"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" by Amy Chua

Last year a book burst on the scene that had everyone talking, not all good though.  Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother had people heated up over her discussion of Eastern versus Western parenting.  Chua, an American born to Chinese immigrant parents, had set out to raise her children in the Chinese way.  For her this meant her kids had to spend long hours playing the violin and piano, studying, and pretty much doing nothing else.  In return, she felt her children would have all of the skills they needed to be the most successful adults.  But along the way, Chua learns a lot about her children as well as herself and finds that it's not about the particular way in which you raise your children, but about the lessons learned along the way.

When I first heard all about this book in the media Amy Chua came off as a know-it-all "we're better than you" type of person.  And it's true, she does come across as that in the book, however, by the end of the book Chua herself recognizes this and is completely honest about the lessons she learned along the way, as taught to her by her own children.  

I can understand where she was coming from.  I'm the child of an immigrant and married to an immigrant.  I see the desire for success and the difference in parenting from Western culture.  I grew up in an immigrant neighbourhood, mostly Chinese.  I've seen these Tiger Mothers and their children in action.  So there were no shockers in this book for me.  Yes, she doesn't let her children have playmates or sleepovers.  They are forced to play their instruments for hours on end and driven hours for lessons from top teachers.  But along the way Chua learned that when you instill good character in your children and teach them responsibility from an early age, they'll be able to make the decisions in their lives and still turn out successful.  

My issue with this book, and this is what may have given it the bad rap it received in the media, is Chua's unfortunate attempts at humour in this book.  A lot of assertions and observations came across as her trying to make light of the situation or make fun of herself, but instead came across as half-jokes.  You're fairly certain she can't actually be serious, but it just wasn't funny enough to know for sure.  

I'm glad I read this book despite the negativity that surrounded it.  I think you can always learn something from other people even if you disagree with everything they say.  This is a fascinating look at a way of parenting that is very different from what we are used to in North America, but that is occurring elsewhere in the world.  The fact is many parents are like this and Chua is probably one of a few who will tell it like it is.  We may not agree with it, we may think it borders on insanity, but it is still interesting to read about.


  1. It was definitely interesting to read, Shan. I enjoyed it although sometimes I was really wondering WHY? Why do this to your kids? And why do they have to be successful? Can't they live a mediocre, but (evenso) happy life instead?

    It's nice to read a completely different point of view, though. You're right about the humour, it wasn't quite right.


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