Tiger Mother Approach Sparks Debate

Tiger Mother Approach Sparks Debate

Amy Chua is law professor at Yale University, and lives with her husband, two daughters, and Samoyeds.

Caroline Cook, News Editor

“Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the number one student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin.” These were only a few things “tiger mother,” the Yale law professor Amy Chua prohibited her daughters from doing.

Chua’s controversial bestseller, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” not only provides a memoir of her own extreme parenting, but asserts that Chinese parents are better at raising children than “Western” parents. While typically

Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality and choice in a nurturing environment, according to Chua, the Chinese believe that the best way to raise their children is by arming them with skills, and strong work habits for the future.

For Chua, this meant resorting to extremist tactics with her own daughters, Sophia and Lulu, such as drilling mathematics speed tests and long hours of practicing piano and violin (without bathroom or water breaks). While her methods yielded straight A’s, and music prodigy awards for her daughters, Chua endured pain and heartbreak in the process. However, much debate has erupted in parenting circles over whether the “tiger mother” approach should be considered a form of child abuse or a way for parents to guarantee their children’s success. Many readers wonder whether the book was written as a how-to parenting guide for other parents, or a list of reasons why the Chinese are superior to Westerners.

Chua’s attempt to legitimize abusive parenting practices by linking it to the venerable Chinese culture is not only unjust, but simply her own way of profitting off of others’ vulnerability. By solely focusing on extreme aspects of both cultures, making absurd generalizations and admitting the errors of her ways, Chua succeeds in drawing national attention to her parenting tactics, but fails in gathering followers.

Comparing extreme parents in Western and Chinese cultures does not fairly represent either group, and in this case, it ends up landing Chinese mothers with the tiger mother label. In the first chapter, Chua cites studies from unknown sources describing the differences between Chinese and Western parenting. In one particular study of 50 American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, according to Chua, around 70% of the Western mothers said that “stressing academic success is not good for children,” while 0% of the Chinese mothers expressed similar sentiments. The majority of the Chinese mothers in the study said that “academic achievement reflects successful parenting,” and if children didn’t excel in school, parents weren’t doing their job.

Chua adds, “Unlike your typical Western overscheduling soccer mom, the Chinese mother believes that schoolwork always comes first, and an A- is a bad grade.” By generalizing that typical Western mothers are “soccer moms,”

Chua fails to acknowledge the fact that many Western and Chinese mothers alike don’t fit the stereotype she has cut out for them.

Chua’s absurd generalizations not only make her sound uneducated, but convince readers that she’s simply trying to make money by playing the role of entertainer. She uses rhetoric to sneak the following sweeping statements into her book and television interviews; “…garbage activities like crafts lead to nowhere, and drums lead to drugs.” Here, Chua’s tactics clearly illustrate her lack of trust towards her daughters. “If I let my kids choose their own activities, that would result in five hours of video games per day,” said Chua.

In addition, among the myriad of criticisms of Westerners she chastises American children for believing they have individual rights under the Constitution. Later, after her “crisis” regarding her youngest daughter’s swan song to her violin career, Chua expresses gratitude for “living in a country where rebellion is so revered.”

Overall, after spending a lifetime drilling her daughters towards flawless academic records and Julliard auditions, Chua admits that she isn’t happy and doesn’t enjoy life, but wouldn’t change the way she reared her children. This is the price she paid for “perfection.” To all parents and students alike, what price are you willing to pay for the  supposed success of yourself or your children?