Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua chronicles Ms. Chua, a child of Chinese immigrants, as she raises her two daughters in the Chinese parenting model.
She pushes both girls to be the best in everything, never settling for second-place (as Ms. Chua explains most Chinese parents do). Both must practice their instruments (piano and violin) for 2-3 hours a day, every day. Both must excel in school and be fluent in Chinese and she pushes them relentlessly to achieve as much.
She calls this “The Virtuous Circle”, which she explains on P. 29 of her book. She propounds what Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you are good at it. To be good at anything, you have to work. Kids don’t inherently want to work so parents much push them. Practice is the key. Once the child starts excelling, the child receives praise from others, builds confidence, and makes the activity fun. This will then created intrinsic satisfaction on the child’s part and he or she will want to work.
For her first daughter, Sophia, this works brilliantly. Sophia works hard and is rewarded when she wins a contest and plays at Carnegie Hall. For her second daughter, Lulu, this method creates all-out fights, screams, and general mayhem escalating to the point Lulu finally quits violin.
Chua says this method is magical when it works but she does finally admit on P. 212 that Chinese parenting doesn’t always succeed like in the case of her daughter, Lulu.
Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother offers a fascinating insight into Chinese culture and why so many of these kids are excelling. While definitely not agreeing with some of Ms. Chua’s parenting styles (like screaming at her kids for hours a day and using threats for coercion), I did glean how we as parents need to guide our children who are still children. However, I think a gentle steering and encouragement would be a better approach and still produce wonders in your child. Suffice it to say you are guaranteed to learn something from this book.
Favorite quotes from the book:
“Just because you love something…doesn’t mean you’ll ever be great. Not if you don’t work.” P. 215
“There is nothing better to spend our money on than our children.” P. 111
“It’s too idealistic to expect children to do the right things on their own.” P. 104 I liked this one because I tend to think my kids know right from wrong. But a lot of the times they don’t. That’s my job to teach them this.
“Winning prizes gives you opportunities, and that’s freedom.” P. 193 I liked this one due to its implications to foreigners. We Americans forget that we live in the greatest country on earth and many, many others want to come here. It’s hard for us to understand cut-throat competitions when so much is hanging on the results, so much that we don’t even realize.
Winning the Olympics or having talent (like musicality) can be the pathway to the United States. I think this is why immigrant-kids are pushed so hard and work so much harder. It’s not about the medal, trophy, or prize at the end. It’s about a way of life. Ms. Chua touched on this point very briefly in her book.