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Book Review: “Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother”

By February 15, 2011August 31st, 2021No Comments

by: Emma Aguirre

“Unlike your typical Western, overscheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that (1) school work 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.”

This is an excerpt from Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. It’s been in the headlines for weeks and I’ve really avoided it for fear of getting too angry about it. It appeared in the Houston Chronicle again this weekend and curiosity finally got the better of me. I downloaded an excerpt from the Kindle app on my iPhone. I found myself having very strong opinions about the whole thing without having ever read part of it. It was just as I expected, but thankfully only a few pages long. Hats off to Chua for her well written memoir. Her writing is clear, it is concise and if generally flows very well, somewhat of an easy read. It’s the content I have an issue with and quite frankly, I find it borderline offensive.

Chua boasts about her daughter’s achievements at a very young age, how while “Western moms” were applauding scribbles on a page, her daughter was writing Chinese letters, how that they only cried if it served a purpose and how she disciplined her 3-year old by leaving her out in Connecticut’s freezing winter weather until she agreed to play the piano as she was instructed to do. I find it interesting that she’s so brutally honest about how she has raised her children, now in their teens and likely on their way to world domination. Who am I to judge whether she is a “good mom” or a “bad mom”? If she can look herself in the mirror each morning and feel confident that she has given her all and doing her best, then good for her. But by putting her parenting “skills” out there, she is asking for her methods to be judged and criticized. Sure, her daughters are already very successful as teenagers, but they’ve been programmed to be that way. Failure is not an option, and I get the impression unconditional love is negotiable with Chua. I don’t see how that’s “mothering”.

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It got me thinking about what my expectations are for my daughter. How does a parent measure a child’s success? Success in one parent’s eyes, is clearly not the same in another’s. Could I ever make her stand outside in the snow for not doing something she was asked to do? Absolutely not. Would I expect her to practice anything for three hours a day? Probably not. And if she made an A minus, I would be thrilled. I’m the polar opposite of Chua, probably her worst nightmare and maybe even on my way to becoming an overscheduled soccer mom. Four months into this parenthood thing, I’m excited when my daughter rolls over – assisted – she can’t do it on her own yet. I giggle when she giggles and I smile when she falls asleep by herself. These are age-appropriate milestones that I’m deeply proud of, and that is success. Success is in the sweet moments that aren’t long enough, when you’re child is staring into your eyes, and can feel your love and security and trust. And that’s how I see the next 18+ years going; celebrating each milestone and achievement, supporting success rather than forcing it, giving my daughter the right tools to become confident in her own decisions and let her do it. Of course, like any parent, I hope she decides to become a hot shot attorney who marries a doctor…

I will probably buy the full version of Chua’s book at some point, as much as it angers me. It’s forced me to think about how I might handle certain situations and essentially, how we should not do it.

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PS. Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope every new mom out there got to grab a few moments with their honey!

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