Saturday, January 29, 2011

# 3: Battle Hymn of the mother Tiger

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

355 of 412 people found the following review helpful: 5.0 out of 5 stars It's about acceptance, January 13, 2011 This review is from: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Hardcover) People who are taking this book the wrong way (particularly those who read the excerpt in the newspapers and not the book itself) are missing the big picture. The book is a memoir, and Chua tells her story no-holds-barred. Her mother is a central figure and her discipline (right or wrong) has shaped who Chua has become. Like all of us, Chua has had to find the good in her parents, particularly the good in their intentions (even when they aren't easy to find). Those who are treating this as a parenting manual advocating parents raise their children the way Chua was raised either haven't read the book or have completely missed the point.

You also get to go along with Chua as she raises her two daughters. They had incredibly strict rules to follow: no play dates, no sleepovers, and two hours a day of instrument practice. You see that her parenting isn't perfect in their achievements: the oldest played in Carnegie Hall at the age of 14 and the youngest...well I don't want to give away one of the best parts of the story but lets just say they had different paths. You live her struggle with a parenting style that's seen as extreme in America.

Even though I'm deeply implanted in the "lax" Western style of parenting, I still related deeply to the struggles of raising children. The book is hilarious and shocking in places. The kind of book you can't put down. The transformation Chua moves through is powerful. Her writing still is brisk and lively and you're sure to empathize with her struggles and her dreams. The book is striking a chord with so many because it hits hard at the questions we all must answer for ourselves in life: love, achievement, self-esteem, ambition, pride... She doesn't ultimately answer the question for anyone, she just tells her story in a way that's so real and so powerful that you'll never forget it.

I Love Yous Are for White People: A Memoir (P.S.) (the title derived from his father's mantra) is another book you'll absolutely want to check out. There are some amazing stories out there about parenting, and these two are told with power.

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339 of 413 people found the following review helpful: 3.0 out of 5 stars Okay for entertainment, dismal for parenting, January 14, 2011 This review is from: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (Hardcover) I read the entire book twice. As a story, the book is very entertaining. As a parenting experience, it was obsessive and absurd. Other reviewers go into detail about her parenting. The following points struck me the most:

Since her children were very small, the author made them practice piano and/or violin for 3-6 hours non-stop every day. What's even worse is this - the author would sit next to her children or stand behind them, criticizing them, for the entire practice time. She was there every minute of the children's music lessons with their teachers, taking detailed notes to harague her children with at home. She says she wasn't a helicopter parent, but if this isn't hovering over your children and living vicariously through them, I don't know what is. (Interestingly, the author talks about her super-competitive dreams for her children but later admits that she herself "couldn't stand the pressure of competition").

The author, who doesn't seem to play herself, learns more than a decade later at a recording studio that a musician's hands can get tired (from overplaying), that forcing and forcing music means the music sounds empty, etc. But still she keeps on going pushing her children to play non-stop for hours.

Also, she has no intention of letting her children actually be professional musicians. She sees it as a stepping stone to an ivy league school.

The author seems very narrowminded and judgmental. She disparages janitors, actors, bowling, crafts, anyone/anything she thinks is "mediocre". She broadly states that white parents or Western parents do this, "Chinese" parents do that (her family immigrated from China to Phillipines then to the US). Drums means doing drugs. Not winning first place is for losers. Her values on "success" make me cringe - Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Juillard, ivy league school - are mentioned repeatedly in this book. You get the very firm impression that playing Carnegie Hall, getting into Juillard/Harvard/Yale, being a Ph.D./J.D./M.D. are the only respectable achievements in her eyes. She spends most of her children's childhood yelling at them and pushing them to get into harder and harder programs. Her home is miserable with tension, including the children and her husband, and she just keeps on ignoring the stress that she's causing her family.

As proof that she is doing the right thing, the author mentions repeatedly that she is praised by other parents on how well her children behaved, and that her youngest daughter used to like to cuddle with her after a harsh lesson. Guess what? Even abused children often say they want to go home with their parents...

The reality is that her 2 kids have 2 parents who are ivy league law schools professors, and there are rich relatives on each side of the family (as we are told). The children had nannies, special teachers, special tutors, etc. Statistically, her kids are going to be far ahead of other kids anyway.

Personally, she lucked out with her husband, who let her have her way with the kids. Any other guy probably would have divorced her early on for her obsessive, shrieking, berating tendencies.

