Tiger Mom - What's Your Opinion?

Updated on February 28, 2011
T.K. asks from Grand Prairie, TX
21 answers

Here's a debate starter -- Have you read the Wall Street Journal article by Amy Chua about Chinese mothering vs Western Moms? Or her Book - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom? What do you think? I found it shocking, but really loved the perspective it offered. I especially laughed at the part about "everyones special in thier own special way." I used to laugh at that Sesame Street thinking as well. I remember once I beat a Vietnemese girl in the spelling bee. I found her crying in the bathroom afterward. She told me she was crying because she got beat by a white girl! HA! Tells you what other cultures think of us! I have an 18 year old girl that I love deeply. She was the center of my world and I protected her ferociously from any little thing that might hurt her feelings. I tried to foster her self esteem with praise. It actually backfired horribly. She's so gorgeous people fall all over themselves around her but she thinks she is fat and unattractive. She made excellent grades, but thinks she isn't smart enough to take "hard" college classes. I required her to have extra curriculars, but when she got in and didn't like it, I let her quit. I just wanted her to be happy. Well, my happy child is struggling as an adult. She's been sort of aimless and afraid to try anything. On the flip side I worked for an Indian family for many years and the lady was definately a "Tiger Mom" I used to feel so sorry for her daughter. She was 7 yrs older than mine. She had no social life at all. Just academic drills all day every day. She did not attend school sporting events. She had no friends. Did not talk on the phone. Good was never good enough. I saw this 100 lb girl obsess about her diet and excerice and thought ...eating disorder caused by her overbearing mothers crazy expectations. Turns out, that was her only hobby. She's a runner. Well, 10 years later...She is living a fabulous, glamorous, wealthy life in London. She graduated college early and was so accomplished in school that companies had a bidding war for her. Yes, she moved a continent away from her parents, but she visits every chance she gets and has a very warm relationship wiht them. She is truly happy and living a great big life. My daughter, beautiful and sweet, is tentatively taking her 1st step into college in August. I feel like I did my girl an injustice by not having enough faith in her to push her. I mean, not to that extreme. But if I'm honest with myself, I was lazy. I did not want to drill for hours. I let her watch tv so I could get "me" time. I did put her feelings above making the hard choices to do what was right for her. I didnot prepare her for life. Now, I do not believe in berating or insulting a child. But I have a do-over in my 4 and 5 yr olds. I'm going to make some changes. I'm going to try the "Middle Way" I am going to expect more of my children and put in much more time making sure they get it. I understand now that self esteem comes from doing things you feel proud of, not having your mommy tell you how great you are. It's been in the back of my mind for a year or so now, but this controversail lady brought it to the forefront. I think she's extreme, no doubt, but she does have soemthing to say that we can learn from.

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answers from Minneapolis on

She called her 7 year-old daughter "garbage" and "a loser" to her face. Sorry, no, I can't even debate this.

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answers from Harrisburg on

Whichever style parenting produces happy, confident, productive citizens of society, that is the method you should use!

Not every method is for everyone and if the one we are using isn't producing results, maybe we can try another...

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answers from Spokane on

I think being a mother means wearing MANY different hats. Some days, my kids *need* a Tiger Mama....other days they need Kitten Mama.

I think she makes some very valid points about how coddling our society is nowadays with our children. Parents are afraid to say 'no' to their children. Children are growing up without a proper work ethic, respect for their elders and accountability for their actions. Too many parents are more concerned with having their children 'like' them, rather than respect them.

But this isn't strictly a Chinese philosophy. Growing up, I didn't always like my parents. They were tough, said 'no' and made me do chores. BUT I respected them. And now, as an adult and mother, I am SO appreciative of the way they raised me.

The great thing about being a parent is that we can pick and choose how we want to raise our children. And with so SO many 'expert opinions' (and I use that term VERY loosely!) out there to learn about, we can take a little from the Tiger Mom, and incorporate it into a parenting stragedy that we're comfortable with.

How's that for diplomatic ;) LOL

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answers from Williamsport on

I am almost finished with the book. I think it is fascinating. I very much wish I had some of the motivation she has, and the definition of Tiger mom within the Chinese immigrant culture and generations she describes is very interesting. Not only does she demand excellence from her kids and work in the trenches with them to achieve it, she is also extremely accomplished, sacrificing and hard working herself. Am I cut out to be as high achieving as her? No way. Would I expect it from my kids? How could I? But I do agree with her views on our western parenting, and I've already increased my daughter's piano time, started working with my 3 year old in workbooks, and started reading more to my baby as well as drastically weaning from the TV which I had been wanting to do. It's a great kick in the pants, and the kids are loving our extra time together and my baby gained a few new words the first day, when usually I sort of skate by with her because I'm so busy.

