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A brief reflection on Amy Chua’s “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”

October 30, 2011

Written as a provocative memoir on childrearing, Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother imparts on the secret behind Asian children’s academic and professional success within American society. Throughout the literature, Chua continuously criticizes American parents, labeling them as are weak, lazy, and conformists, who abide by the notion that freedom of individuality will manufacture success for their children. Chua argues that the foundation for achievement is rooted in draconian measures. By mandating an adolescent existence saturated with rigorous practice, public humiliation, respect, and diligence, individuals will flourish into societal victors. Using her daughters, Sophia and Lulu as example, Chua sets out to validate her claim.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother indeed is a controversial piece of literature. Many parents and critics have been appalled by some of Chua actions: locking her daughter outside in the cold, removing them from recreational classes to enforce additional music practice, prohibit entertainment of any sort, and scalding her youngest on a birthday card she made that- according to Chua- lacked effort. Others have judged the book largely through asking questions: How will this type of parenting affect her children’s psychic welfare? Is future success worth contemporary misery?

Regardless of opinion, it is undeniable that Chua’s methods work; both Sophia and Lulu are academic geniuses and music prodigies who have performed at concert halls all over the world. Moreover, no one can deny Chua of her workmanship in getting her daughters to reach the altitude of triumph. As Chua herself said: “it is easy to be a mother who promotes individuality and freedom. After telling her children to do as they please, they [the mom] will then head out to the gym and do yoga.” It is questionable, however, whether Chua’s exertion is genuine. It is possible that perhaps having lost objective in life from reaching the peak of personal social success -as an accomplished Yale Law Professor- Chua is now simply living vicariously through her children. Hopefully this is not the case. What is troubling- in a tangible way, anyway- is how Chua’s meticulous parenting has fundamentally confiscated her daughters of their childhoods. Childhood is something every individual should be entitled to. It is a careless time of curiosity, exploration, and adventure; a time when the demons and stress of concrete reality will not harm us. No matter how successful Sophia and Lulu may become as adults, they will never be able to succeed in recapturing that lost time.

Despite Chua’s harsh and direct opinions, she does raise a good point: Americans are starting to fall behind in the global economy and something needs to change; perhaps parenting. It is important to take her words with a grain-of-salt and an open mind. The reason why Battle Hymn of the Tiger Battle is so heavily debated is because there is no real supreme way to parent. As the book will show, childrearing methods are not static, it depends on the individual. Readers should not let their subjective ideologies direct them away from the true principles of this literature. Beneath its philosophical foundation is an entertaining story of humor, family, humility and love. Read it and judge for yourself. –Ping Zhou

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