Before I became a parent, I had a clear vision of what kind of a parent I wanted to be. I had hoped for a lot of changes from the way my parents had raised me. Though discipline and obedience were absolutely non-negotiable.
Fast-forward to the time when I became a mom and my child was around 2 years old. While I was still struggling with the nuances of motherhood, one thing that stood tall was my kid’s feisty, spirited personality.
She had an untameable spirit and nothing (no amount of bribing, pampering, cajoling, yelling or even threatening) could make her change her mind. Except, giving her control over a situation sometimes helped defuse her temper or sway her decisions.
Things haven’t changed much since then.
I sometimes feel, raising Pari is quite similar to trying to tame a feral horse. Our home is often an all-out warfare with the fact that Pari has inherited my hot-tempered, quick-witted, fast-forgiving personality.
With a child who challenges my authority at every step, I have learnt to adapt myself to become a parent who always offers her child choices.
However, I can’t help but be worried if I’m doing enough as a parent by not being a strict mom.
Am I robbing my child of the possibility of being successful by not pushing her hard enough?
The answers to all these doubts came to me from Amy Chua’s controversial parenting memoir, Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother.
I spotted this book among the titles recommended to me by Amazon.
The blurb on the book reads:
An awe-inspiring, often hilarious, and unerringly honest story of one mother’s exercise in extreme parenting, revealing the rewards—and the costs—of raising her children the Chinese way.
All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua’s iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way—the Chinese way—and the remarkable results her choice inspires.
Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices—the exacting attention spent studying her daughters’ performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons—the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting—and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another.
While researching about the book, I had a chance of reading Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article and the criticism the book received.
I’d like to begin by clarifying that the book is not a parenting prime.
It is a witty memoir of a Chinese immigrant mother who shares her journey in her parenting years clearly outlining her views on how do Chinese mothers raise successful children.
Amy Chua both defends and questions her parenting methods throughout the book, and she accounts for her generalization of “Chinese” and “Western” mother right in the first chapter.
The book draws inspiration for its title from the fact that Amy Chua was born in the year of the tiger as per the Chinese zodiac and this book records her life as being an obsessive, strict mom who is determined to help her children achieve success and greatness in everything they do.
The author has been widely criticised for her parenting style and the immense pressure she subjects her daughters to.
I could feel a connection, an understanding, a bonding for Amy’s choices and parenting style having been raised in a similar way.
Maybe, all Indians and perhaps most Asians can connect with Amy’s style of parenting.
Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:
– have a playdate
– be in a school play
– complain about not being in a school play
– 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
These rules had no exceptions and there was no room for any excuses in Amy’s home.
The truth was that Amy’s daughters, Sophia and Lulu would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practising their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) scoring straight A in all subjects and perfecting their Mandarin.
The book holds an important place in the current times when we can see so many children buckle under the constant pressure of expectations from their parents.
“Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn’t get them, the cChinese parent assumes it’s because the child didn’t work hard enough. That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and improve from it.”
In a world that values only the successful, the achievers, failure is not even considered an option.
In Amy’s pursuit of helping her girls achieve excellence, things begin to fall apart. This comeuppance is the reason why this memoir left a lasting impact on me.
Besides the similarities in our personalities, the outlook of the author’s parents and the strikingly similar personality traits my daughter shares with Amy’s younger daughter, Lulu made this book an enlightening read for me.
Unlike parenting books, that tend to get preachy, this memoir helped me see the cultural reasons behind why we, Asian parents, parent the way we do.
I learnt why being a strict mom comes so naturally to me, despite the constant emphasis on the importance of trying to respect our child’s individuality, being more supportive of their choices while providing positive reinforcement from all parenting books and articles on the Internet.
The book makes for an interesting, witty, breezy read with never a dull moment. The book reads like a fiction novel with nuggets of wisdom for the parents at every bend.
This book hit home for me because:
– It introduced me to the many possible explanations about why the strict parents (like my parents and myself) choose to be so.
– How our culture affects the way we parent.
– What is the best approach when raising an iron-willed child like my daughter.
The book teaches many priceless lessons:
♥ Most activities are not fun unless you’re good at it.
“What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it. to get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.”
♥ You can’t get good at something without practice. Through practice, every single day of the year is a must.
“Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence. Once a child starts to excel at something – whether it’s math, piano, pitching or ballet- he or she gets praise, admiration, and satisfaction.”
♥ Practising something you aren’t good at isn’t fun, and you may need external motivation, coaching and lots of willpower to make it more enjoyable.
“The praise and admiration the child gets builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.”
♥ While verbal encouragement can give you confidence, great results give you a lot more confidence.
“As a parent, one of the worst things you can do fr your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.”
The book wouldn’t have impressed so much if it had been written entirely from a parent’s perspective. The author has taken the time to acknowledge the various episodes where she’d override her children’s desires and preferences, break promises in the hope of helping them (her children) achieve greatness.
What really balances out the tiger mom’s obsessive parenting misadventures is the rebellion of her daughter, Lulu. How Amy learnt that it was time to draw the line to her overzealous, often tortuous ways of making her kids excel is something, many parents can take a learning from.
The author has succeeded in painting an almost complete picture of two styles of parenting. One, strict and authoritarian and the other where the parents believed in individual choice and valued their children’s independence, creativity and questioning authority.
This balance comes from the fact that Amy married an American Jewish, who had been raised with values very different from her own.
There is no denying that at times, Amy’s parenting style feels suffocating when she insists on her daughter’s practising the piano and the violin every day, even on their overseas vacations and on many days past midnight.
But you can’t help but notice that the author is a caring mother. Despite the rebellion from her kids, she doesn’t give up. The Tiger Mom’s parenting style is different and builds immense pressure on her kids but because it is backed with love, you can see the children survive it and excel (exactly the way their mother hoped they would).
The author’s irresistible passion for life and her honesty shines bright and makes this an unputdownable read irrespective of whether you agree with her parenting style or not.
Who is this book for?
I might not agree with the author’s parenting style but I strongly recommend this book, not only to parents but everyone who has been raised by strict parents. Asian immigrant parents (settled in the western world) will particularly feel a connection with Amy’s thought process and preferences.
If you’re a parent, irrespective of your style of parenting, this book is a must read to give you an insight into what it feels like to be raised in a strict environment. This book gives a taste into what goes on in the process of pushing kids too hard in the pursuit of excellence.
About the Book:
About the Author:
Amy L. Chua is the John M. Duff, Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School. She joined the Yale faculty in 2001 after teaching at Duke Law School. Prior to starting her teaching career, she was a corporate law associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton. She specializes in the study of international business transactions, law and development, ethnic conflict, and globalization and the law. As of January 2011, she is most noted for her parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
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