Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


tiger_mother I don’t really have to add a synopsis of this book, do I? Considering it’s one of the most talked about and controversial books out there, and that it’s such a huge bestseller, I’m probably the last person on this planet to read this book.

But in case you haven’t come across it, here’s a brief synopsis.

A Short Synopsis and How I Came to Read This Book

Amy Chua is a Chinese-American mother married to a Jewish man, and is the mother of two daughters. She brought up her children in the strict Chinese style and not the lax Western style. All these terms are hers not mine, and if you wonder why I am emphasizing the

This book first came into prominence (or at least on my radar), when someone forwarded me the link to the Wall Street Journal article entitled Why Chinese Mothers are Superior. I read the article with some interest, because of course who doesn’t want some tips from someone whose daughter has got admission to Harvard?

But as I read that article with mounting horror, I knew that whatever the success of her methods, no way would I be able to follow that. Call Snubnose garbage? make her practice piano or violin for three hours a day? Have screaming battles in public places? No way would either Snubnose or I be able to deal with the kind of negativity and stress that such a methodology would induce.

So anyway, I hmpphed my way through that article and promptly put that book out of my mind.

That is, until a few weeks back, I had a frustrating experience in trying to instill some discipline into Piglet, who is fast growing into a rebellious, back-talking teen at the ripe old age of three years old. I swear, since his birthday in December last year, it seems like some kind of switch has been turned on in Piglet, and he refuses to do anything he’s supposed to do, or follow any kind of normal routine. It was after a frustrating meeting with his teachers who claim that Piglet is just as insolent in school that I realized that something had to be done.

And of course that something was hiding out in my local library and licking my wounds bruised ego and hurt feelings, and there I saw multiple copies of this book on the shelf and so in my bag it went.

My Thoughts

I am still not sure what to think of the book or her methods. There’s no doubt it worked for her for at least one of her kids. It definitely didn’t work for Chua’s younger daughter Lulu who rebelled and took to tennis and who still doesn’t want her mother to be involved in any of her activities.

So did I come out enlightened after reading this book? Well, yes and no. I did realize that I over-praise my children too much, and it would probably be a better idea to let them know straight up if I am not happy with the quality of some of their work.

Would I dismiss a rough-looking birthday card that the kids do for me, and demand that they do a better job like Amy Chua does? I don’t think so. But I can see the point she is trying to make, that we need to insist that kids do their best, otherwise they may think it’s ok to coast along. I did try this with Snubnose’s homework and other lessons, and I have to say the results were much improved after a little helpful criticism.

However, I don’t really see this working with Piglet. If I asked him to redo some drawing, he would just walk off without a care in the world. I really see her methods working with children who want to please their mom (something that’s last on Piglet’s priorities right now), and I think more particularly likely to work with daughters.

I did think she was nuts for the most part of the book though. This woman has some sort of weird obsession with her kids playing classical musical instruments, and while I understand that music is good, I just don’t get how playing three hours a day every day, playing instruments even while on vacations, and basically just being so obsessed is a healthy sign. I mean, when this family was on holiday in London, they still spent three hours a day practicing on the hotel piano! I thought this was overdoing it so terribly, and I wasn’t surprised at all when her younger daughter rebelled and refused to continue to take classes, and it’s such a shame because she seems genuinely talented.

Another thing I hated in the book was the complete generalization of stereotypes. She throws terms like Asian mother, Chinese mother, Western mother, as though these were strict methodologies and clubs everyone into one or the other bucket. She mocks western parenting styles even though she is born in America and married to an American. I mean her in-laws must have done something right!

In this whole saga of tiger parenting, other people’s inputs are totally ignored. Her own mother warns her time and again that something is going to break because of the way she runs roughshod on her children, and still she refuses to listen. Of course, her mother was right. Aren’t they always?

Anyway, these are some of the thoughts I had while I read the book. I guess watered down a bit her methods may work, it may also work in specific cultures where children are generally obedient, but I don’t think I got anything too useful out of it to address my parenting problems with Piglet.

Have you read this book? What did you think about her parenting techniques?

You can also purchase a copy of this book from Amazon

  • proudindians

    I did hear about this book but till now I did not grab a copy of it wondering how the book would be. But after reading your review I really want to read this book. The story looks interesting and at the same time horrifying. Thanks for giving an overview about the book.

  • Karen

    Im glad you explained what this is about because I’d never heard of it. She sounds a horribly self centred woman, making her kids go through miserable experiences so she can parade their achievements.

  • I would like to read this book just because it feels unfair for me to comment on it without reading it and this kind of book does come up often in discussions. But everything I’ve read about this book makes me want to run away from it.

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