I recently came across an article on The Wall Street Journal that discussed Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." As you know, I wrote a book in response, but also felt the need to respond to this article. I find the comments extremely compelling, although not surprising in the least. As a mother, Asian-American or not, how do you feel about Chua's thought process? Does your parenting style fit one of the styles I describe below? As always, I value your input and comments.
As an Asian-American mother of two, I was appalled when I read Amy Chua’s text, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I was compelled to respond to Chua’s claims, and did so by publishing my responsorial book, Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story. Like many parents, when I became a mother, I was determined to provide my daughters with the essential tools and skills required for an extraordinarily successful future. When they entered school, I was discontented with the level of education they were receiving and sought to find a school that met both their educational and emotional needs. When I saw they were not being challenged enough in school, I took it upon myself to create and start Merit Academy, a private school which offered them a prep-school education that was stimulating and engaging. Today, both of my daughters are exceptionally successful, having attended Stanford University/Stanford School of Medicine and Claremont McKenna College. My book, Our Entitled Children: An American Tiger Mom’s Story, details the path that led our children into successful and fulfilling lives, without denying them the basic rights of their youth, as Amy Chua proudly describes doing to her own children. My book outlines the success of my program which is exhibited through the lives of my daughters as well as the plethora of students that have made their way through Merit Academy over the decades.
Like the throngs of readers that picked up Chua’s book, I was outraged on many different levels. Her now infamous book has elicited responses from her readers, and I could not agree more. Chua openly admits to calling her children “garbage” and even threatened to ignore one of her daughter’s future birthdays if she failed to learn a very difficult musical piece within the next day. Clearly, it is easy to relate to the outrage that came in the wake of her book. My indignation took on a life of its own, and instead of simply disagreeing, I took it upon myself to write a book about how crippling her parenting style is to a child, and how success can be achieved without such cruelty. This is not only my opinion, but a proven method that has served my family well over the years.
Chua also lumps all "Western" parents together under one label. Besides the Tiger Mom, I believe that western parents are also further divided into two more labels. First, there is the Helicopter Mom; those hovering mothers who do their children's homework and attack anyone who steps on their children's self esteem. The second type is the American Tiger Mom; those mothers who steadfastly guide and support their children as they become successful young adults. This type of parent works diligently to ensure their child’s success and happiness without depriving them of their autonomy. I have actively raised my daughters by setting them up with opportunities so they could explore business models, change consumer perspectives on energy, and start non-profit organizations to reach the world. By putting them in the driver's seat, they experienced let downs and disappointments (a helicopter mom would have fixed the problem for them) and learned to overcome unforeseen obstacles. This built character and strengthened their self esteem. Unlike the children of a tiger mother, my girls selected their projects and businesses, thereby learning that hard work pays off. My girls are both masters of time management because they learned early on that they need to first complete all of their homework and project tasks before they can go out with friends and have sleepovers. They learned to have their cake and eat it too; a luxury that everyone deserves, yet most don’t quite know how to attain.
Another common and weighty reaction to Chua’s text was that through publishing her perspective, she was perpetuating the ethnic stereotypes that so many Asian-American women have been fighting to diminish over the years. Not only does she perpetuate this damaging image, but she does so proudly. If she has found a parenting method that works for her, that is her prerogative; but to say that all Asian-American mothers are superior because of their rigorous and cruel parenting is detrimental to the efforts that have been made to rid ourselves of the damaging ethnic stereotypes that we have fought for so long.
In my book, I discuss the successful process of raising our daughters. Unlike Chua’s children, mine were permitted a healthy social life while simultaneously excelling in their educational careers and extracurricular activities. They were allowed to express themselves creatively. They were encouraged to do projects that would benefit themselves, their community and ultimately help them get into great colleges. Once they began a project, they were never allowed to give up on it. I believe that if you start something you finish it, and you finish it to the very best of your ability. Their projects not only gave them an immense sense of personal accomplishment, but they also allowed them to win upwards of eighty percent of their college scholarships. My children were able to succeed in their lives without being called degrading names, without denying them their youth, and they are able to reflect on their childhood as just that: a childhood rather than a boot camp.
Chua’s book is still a hot topic in the realm of parenting, education, and Asian-American ethnicity. Its highly controversial contents are widely debated and my book discusses all of these issues while simultaneously opening up a dialogue for all parents who ponder their child’s future success.