First of all, I’d like to thank Jonathan Ball Publishers for the opportunity to read this fascinating book.
I’ve been putting of writing this review of Amy Chua’s book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. I’ve even started re-reading it to see if I could figure out why I was procrastinating so much.
The thing is, this book stirs up a lot of emotions. From “Jip, I fully agree with you” and “I’m exactly the same as that” to full blown “OMG!”. I think the moment of most unbelief was where she explained how she tried to train the dog.
It’s a very basic story. A mom explaining her parenting technique and relating her successes and failures. She’s a very driven person, raised to always achieve the most and expecting the same of her children. Her main fight was trying to sustain the path she had chosen for her children against a society that didn’t agree with her methods. One thing I can tell you is that I’ve got a whole lot of respect for the open manner in which she tells her story.
She brings up three points where she believes that Western parenting differ from Chinese parenting.
1. Western parents are mindful of a child’s self-image and will praise the smallest success, whereas a Chinese parent assumes that their child is strong and will act accordingly. (My own summation)
This is very interesting. Because what that means is that Western kids are praised for mediocre performances while Chinese are criticised for good results. This got me thinking. I remember my dad being extremely proud of the fact that I could recognise some of the birds in the field. He bragged about it, but because I knew that I hadn’t really made an effort to study birds I didn’t feel as if I deserved that praise. In effect I had let him down. What we (as Western parents) tend to forget in our praising of the least little thing is that kids are smart. They know when they’ve deserved the praise and when not. Working hard at something to achieve success produces the greatest feeling of self-worth. Should we push our children to work harder at something if they show any interest in it? Does that mean I have to put effort into getting my son into an art programme because he loves drawing?
2. Chinese parents believe that their children owe them everything.
This for me was an eye opener. The reason behind this idea is that the parents do everything for their kids, thus the kids owe everything to the parents. And this is where a major difference between Chinese and Western parenting comes in. The Chinese mother will spend long hours every day working with the kid to get the desired results. They PUT IN THE TIME. Is the Western parenting model a selfish one? Sacrificing time spent drilling the kids to have Me time? Granted I can’t see myself forcing my kids to practice for 5 hours a day. The most amazing thing is that she managed to be a 200% mother drilling her kids, while maintaining a full career.
3. Chinese parents believe they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children’s own preferences and desires.
How I wish I had the conviction for something like this. I’m not even sure what the best is for myself. Do I actually have the ability to choose for my child? And that might just be the whole difference. I don’t trust and believe in myself, how can I be expected to choose for my child? What if I’m wrong?
The whole book is about how successful her methods were with her oldest daughter and how her younger daughter kept fighting it right till the end. She hasn’t thrown in the towel with her younger daughter, but has decided to change tactics. But both her daughters have the same drive that she has and the will to succeed has been firmly established.
It’s a book that has made me think and re-evaluate some of the preconceived ideas I’ve had about parenting.