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Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother ReviewThere is no such thing as a perfect parenting model. Or is there?

Amy Chua, professor at Yale, mother of 2 girls and of Chinese ethnicity explains in her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother why the “Chinese” parenting model is better than the “Western” parenting model, why the former produces more academically (and musically) successful kids than the latter. The book has become quite controversial and attracted attention worldwide.

Her secret: no playdates, no sleepover, no TV or computer games, no school plays, no unnecessary extracurricular activities

Her expectations: No grade below A, perfect performance on the piano or violin, be on top of all classes except gym and drama.

Her methods: 3 hours of music practice each day, work, practice, drill 10 times as long as Western parents

Her reward: it works!

I am pretty sure that “Western” mothers who read this are shocked and indignant about her so-called parenting model. There may be other parents, however, who will agree with her (if rather secretly).

But let us take a look further as to how she compares these 2 parenting models:

“Western” model “Chinese” model
Kids should have fun in learning, thus stressing on getting good grades is not good Kids are “ordered” to get straight A’s; academically successful kids come from successful parenting
Parents are politically correct when criticizing (e.g. “you tried your best”) Parents use direct, tough language when criticizing (e.g. “you are lazy/worthless/a disgrace”)
Parents worry about kids’ self-esteem, assume fragility, tend to reassure Parents do not worry about kids’ psyche, assume strength, expect perfection
Kids do not owe their parents anything Kids are forever indebted to their parents
Kids are encouraged to be individuals, make their choices and pursue their interest Kids’ desires and preferences are overridden because parents know what is best for their kids

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – On sale at

In Switzerland where I reside with my family, the book really ruffled some feathers. After all, this is the country that takes the “learning should be fun” philosophy seriously.

I must admit that the “Chinese” model is a reminder of my own upbringing. I am Asian after all and partly Chinese, and grew up in Asia. I must admit the importance of academic achievement still resonates in my parenting style. However, I have lived long enough in the West to appreciate the beauty and warmth of the parent-children relationship in this culture that I never experienced as a child.

Each of the parenting models described above has its pros and cons and each type of parents love their kids just as much. They just have different ways of showing it.

As to Amy Chua’s secrets to successful parenting, I think it should be taken with a grain of salt, some skepticism (not everyone can be number 1, math whizzes or music prodigies), and a bit of cynicism (the more controversial the book, the better it sells).

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