Saturday, March 19, 2011

battle hymn of the tiger mother

Of course I was interested in reading this book because my mom is 75% Chinese and 25% Irish. She most definitely was a "tiger mother". Two things she always said stick out in my mind "if you can't do it right, don't do it at all" and "do on to other's as you'd have done to you". My mom expected a lot from us at a young age. She didn't take excuses or whining. By the time I was eight years old, I was cooking the entire family dinner once a week. She taught Chinese cooking school out of our home a couple times a week. I had to clean up the house and set up the materials for her cooking school each time. My mother's father was also very strict. My sister and I would quietly sit at the family dinner table and wait for him to acknowledge us in order to be excused from the table. There was to be no fidgeting, goofing around or elbows on the table. One look from him and you knew if you were heading in the wrong direction.

I would say this book is intense for those who know little of the Asian culture. It can be a bit shocking. I enjoyed it because it reminded me of bits of my own childhood. And no my mom never made me practice a piano for hours on end.

"Chua (Day of Empire) imparts the secret behind the stereotypical Asian child's phenomenal success: the Chinese mother. Chua promotes what has traditionally worked very well in raising children: strict, Old World, uncompromising values--and the parents don't have to be Chinese. What they are, however, are different from what she sees as indulgent and permissive Western parents: stressing academic performance above all, never accepting a mediocre grade, insisting on drilling and practice, and instilling respect for authority. Chua and her Jewish husband (both are professors at Yale Law) raised two girls, and her account of their formative years achieving amazing success in school and music performance proves both a model and a cautionary tale. Sophia, the eldest, was dutiful and diligent, leapfrogging over her peers in academics and as a Suzuki piano student; Lulu was also gifted, but defiant, who excelled at the violin but eventually balked at her mother's pushing. Chua's efforts "not to raise a soft, entitled child" will strike American readers as a little scary--removing her children from school for extra practice, public shaming and insults, equating Western parenting with failure--but the results, she claims somewhat glibly in this frank, unapologetic report card, "were hard to quarrel with."

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