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Taking Lessons From the Tiger Mother

Local Patch mom talks about what she, surprisingly, learned from Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in regards to fundamental parenting beliefs.

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 .

Stephanie Latchford April 05, 2011 at 04:27 PM
Great article, Bretany-- I loved reading your perspective on this book I've heard so much about.
Jenn Gower April 05, 2011 at 04:48 PM
I think I'll be running out to Barnes & Nobles on my lunch break! Great article and major props to Teddy for his reading success!
Bretany Pilko April 05, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Thanks Ladies! I had to cut my article really short - but what I left out is that Amy Chua has since backed down a bit on her 'Chinese' parenting due to her second child rebelling against it. I only brought up one valid point - pushing our kids to succeed - but there are many other points in this book that have merit. For every story in the book that upset me, there was something that pulled me back to Chua's side.
Michelle Cluver April 05, 2011 at 05:39 PM
Great article Bretany! I really want to read this book. I have a feeling I will agree with a lot of Chua's points as well.
Tiger Moms Network April 06, 2011 at 04:39 AM
Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld Admitted by Harvard, proving wrong most American parents' point that Tiger Cubs under Tiger Mom's discipline and hard work only have proficiency without critical thinking and creativity. http://blog.tigermoms.net/2011/03/sophia-chua-rubenfeld-admitted-by.html
Tiger Moms Network April 06, 2011 at 04:39 AM
What Music can Make Kids More Creative/Intuitive and Psychologically Healthier, Developing an Advanced Right Brain instead of only Left-Brained People? Ironically, Mandarin has Made Chinese Develop a More Advanced Right Brain than Americans as a Whole. http://blog.tigermoms.net/2011/04/what-music-can-make-kids-more-creative.html
Indrani April 13, 2011 at 03:02 PM
My personal experience has been the same as Amy Chua. While I admit I cannot go as far as she did I have noticed that whenever I have challenged my child and demanded results she has delivered and has had an enormous feeling of self worth at the end of it all. I agree with Amy Chua that demanding that they work hard and showing them that it does produce results goes a long way in helping them learn a valuable lesson in growing up - that their identity and self worth leis only in their own hands and not in the world's. My daughter is far more confident, is no longer bothered by snide remarks and has zoomed to the top of the class in almost everything she does. I think I have achieved what I wanted for her her to learn.

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