Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
By Cathy Abreu
Amy Chua’s memoir “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” has become the topic of conversation and curiosity between mothers, fathers and parents to be. Chua writes candidly about her choices as a mother raising second generation children in western society, her fear that they will feel entitled, or become lazy and spoiled. Ultimately, she decides on a strict Chinese upbringing that includes no sleepovers, no playdates, five hours of violin or piano lessons and basically controlling every aspect of her children’s lives. Chua’s belief system originates from her view that westerners fear that their child may not love them anymore if they are too strict. Her parenting style responds to this fear by instead recognizing the opposite problem of children who grow up resenting their parents for not pushing them enough. I appreciate Chua’s honesty, although my jaw dropped at the things she would say to her children: threatening to burn their toys if they didn’t practice their instrument, calling her eldest “garbage” when dishing out discipline, or giving back their homemade birthday cards because they weren’t good enough. Ultimately, however, I was blown away by Chua’s determination for her children to succeed – to become prodigies. It became her own obsession that her children be their very best, despite any difficulties it caused in her relationship with them. The role and influence of her husband, Jed, is not discussed in her book as much I would have hoped. When she makes her children bring their instruments on vacation, I am expecting him to speak up, defend his children and to finally put his foot down, but to my horror he doesn’t. He is portrayed as a very tolerant and patient husband, but I find that hard to believe. Even though her daughters have become successful, with even her eldest, Sophia, being accepted to Yale, she admits that she has made mistakes. Since the release of her memoir, Chua has received much criticism and even death threats. However, she makes it clear that it’s not a how-to guide, but about her own journey and transformation as a mother. Also, Chua’s own children have defended their mother saying that they are glad that Chua made those decisions. I feel inspired by Chua’s journey from her mistakes and achievements. Overall, we need to find a balance, encouraging our children to always do their best at any task they are presented with. This doesn’t mean that I will forbid my children to go on playdates or force them to practice their instrument for hours – it just means that it’s okay to have high expectations as long as it’s coupled with love and individuality. Children are more resilient than we think!
Cathy Abreu lives in Toronto with her husband who is Goan and two children. She finds being a stay-at-home mother fun, interesting and at times very challenging. When she has time for herself, which is very rare, she loves to read a good book and maybe get a wash and blow-dry.
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