When I read the review for the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in Entertainment Weekly, I didn't believe it. Surely the reviewer left out some key details. No mother would admit to calling her child garbage or rejecting homemade birthday cards and then write a book about it. I immediately put myself on the waiting list at my local library. I just finished the book the other day. It turns out, the reviewer did not leave out any key details. Those incidents happened.
For those not familiar with the book, Amy Chua is a first-generation Chinese-American. She decided to raise her daughters the "Chinese way." To put it simply: she wanted to be stricter and more structured than "Westerners."
Some of her ideals aren't so bad. Her children could not get any grade less than an A. As extreme as it sounds, I don't think it's bad to have high standards for your children. However, having struggled with certain subjects in high school, I can also tell you sometimes expectations have to be amended. She pushed them in school, in music, but I understood her theory of not letting her children give up based on their own insecurities. (In other words, sometimes you need your parents to push you in order to succeed).
Other rules left me baffled. Her daughters could never have play date. Why? With school, music lessons and practice (sometimes three hours a day of practicing their instruments), they simply didn't have any free time. They couldn't be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play or choose their own extra curricular activities.
As for the garbage incident? It happened and it's brutal. Chua says during her own childhood she was disrespectful to her mother. Her father called her "garbage." As a mother Chua employed this same tactic with one of her daughters. She told this story at a party and one of the other guests was so upset for her daughter that she left in tears.
It's Chua's youngest daughter, Lulu, who receives the brunt of any negativity associated with her child rearing tactics. While the oldest, Sophia, seems to be a "model daughter" who blossoms under the "Chinese way," Lulu is quick to push her mother's buttons. She questions. She argues. She wins from time to time. Sophia recently wrote a piece in defense of her mother for the New York Times. That's all well and good, but I would much rather hear what Lulu thinks of all of this.
It's easy to simply write Chua off as a "bad mother." I will give her credit for putting it out there for the world to judge. Still, I wonder if she realized not a lot of us would be on her side. Even toward the end of the book, as she is "humbled" by a 13-year-old, she still seems to think everything she did was right and will have no ill affect on her children. I know that my daughters are not going to look back on my parenting skills and always sing my praises. What child does? I just hope that with the tactics I've employed, I won't have the need to write a book about the wrongs I've committed!