Top positive review
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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
on 22 June 2011
I remember once attending a school coffee morning and complaining afterwards to a friend of mine, who is from Hong Kong, how competitive some parents are. To say she was aghast is understating the case - "No," she exclaimed, "Hong Kong is much harder to bring your child up - very, very competitive!" After reading this book, I perhaps understand what she meant. Amy Chua brought her two daughters up, in the US, but on the Chinese parenting model. This book does explain why, and how, there are so many academically brilliant Chinese students; not to mention so many gifted musicians, chess champions, etc. However, it also explains the cost of putting this intense programme into action - no playdates, sleepovers, and an over scheduling which sounded exhausting for her, let alone a child.
Amy Chua obviously has a great belief in her parenting methods and she is, at times, quite shockingly aggressive about 'Western' methods. However, she herself admits that she prefers to learn things by rote and found a career in Law uncomfortable by her unwillingness to 'question', which perhaps meant the model worked for her and so she approved of it whole heartedly for her own children. This, however, I believe is the true shortcoming in her approach - yes, children do need to learn some things by rote, but to be real learners for life, you need to inspire and create a love of learning and a willingness to try things without fear of failure. All you can do, ultimately, for children is to open doors - let them experience different activities and choose which of those they enjoy. To battle with your children over music practice day after day must surely be draining for everyone in the house and, you do wonder at the cost of success. To go on holiday and spend hours searching for a piano at every location just introduces stress into what should be an enjoyable time and, although you can applaud the effort, you wonder how much is for the sake of the child and how much for the parental ambition. Quite a lot I felt was for the mother and not the children. Interestingly, Amy's husband was not Chinese, but an American academic and well known author. Although he disagreed with many of Amy's methods, she did most of the parenting (like the majority of mothers) and so, ultimately, it was her ideas which were implemented. The cost seems to have been a high one in family financial cost, time and stress, with her children becoming her 'projects'.
Although I disagreed with much of what she said, I did find myself agreeing with some of her ideas; although perhaps in a less aggressive way. As a book I found it fascinating. You have to look past the desire to shock and be confrontational and read the message. Although I could never parent like she does, nor would I wish to, in one sense she is right - children are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. Parental input is certainly important for our children to succeed, but the task is to get the balance right and include our children in the process. It is, after all, their life. However, as a book - jaw dropping as it is, it does make fascinating reading.