Are you a Tiger Mother? I'm not talking about amother and I'm not talking about Charlie Sheen. What I am talking about is the book that captured the nation's attention this year: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua.
“Battle Hymn” is Chua's memoir of raising her two daughters the 'Chinese' way, which is how her immigrant parents raised her. What does that mean? According to Chua it means no playdates, no sleepovers, no school plays, nothing but A's in school, piano and violin lessons, and always being the best. Not striving to be your best, but actually being the best.
Chua has been compared to a Mommie Dearest, a memoir based off of Joan Crawford's parenting style. One particular story that I had heard about involved Chua not allowing her daughter to take a water or bathroom break until she had perfected a piano piece. I heard she called her daughter “garbage.”
I'm positive that if Chua lived here, she would not be invited to breakfast with my mom crew at .
But I decided to read it so that I could dislike this woman legitimately. The problem I couldn't get around was the long hold list at the, so I eventually broke down and bought the book.
Reading this book is the equivalent of hanging out with another mother who likes to brag about her kids for hours on end. Chua is thrilled at her daughter's achievements and wants the world to know. Chua takes the credit for everything and, truth be told, after reading this book, she should take the credit. She spends every spare minute of every day working with her daughters so that they can be the best at everything they do.
So although I don't agree with a lot of Chua's tactics, she has many valid points.
It's true. Chua didn't let her daughter take a break while learning a piano piece. But what people aren't talking about is how Chua's daughter, when she finally learned the piano piece, she no longer wanted water or a break and just wanted to continue playing. Chua shared a very dark hour with her readers to get a point across about the importance of challenging your children until they succeed.
When I finished the book, I reached out to find someone to talk to about Chua's parenting style. It turns out, no one I know has actually read it, they were just talking about what they had heard from other sources. A few moms did respond letting me know that it sounded like a horrible book and they had no intentions of taking parenting advice from a child abuser.
Generally, people felt strongly about this book in a negative way. And I think I know why: people don't like to question themselves or their beliefs. We all think our way is best, including Chua.
I know my parenting style isn't perfect, so I decided to test a few of Chua's theories.
My son Teddy, who is always obstinate, was my test subject. After letting him play entirely too long on his Nintendo DSi (a 'Tiger mother' no-no), I told him it was time to go rollerblading. He was excited at first. We had bought the rollerblades for $5 at the Greek Affair atlast fall and had only used them a few times. After getting dressed in protective gear, we headed outside.
Within minutes Teddy was crying and he wanted to quit. He kept falling and complained about everything that was holding him back: the helmet, the knee pads, the sun. This is the part where I usually say, "It's okay, let's go home and play."
But this time, I told him "no" and that he had to go for another 15 minutes. For the next 10 minutes, I listened to him complain and cry. I watched him fall repeatedly and eventually gain more control and have fun. The next time he cried was when I told him it was time to go home.
When we got home, I decided to push my luck. I asked Teddy to read me a book. I wasn't sure this was going to work. He is still in preschool after all. But he picked a book and read it to me. My husband and I sat there with our jaws open in shock. When he was done, he ran upstairs to get another one. I never expected him to be able to do it, so I had never asked him before.
Chua believes her kids can achieve anything if they work hard enough.
I think the Tiger Mother has gotten to me. She didn't mean to. Her book is a memoir, not a 'how-to' book after all. But the fact is, I could spend more time challenging my kids to be better instead of always just congratulating them for trying a little bit. Trying a little bit won't get my two boys anywhere in the future, so for that, I thank Chua for teaching me an invaluable lesson.
This book is available at our local libraries at Marple Public Library and , offered as a book club in a bag as well as .