Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Tiger Mother

I really haven't had time to post to this blog for a long time.  Today I really wanted to share some thoughts I had while reading a book I recently finished reading called "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother."  If anyone else has read this book, I would love to have a discussion about it because I found it so interesting and so different from any other books about parenting then I have ever read.  This book is by Amy Chua.  I bought it on Amazon since our library didn't carry it-which they really ought to.
Chinese Parenting vs. Western or American Parenting.  Amy gives lots of examples of stereotypical parenting from both cultures which are not always true but generally pretty close to accurate.
She wanted to raise her children the "Chinese Way" even though she lived in America.  The book tells of her journey of parenting in America and how her perspectives change when one of her daughters didn't quite respond the way she planned.
What makes a Chinese mother?  This is what Amy said are believes of Chinese Mothers: 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; 4)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.
How do they keep this much focus all the time and have such great success.  These are things Amy's daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:  Attend a sleepover, have a play date, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than a A, not be in 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. (She talked a lot about her children's music studies in the book which I found fascinating!)
Reading these lists you may think she is absolutely crazy. I kind of did too.   But, after reading the book, I don't think she was.  She really  loved her children and they knew that, and she wanted to give her children a good childhood where they learned skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence.  I do believe you can instill these very things in your children and not be quite as extreme as Amy was.  Reading the book made me really think about my parenting style.  I am not a Tiger Mother but in somethings I have a few stripes that I could identify with.
Here is a couple quotes from the book I liked, "Chinese parenting is one of the most difficult things I can think of.  You have to be hated sometimes by someone you love and who hopefully loves you, and theirs just no letting up, no point at which it suddenly becomes easy.  Just the opposite, Chinese parenting--at least if you're trying to do it in America, all odds are against you--is a never ending uphill battle, requiring a 24-7 time commitment, resilience, and guile.  You have to be able to swallow pride and change tactics at any moment.  And you have to be creative.  pg 161-162
My thought is---That is why Chinese parents only seem to have 1 or 2 children.  How could you keep of this resilience through 4 or more children.
"That's one difference between a dog and a daughter, I thought to myself later.  A dog can do something every dog can do--dog paddle, for example--and we applaud with pride and joy.  Imagine how much easier it would be if we could do the same with daughters!  But we can't; that would be negligence.  pg 119-120
Birthday for Amy--"At Jed's urging, Lulu handed me her 'surprise,' which turned out to be a card. More accurately, it was a piece of paper folded crookedly in half, with a big happy face on the front.  Inside, "Happy Birthday, Mommy!  Love, Lulu"  was scrawled in crayon about another happy face.  The card couldn't have taken Lulu more than twenty seconds to make.  I gave the card back to Lulu.  "I don't want this," I said. 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."  Then Amy explains later that It's too idealistic to expect children to do the right things on their own.  pg 103-104

I really appreciated the things I learned from this book.  The thing I learned for myself is that I can do better as a parent.  I can make the sacrifices of my own time to spend helping them with their homework so they can be better students. I won't begrudge the hours spent at music lessons, and music practicing because I know that time is quality time spent with me.  I think we can expect more from our children.  They are smart, they are capable of so many good things.  By not expecting the best from them is not believing in them.  By letting them just turn on the TV or video games day in and day out is not letting them live up to their potential.  I would highly recommend picking this book up to read, I think you will like it.


  1. Wow I'm not sure what to think of this actually. Of course I haven't read the book but I know you are an excellent Mother so I'm sure the way you will incorporate it will be great. The list at the first is what throws me off. I don't like it. I would think the child's self esteem would plummet if they got less than an A-. Or not complimenting them in public? Whats wrong with that? I can understand not disciplining in public but praising? I don't get that. I guess this hits close right now because the other day Danika told me she felt she would never be good enough for me. Which of course broke my heart. I expect a lot of them I'll admit but I didn't realize how much it was affecting her self esteem. I would correct her in so many things and so the story of the Mom telling the daughter to redo the card was sad. Maybe she didn't want to redo the card and put effort because she knew it would never be "good enough" Sorry to go off I know I haven't read the book but thats just the first things that came to my head.

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  3. thanks for posting this! I really liked your review. I haven't read this book myself, but am intrigued by it, I heard about it a while back -last year I think. But everything I heard/read about it was negative, and chose not to read it. I agree with this "idea" of parenting. Our children are capable of so much. Letting them "get away" with less, is in a way not really loving them. I do however think that it can be done in a much more gentle way that Amy is describing. I like the honesty she displays with her children, the card story for example (but like I said I felt a more gentle/kind approach would have been more appropriate to me) I also really like the firmness that she uses, and think that at times that is necessary with children. Along that vein I think it would be extremely discouraging for a child to have a perfect ideal to strive to which they may not be capable of reaching (such could be the case when the parent has chosen the activity). Who really knows our/their limits best? I think we can tell when they are REALLY trying, and sometimes it is good to push those limits. That is what makes us stretch and grow. I also believe that children are perfectly capable of receiving revelation, and their needs and desires/interests are going to lead them in the path that Heavenly Father has set for them. If we choose ALL their activities for them, are we not taking their agency? I think so. I think it is good for parents to choose wisely activities to help their children be well rounded individuals. Parent must also to receive input from their children on what might be interesting to them. I am not saying the way she parents is wrong, in fact I think it is good to have her strong option on parenting out there. There are those who are at the other extreme who are very permissive. Parenting is such a balancing act, I feel it is important to strive for a happy medium. Thanks for allowing me to give my "two cents", I will re-consider my decision not to read this book based on your good recommendation!

  4. Thanks so much for both of your comments Sandra and Caralee. Sandra-no I don't agree with all of Amy's thoughts hear. For example, the praising like you said. Can we expect our children to always get straight A's. It really depends on the child. Maybe for some children a B is an amazing grade. Give Credit where credit is due. If you know your child has worked hard and done his best then it's time to celebrate and let them know it. But if they didn't do their best and are doing mediocore work, then I think we are promoting laziness in our children. We don't need more laziness in this society. Caralee I also agree that it's important to have our children have opportunities to choose. Letting them choose wrongly while they are young has much a less concequence then when they are older and the stakes are higher. The author learned this and tells of her youngest child who fought and fought her while practicing the violin. It's not that she didn't love violin it's that she wanted more time to do other things like play Tennis. Once Amy told her daughter that she could pursue tennis, her daughter was so excited. She wasn't that great but she loved it and improved her game on her own. She had a strong work ethic because of what her mom taught her all these years before and she did get pretty good. Anyway, I still found the book so intriguing and even though you may not implement the Chinese Parenting Style, you may gain an appreciation for their perspective. It gets us out of our bubble a bit.


I appreciate your comments!