excerpt… A hornet’s nest of condemnation has been stirred up by Amy Chua’s recently released parenting memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chua, a U.S.-born, Harvard-trained law professor at Yale who is married to a Jewish colleague, chronicles her journey to cultivate her two daughters to fulfill their potential as high achievers amongst America’s elite. Chua writes about not allowing her daughters to receive grades less than an A, play anything but the piano or violin, participate in school plays, engage in social activities such as sleepovers and playdates, watch TV or play computer games, or choose their own extracurricular activities.
She describes exhausting, drawn-out power struggles where she employs threats, insults and put-downs to make her kids toe the line. She even (comically) tries out her approach on the family dogs. One time she threatens to burn her eldest daughter’s stuffed animal collection if a piece is not played perfectly. Another time, she prevents her youngest daughter from having supper, going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water until a challenging piece is mastered. Eventually, her youngest daughter rebels at age 13, cutting off her hair, and smashing a glass at a café during a family trip to Russia, shouting that she hates her life and her mother, and that she doesn’t want to be Chinese. This turning point finally results in Chua relenting — somewhat.
The Penguin version of her book contains a lengthy subtitle not contained on the British Bloomsbury hardcover: “This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I am humbled by a 13 year old.” However, an excerpt from the book, provocatively entitled “Why Chinese mothers are superior” that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 8, is critical of “western” or permissive parenting, which in Chua’s view coddles children to their long term detriment, in contrast to “Chinese” or authoritarian, academically focused parenting which benefits children by gearing them for success.
The piece quickly went viral, and received over 5,000 comments, with numerous blog responses appearing across the Internet. The book has also been discussed extensively in the media including The Guardian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Slate, NPR, The Globe & Mail, and the CBC. Although her approach is not much different from that of some parents who are intensely focused on sports or other physical performance-based activity for their kids (e.g. hockey, ice-skating, tennis), some commentators have expressed outrage, horror or concern, and labelled her approach abusive and damaging, pointing to the high proportion of suicides amongst Asian-American teenagers….