Chinese Tiger Mother from another Asian point of view

A little while ago, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was on the New York Times’ best seller list. It was written by Amy Chua,  a Yale University Law professor who was raised by Chinese immigrant parents. It talks about how Chinese parents raise children without sleepovers or play-dates and have children practice instruments at least several hours a day. Her children are not allowed to have other than A’s in their grade. Amy Chua was interviewed by many national news outlets. I found she was rather too proud and I decided not to be bothered by the hubbub over her parenting style. I am an Asian and grew up in a Japan that in many ways was still recovering after World War II. We were defeated and were raised to believed the Western ways were better.

Then a mother who is also a first generation immigrant quoted this provocative phrase from the book and talked to me about how important it is to make her children tough to survive in this country.

Western parents try to respect their children’s  individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believes that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits and inner confidence.

While many mainstream Americans were outraged by Chua’s demanding, controlling and often seemingly verbally abusive parenting styles, this immigrant mother who is not Asian and who is very successful, agreed with Chua’s parenting style.  I decided to read Chua’s book to find out how she is wrong!

Instead, I found that I liked the book! It is not because I am an Asian and a first generation immigrant. According to Chua, she found her styles could be found in Chinese and Korean parenting but not in Japanese!  I think I found what was missing when I was raising my child. He was raised in an American way. He had many play dates and sleep overs regularly. He was pampered with video games, and plays many sports. He was good at playing the flute, but gave up other instruments very easily after not practicing at all. When he was younger, I thought he had a lot of potential. I saw a diamond in the rough. The truth is his diamond is still not polished, wasted by many thousand dollars spent on a million hours of leisure time.

Despite her provocative and condescending writing style, what I found most important is how much she actually spend time with her children. She goes to her daughters’ piano and violin lessons with them. She writes down and memorizes what the instructors were teaching and when she came home she reinforces that her daughters practice what they are supposed to for at least 2 hours. She leaves notes behind when she is not able to be home during their practice time. For those of you who practice classical music instruments, practicing for two hours is not a lot. You need to practice and practice in order to master the skills and music. On top of the instrument practice, her daughters are expected to have straight A grades.  Obviously they do not have time for play dates and sleep overs. However,  she believes in her daughters and determines to help them to succeed.

When American mainstream parents let children have sleepovers, is it for the children to socialize or for parents to have a break from the children? Do we really spend enough time and energy to raise our children? Raising children with independent minds may be too much relying on each child’s underdeveloped judgment. Very young children in America are allowed to participate in decisions that have huge effects on thier lives. 

Chau’s daughters are also surrounded by their dad and grandparents in addition to their drill sargeant mother. They can criticize their mother and one of them rebelled against the mother’s method. They seems to have a balanced environment.  When my mother was upset at me when I did not practice piano, I always loved to escape to be with my grandmother. I hear frequently one parent complain how the other is spoiling their children. As long as the parents do not disagree and argue about their parenting styles in front of their children, the children often benefit from the different kinds of support from each adult.

So we need to ask ourselves. Are we spending enough time and energy to raise our children? Are we too much focused on our own needs and just hoping the kids will grow independent without investing enough of our time.