Thoughts: tiger mom?

Two weeks ago I wrote about my doubts about how to raise a child after reading the article from WSJ “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”. I inmediately bought the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” and read it in one day. A lot of thoughts came to my mind. I was enlightened, confused, worried. But at the same time I learned how hard it could be, and that there’s no perfect way to do this. I asked Star to read it, and surprisingly he finished it and liked it too.

To help me to organize my thoughts, I will answer some reading-groups questions.

1. What is your overall reaction to Battle Hymn of the Mother Tiger?  Are you appalled or impressed, in agreement, disagreement…or something else?
My overall reaction is that I like it a lot. I’m in agreement with her in some parts, disagree in others, and admire her the most when she reconize her mistakes and was able to become flexible with her second daughter.
2. What kind of mother is Amy Chua? Do you wish you’d had a mother like Chua? Or that you were a mother like Chua?
She’s a very strict mom who loves a lot her daughters and sacrifices a lot for them. I don’t wish to have a mom like Chua, although I would like to have a mom who can give me more help and guidance in my studies and career. I don’t think I want to be exactly like her, but I do think I will be strict to my children more than Star would. I want to teach them few things that I think are key for any successful and happy life, which are persistence, discipline, devotion to what one loves, decisive and have an open mind.
3. Is this a parenting manual? Are Western parents too soft on, or too permissive toward, their children? Does Amy Chua offer an alternative parenting model?
No, it’s not a manual, it’s a memoir. According to Chua, western parents are too soft and permissive toward their children. She believes that parents should be more strict, do things for the best interest of their children, even it might make kids hate their parents. She thinks her responsibility is to show her children how to be happy and successful, and not to make them love her back.
4. Success for Chua is important: how does she define success…and how do you define it? How important is success to you?
Many would interpret Chua’s definition of success as being the number one in everything, at school, playing piano or violin. I wouldn’t interret it that way. I think by success she means her daughteres can perform to their maximum potential and be reconized by others. I would define success as to be able to do what one loves the most, do it with passion, and be reconized by others. I think success is important in life, it gives us satisfaction and, a meaning of our existence, and hopes for what comes next.
5. Consider whether Chua’s children are such extraordinarily high achievers (musically and academically) because of their strict upbringing…or because of their innate abilities, i.e., genetics?
I think they have good genes because both of their parents are very successful in their professional life. However, being able to achieve so much at young age is mainly due to their strict upbringing. Only when you work hard enough, you can succed, that’s the universal rule and it is showed perfectly in this case, as many others in Outliers.
6. According to Chua, her parenting method is typical of Chinese families. Is their method—with its strict demands for high achievement—superior to that of Western parents?
I wouldn’t say every chinese family would have this kind of parenting, at least not in my case, but in some degree, most of today’s chinese single-child family follow this line. It has its pros and cons. Pros: it teaches kids to be discipline at young age; it makes them understand that success does not come with luck, it comes with hard work; it might introduce a hobbie or passion for the rest of their lives (when you work hard very hard on something, it’s more likely that you find joy in it and want to do it for a long time). Cons: strict rules might be hard to enforce; it might harm parent-children relationship; it requires a lot of energy and time from parent’s side; it might plant seeds of a rebel teenager.
7. What does Chua think of the Western emphasis on self-esteem? Do you agree…or disagree with her assessment?
I never thought about that until I read the book. She thinks that western emphasizes too much about self-esteem, to the extend that it could be unrealistic and not condusive for children’s progress. I think I’m partially agree with her. It’s important to be honest with kids and their achievements. It’s also important to build their confidence, especially when the kids is in lack of it. But I wouldn’t appraise my kids for doing or achieving small things. An appraisal is real when is not offered everyday. Furthermore, what I will appraise is not their achievement, but how they achieve it. I will appraise for the hard work, not their innate ability. The kind of confidence I want my children to have is that they can think that they can achieve anything they want if they work hard enough.
8. Part of Chua’s rationale is that she understands what all Chinese parents understand: “that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.” Do you agree? Is playing the piano well as an adult, for instance, worth those toothmarks bitten into the piano as a child?
I don’t agree that you should be good at something to have fun with it. But I do think that when you dedicate more time on something, you begin to fun or interesting things about it. The opposite can occur too, when you’re forced to achieve in something that you started as hobbie, you  might not find it fun anymore.
9. How, eventually, is Chua “humbled” by her daughters—in what way do they prove wiser than their mother? Is, in fact, Chua truly humbled by Lulu? Does she have a genuine awakening?
Her younger daughter Lulu has a very different personality than Sophia. When she became a teenager, she refused to follow Chua’s guidance and rules. Lulu showed Chua that she can achieve high even without her intervention. It was awakening for Chua. It was hard for her to recognize that she cannot force Lulu to do what she wanted anymore. She had to let her go and grow. However, I don’t think she was wrong with Lulu at the beginning. If she was not strict with Lulu when she was little, she might not have the discipline and hard working personality she has afternoon, therefore she wouldn’t be ablet o success in tennis.
10. Is success worth the time and effort it takes to maintain oversight and discipline…and, most especiallly, is it worth a child’s unhappiness? Is that unhappiness only momentary in the larger scheme of life? In the end, is the payoff—a lifetime of accomplishment—worth the cost?
What’s true and long term happiness? Is it to play with toys for 10 more minutes each day? Will the kids remember being able just because of that? Those small unhappiness, or better said, discontent, that are momentaneous and easy to forget, are condusive for a long term happiness. I think they worth the cost. Obviously depriving kids to play 24 hrs a day is not healthy, but allowing them to play as they wish when they know nothing about discipline is not healthy either.
My overall take of the book is that it’s important to show that discipline and hard working are important in children’s early life. As parents I feel that it’s our responsability to do that. They’re tools that everyone should have in order to pursue a successful life. The second lesson is that every kid is different and how to raise them should differ as well. It’s really an art. Both Star and I are excited about the journey we’re about to start! 🙂 


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4 responses to “Thoughts: tiger mom?

  1. I love your take on this book…I read it a while ago and while I don’t agree with 100% of her practices, I appreciated her honest portrayal of herself and the way she raises her kids. I found it interesting that even though her kids somtimes “hated” her, they also appreciated how dedicated she was to their success, and appreciated that she persisted in helping them achieve their music and academic goals.

  2. These are such insightful answers and it gives a really clear view of your perspective on parenting and how you wish to raise your child. You and Star are going to do a great job! You have a clear idea of what you’re headed for and you have the strength of mind to be able to take on this challenge with a big heart and open mind. I can’t wait to read all about it when your little bundle of joy arrives!

  3. liz

    I read this book a while ago and I think that will really help parents with there child/children

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