Friday, 15 February 2013

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

I just finished this book - you may have heard about it a couple of years ago. It's about a first generation American-Chinese mother who wouldn't allow her two daughters to have free time or go to friends' houses. She forced them to practice music (piano for the elder, violin for the younger) for several hours every day and demanded their excellence in every academic subject.

Her book is somewhat tongue in cheek - and hilarious if you read it that way. But it also makes some valid (and scary) distinctions between Chinese and Western parenting (grand generalizations though they are). Western parents make an conscious choice to allow kids to choose their activities - even if it means Facebook and spending time at the mall. Chinese parents make all the choices for their children and demand compliance. This is why so many Asian children are so accomplished, Chua argues. She speculates that teenagers of both types hate their parents. And she also implies that adults of both types love their parents. So she is proud of her parenting style.

A lot of my students have parents like her, at least to some extent. They are driven by their parents' desires and they make academic gains because their parents ensure that they do. I can really tell the difference between those children and those whose parents acquiesce to their kids' wishes.

The real question is which is the right way (or better way) to parent? And how do you decide which is right? (Fortunately for me, I am only pondering in a theoretical way. Many of my friends and acquaintances are making these decisions every day.) What about you and your family?


Nocorngirl said...

There was a ton of media coverage when this book came out--I never got around to reading it. It seems to me that there should be some sort of middle ground between these two extremes of parenting. I am also extremely relieved to not have to make those types of decisions...

Sarah said...

There was lots of media coverage, wasn't there? I finally picked it up a few weeks ago after some leadership training for work. I'm a secondary school teacher and we deal with a wide variety of backgrounds among our students and their parents. The workshop director made us all promise to read this book! And since I'm a maths teacher, Chinese parents are very concerned about what I do. (But they also frequently pay for a tutor; so sometimes they don't care at all what I do.)