I agree one hundred percent with the Eastern way which assumes strength of children's character instead of weakness, that discipline is necessary for respect, and that kids don't always WANT to do the things they should, which is where parents come in. I love the author's self effacing honest style and sarcasm. It's a fast easy read. It's easy to see how kids in countries raised this way out perform the United States, and it's a great glimpse of another culture.

I loved her point about how in America, if a child isn't performing well in school, the parent will dissect the school, even leave the school, and look for alternative ways for the child to learn better suited to the child, whereas in China, or even in America where the Chinese child is FOREIGN to a school, if a child isn't doing well in school, they simply work harder at what they're lacking until they can master it, feeling that having an obstacle which isn't a natural fit is a valuable part of the challenge and builds strength.

We just got back from Tokyo where the ENTIRE population seemed to be respectful and polite despite the close quarters, there is very little crime, it's clean and beautiful, and there is virtually no bad teen age element according to our friends who live there and it is frowned upon to let your children tantrum etc.-they discipline in public. The office workers were up all hours even on the weekend. The sold out stadium crowd at a Metallica concert we went to there was as quiet as a library and no one was removed for being drunk and disorderly. The back stage area didn't have lockers because according to the guard, "no one steals". It's the first city I've been to where you can teeter down the street with your camera and purse out looking at a map and not really worry. Anyone we asked for help spoke English, because somehow everyone else in the world knows kids can learn more than one language. Discipline does work for most people when most people use it. I know that's Japan, not China, just sayin'. I think it's an Eastern thing.

Best memoir I've read since the Glass Castle.

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answers from Washington DC on

i don't think it has to be either/or. i think she is way over the top with some of her demands on her littles, and i think our western modern newfangled methodology that allows small people to express themselves as individuals is a Very Good Thing. of course, nothing comes without a price. it's a hard middle ground to walk between allowing a child to feel respected and listened to, and creating self-centered ugly little ogres.
i think we can demand excellence from our children as long as we pay attention to what excellence means for each individual child, not necessarily how school or society might measure it. but i also think no child will grow up breathlessly in love with creating music if she has been slammed onto the piano seat until she gets it 'right.'
that mindset genuinely horrifies me.

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answers from Dallas on

I just finished the book and found it interesting. I was ready not to like Chua after the WSJ article and Time Magazine piece. The book went into more depth. I don't agree with many of the things she did and ways she handled her children, but I applaud her honesty and passion to spend the time and effort necessary to pass on her values to her children.

I agree with the author, in some respects, that Americans don't push our children hard enough and that we need to instill a strong work ethic in our children.

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answers from Chicago on

I disagree on some things and agree with her on other things. Especially the point that Western parents let their kids quit things too soon. I totally agree with that. I also think it's good to expect the best from your children. Not okay with berating or calling names to get there though. I like how she's involved with her kids lives, but not to the degree that she's involved. I believe that kids need to play and make some choices on their own.

To totally dismiss what she says is narrow-minded. Like anything, you need to sift through the contents and take from it what can help you.

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answers from Portland on

This is not an all-or-nothing alternative. It's a false choice to think that it has to be either 'Eastern' or 'Western' parenting. And while I have known a few Asian mothers who are much more likely to stress accomplishment in their children, Amy Chua's approach is about as extreme as parenting can get.

I think a mom does her job best when she stays aware of the child as a person and keeps that small human being's native personality in view. SOME children respond beautifully to intense pressure, possibly even thrive on it, as long as balance is maintained in the child's life (adequate rest, relaxation, exercise, etc.). In fact, there are exceptional children who CHOOSE an intense field of accomplishment, and would be confounded by a parent who is unwilling or unable to support that thrust.

However, those children are rare. As are the kids on the opposite end of the spectrum, who might present as 'dreamers' or 'goof-offs.' Most kids range somewhere in the middle, and rise to parental expectations if realistic. They also get discouraged or demotivated by unrealistic goals set by their parents. But no matter what the child's personality, clear boundaries, thoughtful rules, and reasonable consequences work toward the child's ultimate good.

I'm a born dreamer (on the Myers-Briggs typology, I'm an extreme INXP) and had a perfectly miserable childhood with a demanding, hovering 'tiger' mother. In spite of driving me and my sisters with great ferocity for 18 years, she did not succeed in making us "succeed." Not by her definition, anyway. I'm still a dreamer, perhaps even somewhat visionary. The world needs people like me, though, so in spite of my mom's misgivings, I'm happy with the way I turned out.

My mother meant well. We grew up in poverty and she was determined to give us all what we'd need to do better financially. But two of my sisters were actually driven into miserable lives, still in poverty, not knowing who they are, and one has become mentally ill and is now dependent on social services simply to survive.

