Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
If it were not for my book club, I would not have read this book. What little I'd heard about it did not appeal to me as a reader. Fortunately, everyone assured me I could read it in an easy afternoon, which was true.
Chua's account of her "Chinese Parenting" confirmed what I have long believed: high pressure parenting works if you have children that, like their parents, are high achievers and highly capable. No amount of parental pressure is going to result in musical prodigies if your child is tone-deaf or straight A's if your child does not have the basic intellectual ability to achieve them.
Chua's first daughter, Sophia, was an admittedly easy child, eager to please, diligent, and talented. So, of course, Chua felt like a super mom. Her second daughter, Lulu, whom she describes as being rebellious and independent, nonetheless, has the same high achieving personality.
Throughout the book, the inescapable conclusion is the one reached by Lulu, that everything is all about her mom. Every thing she claims to do for her children, is done for her own sense of pride and superiority. She insults her own children to prompt them to work harder, and she insults everyone who parented differently from her. Anyone who does less than her is lazy, a "bad family." Her daughters are bad if they are not completely compliant and respectful, especially in public.
Yet, Chua herself ignores her own parents when they implore her to reduce the pressure she places on Lulu. She insults her own parents, saying they have become too westernized. The irony seems to escape her. Her own pride and eagerness to be lauded for the results of her parenting - quantifiable results - is more important than any relationship.
I wish more had been written about her own parents. Not just how they parented her, but how they parented their other daughters. Passing mention is made that their fourth daughter had mental retardation, and that Amy (the oldest) spent a lot of time raising her third sister, because their mom was busy with the youngest. I would have liked to know more about her mom, who seemed to be able to adapt her parenting to her different children. I wonder why Amy did not see that.
In the end, Chua feels humbled because she does not get the results she wanted with Lulu. She must adapt, but does so only because she cannot win and knows it.
Although she is extreme, I don't disagree with her notion of expecting the best from one's children. I do disagree with her tactics. Mostly, though, I found it rather sad that she needed so much external proof of her own value as a person. I wonder if that, too, is the product of "Chinese Parenting." Is it not enough to have children that love you, desire to spend time with, want to share their lives with you? Do they have to be outperforming their peers in every way so that other parents will admire you and envy you?