your children as human beings who deserve respect to.

    Gentle parenting seems to be that middle ground. I would want my future children to be content and be successful not in terms of being doctors that are neurotic. I want them to be strong within themselves, which is more important than them being a perfection that doesn't really exist.

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  21. i don't think parents can be categorized so easily. each parent and each child is different.

    for me, i read a lot of everything before becoming a parent and listened to the advice of others, but in the end i naturally gravitated toward peaceful parenting. i just examined what my instincts were telling me and what info was out there on topics. i guess my approach would be - forget about what everyone else does, what do you feel like doing and what is a natural approach as opposed to made up strategies.

    on the other hand, i'm also mindful of how i was raised. i was a latch-key kid, very independent, and that worked for me. i had a lot of time to make my own decisions and use my imagination. i was basically a straight a student with little parental pressure (the reasons for that we will not examine here ;) and i got a lot out of my education. because my brothers and i spent a lot of time without parents around, we all ended up in the family bed on most nights and that was really a positive as well. i hope to add a little of my parents' style to the mix in the future for balance. i don't think there's a style that has all the answers and will be an exact fit for anyone!

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  22. I am on the fence on this. I want what she has given to her kids, but without the cruelty. I have 3 very bright, but learning disabled kids, and I wonder how she would have addressed this. Is it possible to create super successful kids without depriving them of their childhood?

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  23. Personally, I think the sign of being the most "successful" parent is when your adult children want to actually be around you, when they call you for advice, and when they visit often, or do their best not to move away so you see each other all the time. When they actually want their children to be around you too. To be raised with these priorities - God, family, then work - is a good way to be raised I think.
    One of the most profound arguments I can use with pro-babywisers is that the children of the authors of the book no longer speak to them. How great could their child-rearing be if their own children want nothing to do with them? Always gives them food for thought. :)
    So, if her daughters still want to be around her at 30 when they've seen the world and know what is out there, then I guess she did, in her own way, show them love.

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  24. Evelyn Lau
    Runaway: Diary of a street kid

    some of the "Tiger cubs" dont excel and this can become the outcome:(

    I read this as a teenager and words can not express how I felt:(

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  25. I think a balance is so vital. Compassion, creativity (which I think is declining due to too much visual media, the creative and imaginative parts of the brain aren't getting stimulated enough in children.. period. Children do not learn and grow through sight, but by DOING.), a well rounded child and adult is a must. You must be loved, accepted, and encouraged. But not through emotional "don't EVER disgrace me again" abuse. There is nothing wrong with accepting your child for who they are and the gifts they bring that are theirs alone. Success is important, but compassion and acceptance are priceless.

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  26. I have tiger parents and they are now tiger grandparents insisting that i should raise my kids this way and that way.

    My parents put us in good schools they could afford. And they required perfection in grades, quiz scores. 9/10 quiz score is not good at all. The only way to please them, that i know they would be treat me well (a.k.a. not get angry / not shout at me / not talk to me for weeks as if i don't exist at home) is to bring home a medal. A GOLD MEDAL. And they wanted more medals. We were trophy kids. They love bragging us to their friends / relatives. They expected us to work in the best companies, to bring home a big salary. And at 28 yrs old, they think i was still too young to get married! *groan*

    I figured there must be a better way to live. I studied pyschology (undergraduate and graduate degrees) deep inside my heart i was asking 'Why?' Why was i treated such?

    But here i am, my husband i moved out of their lives, moved out of their stiffling rules, expectations. we moved out of the country!

    When i became a parent myself, my husband and i made a conscious decision not to parent the way our parents raised us. This was when we found attachment parenting. There is a bigger world out there with people who are kind, compassionate and generous.

    After managing my hypertension & Post Partum Depression CBT, MBSR and now with SSRIs, I chose the opposite path much to my parents consternation. I don't work for money and no longer in the rat-race but rather i have donated my time to be a volunteer to organisations that counsel mums who breastfeed babies with special needs.

    To this very day my parents still don't get it. They continue to visit us overseas each year to see their grandkids, and instead of mindfully enjoying my children, they still insist i should do this and that they way they raised me. Heaven help them.

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