The result of my mother's approach? I think so. I had a great deal of work to do as an adult to heal the damage done to my psyche as a child. I'm actually still working on it, because I keep noticing anguish and anger rising when I read questions like this one.

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answers from Austin on

I remember when I was in 3rd grade and our teacher gave us a surprise quiz on geography--and spelling correctly was a must! I got a B on it... However I found one of my best friends (whom I still know today) in the back of the classroom, sobbing. She was 2nd generation Chinese American and, when asked why she was crying, said "I got an A minus--I can't bring home 'minuses'." To this day, this friend has never married, never will have children. She says that her childhood was too unhappy and she wouldn't want her child to experience the same. She is very successful and well educated (PhD) but also struggles with dating and the expected 'social rules' that most of us learned in high school and college. After all, she spent all of those years studying instead of social interaction.

When it came time to go to college, she chose to attend an university that was along the opposite side of the country--to get away from her parents. Too far to be able to even consider a quick visit home. (How sad!) I would be mortified if my children grew up wanting to get away from me as soon as possible.

I see it as my job as a parent to raise healthy, well adjusted children and help them be functional adults. Focusing too much on academics and ignoring everything else does not equip children with the life skills they need as adults. I'm not saying my methods or parenting are the best, but I sure don't want my children to resent me or feel scarred by a ruined childhood.

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answers from Fort Wayne on

I would concider her parenting style as old school and that is how we are raising our dd. she is told NO when she has a meltdown because of it she is ignored not coddled (sp). She is rewarded for doing well and is corrected for doing wrong. I believe what Lesley stated was correct that society is all concerned now that children should like their parents. what a bunch of b.s. Parents are doing their children an injustice by letting them do whatever and not having them be held accountable.

When parents starting getting jailed and fined bc their children were doing wrong things it completely changed the parent child dynamics. The kids did not care their parents would get into trouble for their misdeeds. Things need to change and society needs to stop being so politically correct and get back to the old school brass tacks way. Tecnology has really made life harder not eaiser for all of us. Our world is not a better place bc of it, it has become more and more sad as time goes on.

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answers from Tyler on

I found it interesting and agreed with much of her premise. I am a grandmother, reared 5 children--three of which were non-biological. What works for one child doesn't necessarily work for another, so a parent must take into consideration the differences in personalities. However, I do agree with the author concerning some things in our society that are just plain wrong and need to be avoided. One of my daughters has been very strict (but very loving) with her children. No TV except what she prerecords and screens, even eliminating the offensive commercials. Her children read a lot, make excellent grades, participate in sports, and are achieving awards in national writing programs. No major discipline problems. Another daughter is loose in her discipline and has already had a child in alternative school due to misbehavior in classes, anger issues, etc. Her child needs and wants discipline and their only solution to the problem is to sign him up for every sport available. Some sports are good, but not a substitute for parental involvement and discipline. I remember as a child feeling unloved because my mother didn't make us go to bed at 8 or 9 o'clock like other children. I was tired all the time, fell asleep in class when I was only in 1st and 2nd grades. It was a new concept for me when the teacher discussed bedtimes in health studies. Thus, I assumed my mother and dad didn't love us AS MUCH as other kids' parents. Just a small example of the way discipline can be interpreted as love. Ms. Chua presents many things parents should think about, but then it would mean parents becoming disciplined also, and for some this quite out of the question.

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answers from San Francisco on

I read the book and found it very interesting but I do not agree with her. I do agree that it is important to help your child understand that hard work is important and life is not all play. I agree that it's important to prepare your child for the fact that the world has standards. But there has to be some middle ground here.

In the book she pretty much admits that she feels her approach worked well with her older daughter but failed miserably with her younger daughter. My impression is that her younger daughter will have quite a bit of healing to do to get over some of what she's been through. I think the mother's intentions were good and that her goal was to make strong, successful kids, but I really feel there is no excuse for the name calling and being so brutal to them. There is a particularly disturbing sequence in the book where she forces the girls to write a eulogy for their grandmother and keeps rejecting their efforts saying it's shallow and cliche. Of course, the result was both girls wrote really beautiful moving tributes to their grandmother but were both furious at their mother at a time when they should've been able to count on her to be compassionate to them.

I also think she believes in only one version of "success". She admits in the book that she does not know how to enjoy life, which I think is really sad. I am just not sure that her version of success is what we are on this earth for. However, I do resonate with her thoughts that if a child pushes through frustration and achieves something that can build their confidence in themselves. I just don't really love her way of doing it.

