Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua

Even before Amy Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, became a huge hit -- and a source of controversy -- I wanted to read it. My two oldest sons both went through a very academically challenging International Baccalaureate program in high school, and a large number of their classmates were Chinese, Korean, Indian, Finnish, and other ethnicities. In other words, my children -- raised by American-born parents -- were in the minority. I don’t believe that kids of American parents are less intelligent than other children, so why aren’t more of them enrolled in academically challenging programs? Why do they settle for being average or mediocre? Is it a product of their parenting? Therefore, I was very curious to read about how Amy Chua is raising her children as high-achieving students and musical prodigies. Is “Chinese parenting” really better than “Western parenting”?

At the beginning of the book, I was really rooting for Amy. She was tough with her kids and took no excuses. She wasn’t afraid to be unpopular. She held her ground, and it almost always worked out. Her daughters excelled in everything they did, and everyone said what wonderful children they were. But later in the book, I wanted to give Amy a good smack in the head. Yes, I could see merit in her point that American parents probably go overboard in protecting their children’s fragile self-esteem, thereby never letting them experience failure. But does that mean it’s okay to call our children names like “garbage” or “fat” like Amy says good Chinese mothers do? And I got really upset when Amy ruined a wonderful family vacation to Russia by insisting publicly that her daughter try a bite of caviar! Was that really worth the battle and public scene it caused?

Another thing to keep in mind is that Amy Chua’s kids might be successful because they were parented the “Chinese way,” but they were also raised by well-educated parents with high salaries who could give their girls the best music teachers, the finest schools, a beautiful home, and travels all over the world. True, the girls didn’t get to have sleepovers with their friends and missed out on other “fun” events, but that seems like a small price to pay for the advantages they have. And because Amy’s daughters have privileged lives, it’s more difficult to compare the results of her parenting techniques with those of parents who don’t have the same resources.

However, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is well worth the read because it gets us talking about parenting. Are we doing a good job with our kids? Why do some kids do well and others do not? How much of our kids’ success is a product of their parenting? The obvious answer in this debate is that there is no single “right” answer. Chinese parenting has its benefits, but so does Western parenting. And, obviously, every child is different and will respond to different techniques. To her credit, Amy Chua freely admits and describes in her book that her parenting style hasn’t always worked well with her youngest daughter, Lulu. She “rebelled” when she reached her teens by refusing to continue with most of her violin lessons and insisting on playing tennis. (Chinese parents, according to Amy, don’t value excellence in sports or drama.) However, Lulu is still an excellent student and determined to excel in tennis. Her form of rebellion didn’t include taking drugs, shoplifting, or dropping out of school. So, what seemed like an uprising to Amy wouldn’t have been that terrible to many American parents.

So, what do you think? Pick up a copy of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and join the debate. What kind of parenting style is best?

DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy of this book to facilitate my candid review. No financial compensation was provided. As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission on sales made through the links in this post.


  1. Thanks for participating in the blog hop! New follower! I have lots of great giveaways ending Thursday! :)

  2. I think that the best thing this book offers is, like you mentioned, the push to get parents thinking and talking about what works and what doesn't. That is always, ALWAYS a good thing in my opinion.

    Thank you so much for being a part of the book tour!


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