Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua is a personal memoir of one woman’s raising her children in the “Chinese way.” My initial takeaway of the “Chinese Way” is that it is to insult and torment your children, to be self-centered and project yourself on your children, and to be more than overbearing in forcing them to succeed. However, after sitting and chatting with my book group, I have realized I missed something: It is satire! She’s making fun of herself!
While I don’t think anyone would (or really should) imitate her specific parenting strategies any more than they’d imitate those of Jeanette Walls’ parents, there is something to be learned from her dedication to raising the bar.
I wasn’t going to read this book for my book group. But I found myself with a copy and I found myself skimming through it. I couldn’t really put it down because I found the narrator so horrible I couldn’t believe it. But that’s because, as I said, I was skimming quickly. I also am incredibly dense to sarcasm and satire. (*blush*)
At any rate, if one takes Battle Hymn as a book full of parenting suggestions, it is rather shocking. Using the “Chinese” method (a term that seemed rather generically used for “strict”) rather than Western techniques (a term Ms Chua used to mean more hands-off), Amy Chua forced her children to play piano (or violin) for hours, expected A’s (an A- was a punishable offense), forbade “playdates” due to lack of time (too busy practicing), and essentially made most decisions for her children. I hated Amy Chua, and I felt her threats towards her young children (given in order to get them to play the piano, violin, or even to eat caviar for goodness sake) were more than ridiculous: they were abusive. However, after discussing it with my book group, I realize the things I missed: the humor of her threats, the ridiculousness of her insisting, the ways in which she went overboard. She had changed by the end, eventually allowing her 13-year-old daughter to choose how long she’d practice her violin.
That said, it’s impressive to observe how Amy Chua certainly didn’t let her children be lazy. There is something to be said about expecting more from our children. Having read this book, I find myself being more expectant of my son to do what I know he can do. Since he just turned four, I used that as a reason to talk about his household jobs, and we made a list together of what he should be responsible for: setting the dinner table, cleaning his toys from the family room, practicing his gymnastics, and practicing the piano (this is a new thing we’re working on, and he’s so excited to play the piano). I am confident that expecting more from him will bring about success, although I don’t intend to yell and scream as Amy Chua did in order to see that success. We’ll see how the future pans out. I’m still a beginning mom. In twenty years, I may have a new perspective of the Tiger Mom’s methods.