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answers from Detroit on

As far as the book , Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom, I have not read the book. I've only read some of the reviews and the excerpt/ introduction over the web. I read a few of the tactics used by the mom and thought they were questionable and would probably have most kids in counseling as adults. This is probably something I could accomplish on my own.LOL
However, from what I have heard her kids turned out quite "successful" as far as their careers are concerned. Their personal lives maybe a different story but who knows.
I don't plan on buying the book because from what I have read so far I don't feel comfortable doing some of the things in the way described. Not saying the mom was wrong but it just goes against my style of parenting.
I sort of consider this a self-help type of book and only read stuff that I think I could try to do myself or that I think would be helpful to me as a parent. As a parent with struggles raising kids and working I'm always on the lookout for new things or advice on how I can be the best parent I can be. But, This would be too far out of the box for me.
I do believe that mom's for the most part cuddle their son's too much. I see this all the time working in the criminal "Justice" system. These mom's never think their son's have done anything wrong. So, because of that I find myself being a Little strict on my boys. I don't except excuses for any type of bad behavior or lack of responsiblity.
Before I had my kids I really had no Idea of all that was involved in raising them. No amount of reading and research could have prepared me. This is sort of a learn as you go, do what you think is best at the time and hope for the best type of experience.

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answers from Amarillo on

My take on this is that you would need to take positive idea from all cultures and turn them into your own way of parenting.

My mother's grandfather immigrated from Germany in the late 1880s and he had the old world way of thinking of parenting -- do the best you can to your ability or don't do it at all. Meaning that if you don't do a good job at something you will have to redo it and it will take twice as long. I guess it could be called a work ethic not perfectionism. My aunts and uncles were raised with lots of love and a firm hand and all succeeded.

I kind of followed this pattern but I did change a few things along the way. I didn't go the route of "my son the doctor or whataver" and that is what you became even if you wanted to be an engineer instead. I backed them and supported them with their decisions to the best of my ability. My children were allowed to express themselves and to experience life (sometimes not what I would have liked). Each child learned from their mistakes and had consequences like punishment or grounding for a period of time. Many times they knew they were in trouble before I got to them and told me that they were grounding theirself before I could say anything because the experience of being with said person was more than what I would have done to them and the friendship was ended by them.

So as a parent we all have hopes, dreams and desires for our children and sometimes they turn out and sometimes they don't but it is their life to live. We do need to emphasize patience and fortitude to get a task completed because in work world you just can't stop doing what is needed because you get discouraged and want to quit. Hard work does pay off and so does hard playing to relax your body and mind.

Getting back to the question it would be best to take from both or all worlds and make it fit the child in question. Some need a firmer hand than others to learn and understand. If you are too strict they rebel and if you are too soft they don't make it so it is the balance that is needed.

We do need to stop the coddling and we need to prepare them for the real world (global) that they wiill live and work in. The competition is out there and we are not keeping up.

The other S.

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answers from Philadelphia on

I found the article to be interesting. I thought that incident where she would not let her child get up from the piano until she got it right to be on verge of abusive. (I am a piano mom too and I've pushed on through some tears but I found her behavior to be outrageous.). The other thing that made me pause is that I believe that the school curriculum should include a drama class where she said "no plays...no drama". I think drama teaches life skills of speaking in front of others etc... I liked the work ethic part somewhat but I do not think my children or I have to be the best at everything we do... only do our best. I also want my children to have a "fun" childhood including play dates, sleepovers and birthday parties. To each his own though:)

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answers from Chicago on

there are pros and cons to everything and what she is doing works for her, her family and her culture ... I can not tell her she is wrong but I can say I would not choose do it the same way. I do agree with some things but not all.

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answers from New York on

There was another post about this already. I asked a Chinese mother what she thought (she is raising her daughter here and her daughter is an accomplished pianist at age 10) but she said she thought that lady was crazy and "we are not all like that"

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answers from Anchorage on

She sounded like the best way to mother is to control and basically destroy any chance the person has at a real childhood.

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answers from Lincoln on

I think all moms do what they think is best for their children. I could never parent in a "chinese style" nor would I want to, but I wouldn't tell someone who was that they were wrong. Just different priorities.

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answers from Seattle on

I've actually read the book and liked it. The author is very self-depricating and has a sense of humor. She openly admits her failures in trying to raise her children how she was raised by her Chinese immigrant parents, particularly with her second daughter. She freely admits that at times she acted crazy but I never for a minute doubted her devotion to her children or thought she was doing it all for herself. The book is a really interesting memoir on the way one women took on parenting and educating her children. One comment she made during a TV interview with Tavis Smiley was that many Western parents would have no problem at all letting their kids sit in front of the TV watching an all day marathon of "Teen Mom" or "The Kardashians" or "Jersey Shore" but those same parents would recoil in horror at the thought of a child practicing an instrument for the same amount of time.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I didn't see this article, but have seen the reference a couple of times this past week. What is a tiger mom? Can someone explain it to me? Thanks-

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