Guest Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

Spread the love

While not intended to be a parenting manual, Yale Law School professor Amy Chua’s memoir, focusing on her trials and travails of mothering, is sure to go down in infamy. Having generated a considerable amount of controversy, Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother details, and, in some cases, promotes, an extremely strict parenting style that she attributes to her Chinese cultural background.

The media storm that followed the memoir’s publication provides ample fodder for a review itself. But instead of analyzing what others have said about the book, I decided to crack it open myself to see what all the fuss is about. Of course, many of Chua’s parenting dictates–not allowing children to attend sleepovers, participate in extra-curricular activities of their own choosing, and accepting nothing short of a straight-A report card–can be considered a form of child abuse. However, Chua is not quite the “Tiger Mother” the media have made her out to be, and the memoir has its moments of poignancy that extends beyond the extremist parenting.

The book traces Chua’s relationship with her two daughters and husband Jed, an academic whose American-Jewish background views parenting in a much more benevolent, laissez-faire way. Some of the more alarming anecdotes, like when Chua dismisses her daughter’s homemade birthday card as not good enough, or when she forces her child to play a tricky piano piece over and over, threatening her in the process, until she gets it right, may turn off many readers. But at the end of the day, Chua demonstrates a sense of humor that softens her fierce competitiveness. That her children seem to have turned out to be “normal”, happy teenagers indicates that the accusations of child abuse among Chua’s detractors are a little overblown.

While I would never actually employ the style of parenting that Chua seems to advocate, the professor and mother makes an interesting case against what she calls “Western” parenting. The heavy emphasis on self-esteem at all costs may indeed produce children who are satisfied with mediocrity and who begin to feel entitled to everything when they are older. Still, in my opinion, parents can strive for a happy medium. After all, teaching children that they must work very hard for success and recognition is a lesson that should, by all accounts, be instilled early.

Although Chua’s memoir is by no means perfect, it is an interesting account of alternative parenting styles. What’s more, any parent will be able to empathize with its basic themes of family, no matter how much they disagree with how Chua approaches raising children. Despite its imperfections, Chua’s book is a worthwhile read for parents who struggle with anxiety over their child-rearing decisions. For more information, check out this excerpt, published in the New York Times.


This guest post is contributed by Alisa Gilbert, who writes on the topics of bachelors degree.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:

This post is Copyright 2001-2012 SMS Book Reviews. Do not reproduce anything without permission.
About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.