Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

There has already been a lot of discussion in the media and online about this memoir of a Chinese American mother's strict parenting practices. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is honest, informative, interesting and entertaining, and I believe Chua is making fun of herself and her strict, "Chinese" style of parenting as much as she is promoting her methods.

While I wouldn't suggest that Chua's very controlling parenting philosophies be universally adopted, I think she makes some good points that are worth thinking about. For instance, since it takes hard work to get good at anything, and since being good at something makes it more fun, Chua believes pushing your child to work hard is a way of making them ultimately happier. Also, Chua points out that her view of her daughters is complimentary. She drives them so hard because she sees them as strong. She feels that always letting a child give up is bad for their self-esteem and doesn't prepare them for the future.

That said, by the end of the book even Chua admits her approach doesn't always work. Her younger daughter Lulu pushed back with great defiance against Chua's controlling manner, but even Lulu admits she's glad her mother forced her to work hard when she was younger. It's not hard to see that Lulu's success at tennis and "improv" comedy, pastimes her mother did not sanction, is at least partly due to the determination and drive her mother helped instill in her.

Lulu's older sister Sophia had a long, well written letter to her mother published in the January 17, 2011 edition of the New York Post. In it Sophia thanked her mother in detail for how she was raised. Among other things Sophia said is that far from turning her into a robot she believes her mother's strict methods have helped her be an independent thinker.

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