She insulted her children often, calling them lazy, stupid, fat, etc., as proof that she believed they could be better. (It would be interesting if a husband said this to his wife as proof that he believed she could be better...). She said that when her own parents did this to her, it didn't hurt her self-esteem. (Later, her daughter yells that her mother always makes her feel bad about herself...) She withheld food, water, rest, from the small children in order to make them practice more. I wonder where child protective services were? In Canada, this would be emotional abuse/neglect and grounds for removing a child from a home. Must be nice to be a US law professor and be able to say, this is how my loving Chinese parents raised me...She's mean to her kids and nice to everyone else.

I like the part where she congratulates herself on having such successful children, although by the end of the book her youngest was only 13 and just started to rebel against her mother, and even her own mother was warning her about the severity of her parenting. Good luck, I thought, see where they are at age 25, once they're out in the real world. By the way, it's common for Chinese Americans to have a quarter-life crisis at 25, when they switch out of careers chosen by their families, to pursue their own interests ("Breaking the Bamboo Ceiling").

Perhaps what is really interesting is the fact that her husband, who was raised in a creative, individualized, freedom-filled childhood, is also a Yale law professor. Clearly, his parents' Western parenting didn't ruin him.

I would recommend reading this book for its entertainment value only. I wouldn't recommend any of the parenting practices.

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210 of 255 people found the following review helpful: 1.0 out of 5 stars Where did this "Chinese culture" come from?, January 15, 2011 My biggest problem with this book is that the author is pitching her child-rearing strategy as some kind of Chinese vs. Western style when in fact it isn't. As a native Mandarin speaker whose family immigrated to the US during my teens, I can't have a more different view and life experience from that of the author.

It's clear the author comes from a lineage of high-achievers spanning at least three generations, but how much of their success can be attribute to her "Chinese-ness", as she has suggested, is debatable. It's more plausible that the very act of immigration has already preordained a group of people who have comparatively more drive and determination to succeed and such people generally push themselves and their kids harder. Same kind of so-claimed "Chinese hardworking ethos" can be found among Korean, Japanese, Bulgarian, Irish, and you name it immigrants all over the world.

And not all Chinese parents eventually sent their children to Ivy League schools. Some undoubtedly have spectacular success while some have spectacular failure, but mostly, most kids just grow up assimilated and blend into the general population. I also believe early assimilation is another factor determining the future success for the immigrants and their children. In area where there are lots of immigrants from the same background, kids find it more difficult to adapt to the new world as there is so much of their old culture around. If the author has grown up anywhere in the US west coast/east coast where there are many of her own kind and where she didn't even have to learn proper English to get by, she may just have easily taken a very different path.

While academic success is highly valued in Chinese culture, actually I can't think of a culture that doesn't, I am personally grateful that my parents didn't call me a "failure" for getting grades less than A's, a negative reinforcement strategy the author claimed a Chinese routine. From my personal experience and that of those around me, that is not true- although our parents want us to do well in school, they never resorted to the type of "tough love" as experienced and practiced by the author. Same can be said of my family and friends who remained in Asia. The type of hard-nosed/military style family life presented in the book certainly exists but is far from representative of the Chinese culture I know, both in the US and in Asia.

I am sticking my neck out and suggest that perhaps the author's success in life is attributable to various other factors, including the fact that her family had first immigrated to Philippine from China, then onto US, which demonstrated a remarkable drive and determination, than her "Chinese-culture" I hardly recognize. And while such no-nonsense, hard-driving child-rearing style can be the right fit for highly intelligent and energetic children, it can also mean complete nightmare for other kids.

In conclusion, if you're looking for a book on how highly competitive, hard-pushing high-achievers hoping to turn out the next generation of highly competitive, hard-pushing high-achievers, this is the book for you. But if you want to get a glance of how parents from Chinese culture raise their kids, this book is going to put some serious misconceptions in your head. As for me, I am going to take a lot more relaxed attitude to raise my own children and hope they'll be no less happy when they one day look back to their life with me.

Additional note:

I wrote this review without first reading other reviews, but after I have done so, I believe I have something to add to the discussion. If we strip away Ms. Chua's claim of "Chinese ways of parenting," in other words, had this book been written anonymously without references to the "Chinese ways" which Ms. Chua referred to with gusto, will most her admirers still think her take on child-rearing "refreshing" and "thought-provoking"? Because that's what you should do. Ms. Chua is quite removed from the Chinese culture as far as I am concerned, and I think Ms Chua herself has been looking at her "Chinese" identity through a tinted glass typical of someone who has never fully experienced it.

Boot Camp, Full Metal Jacket.

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