Well, hello there! I believe I’m 80% Tiger Mother!

A few months back I noticed that Amy Chua was making the talk show rounds discussing her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. After watching a few of the interviews, I sort of knew that I would probably never read the book, and I sort of knew that I would never want to be friends with Ms. Chua. Her kid made a birthday card for her and she gave it back and demanded something better?! What sort of parenting is that?!

My church book club selected Battle Hymn for our summer book, and I quickly signed up for it at the library because I knew that I didn’t want Ms. Chua to receive any royalty cash from me. When I made my library request, I was something like request number 394,492 with four copies in circulation. It was doubtful I would ever see the book. No big deal.

Apparently, some sort of hiccup took place in the system, and I got the call from the library a few days back. Please know that I’m sort of glancing around the room before I type this next sentence for fear that Katie Couric will walk out of my bathroom and roll her eyes at me, but: After reading the first 68 pages, I’m finding that I’m actually agreeing with MANY of the points that Chua makes in her book. MANY of the points! (I don’t really care if Katie Couric rolls her eyes at me. I think we could make up over burritos, and everything would be Just Fine.) ((Do you know that I make my kids correct their homework, because I find it unacceptable for them to make mistakes when they have the convenience of time to complete things accurately? I’ve also been known to make them correct things that they bring home from school. I know we’ll eventually reach a time when I can no longer enforce Correction, and I’m hoping the habit sticks so they eventually do it by choice, or just get things right the first time. We’ll see.)) (((How about that burrito, Katie Couric?!)))

It is now becoming clear to me that most of the people who interviewed Ms. Chua never read the book. Like me, they received the bulleted points that most of the articles puke out—the points that make Chua look absolutely callous and semi-abusive. And, sure. On the surface, it might seem a bit weird that Chua loaded the car with her daughter’s dollhouse and threatened to donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if the child didn’t perfect a particular piano composition by the next day. (Do you remember when I, smelling like a freshly showered Cinnamon Bun, went on a rampage and threw all of my kids’ toys away? We all have our moments, no?)

Anyway, peppered throughout the book (at least the first third that I’ve read so far) are things that really hit home (and sometimes sting a bit). For example:

Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.

As Chua has said time and time again, this is NOT a parenting manual. This is a memoir. AND, if you treat it as a memoir and NOT a handbook, it’s not difficult to find the humor in it. (By the way, it’s very refreshing to be reading it simultaneously with Let’s Panic!) I’m actually considering purchasing the book when my library time is up, just so Penguin can shoot a fraction of a cent toward Ms. Chua for me. It bothers me that Joy Behar gave her such a hard time. It bothers me that I did That Thing where I judged another parent before knowing the whole story. (And I don’t even know the whole story! I know only 68 pages worth of the story!) Once again, we’re all doing our best, and my best is different from your best, and our best is different from Joy Behar’s best, but the fact remains: Everyone (probably) Loves Cake Balls. And later this week, I’ll show you exactly how to make them.
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14 thoughts on “Well, hello there! I believe I’m 80% Tiger Mother!”

  1. The best parenting advice I got (other than it’s a legal requirement to feed and shelter the little suckers) was to remember that our job is to give them enough skills to leave the house, and we have less time to accomplish this than we might assume. When my little guy started kindergarten, the school nurse had him completing all of his diabetes testing and shots on his own very quickly. Our instinct was the opposite — we’d take care of his medical needs for him. She said that there will come a day, and we won’t know when, when he suddenly can’t get help from us, that he’ll have to care for himself. By making him do his own medical procedures, we just made the world a safer place for him.
    I see a parallel in Chua’s message — they’ve got to have the skills to keep trying, to value their time, to hold themselves to high standards, so when they are on their own, they can manage themselves.
    I wish I could say that I follow any system consistently, because I don’t (hobgoblin of little minds and all). But anytime one can feel certain that one’s kid can get him or herself out of a jam on his/her own is a glorious moment.

  2. Apparently, I’m the only one but I don’t love cake balls. I don’t even like cake balls. But let me clarify…I don’t care much for cake either.

    As for Tiger Mother, I’ve not read it but I heard she regrets a lot of the stuff she did. Don’t we all? My kids are grown (the youngest is in college). I’ve done some things I’m not proud of but they’ve become good people who are contributing members of society and I’m proud of them so I must have done something right.

  3. I am so glad to hear that someone else has actually read this book! I recently finished it for an assignment for graduate school and have been talking about it non stop since. Many of the people who I have spoken to about it are completely outraged that I agree with many of her ideas. I have a 3 year old, am pregnant with a second child and teach high schoolers. Many people have said things like, “Is that how you teach our kids?! That woman is crazy; she abused her children!” I have been very disheartened to learn that none of these critics have actually read the work. To me this is just like parents who challenge the high school reading list when they haven’t read any of the books on said list. I won’t spoil the ending, but after reading the whole book, I think Chua and I would see eye to eye on lots of things. As someone who is fairly new at this thing called parenting, it’s nice to see someone who is so honest and open about her desires for her children and her attempts to fulfill those plans. While I wouldn’t do many of the things she did, I see nothing wrong with high expectations and it’s hard to argue with Carnegie Hall.

  4. I so need to read that book. I actually am probably only one of three people who read the articles and heard her interviewed and thought ‘I kind of agree with this stuff.’ She did say the stuff about getting your kids to actually accomplish things was the best way to really give them self-esteem and this resonated with me right from the beginning. I don’t consider myself a tough mom, but I do think that ultimately, more than just making my children feel loved and secure, it’s my job to give my children the tools to be successful later in life. This will undoubtedly often include tough lessons that don’t probably sound super nurturing out of context.

    So my point is, I’m with you. I’m probably 80% there too. :D

  5. I think it’s refreshing for someone to stand up for being a parent. So many people want to just be their kid’s friend and forget that they actually need to teach their kids something. It’s the same mindset that’s produced sports teams where “everybody wins”. Those folks are setting their kids up with a huge sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations of life. /end soapbox

  6. Amen, sister! My husband and I used to be so smug (quietly, between ourselves), until 8 years later….when our second child was born. Now we laugh at ourselves for being such assholes. Nobody’s perfect…at anything!

  7. I have yet to read the tiger mother’s book, but I too think high expectations are essential. I’m not good at being tough with my girls (I have failed to get Youngest to practice her guitar or tidy her room) but ‘trying again’ is regularly recommended, and asking what they might have done to improve even a good mark seems only logical.
    (I’m now hiding under the desk for fear of reprisals.)

  8. Well, although I haven’t read the book, and I have only read the review of yours, of only part of this book, I believe i must be part “tiger mother” too. I have high expectations for my 4 yo, 2-1/2 yo and 15 mo. My oldest can already count to 100, is learning different languages and is reading short words. She’s amazing. I’m trying to be a good mom, but it’s hard, that’s for sure. And on more than one occasion I have threatened to take all their toys and donate them to the Salvation Army (or something similar) if they don’t clean them up soon!

    The lovely time change affected us this weekend and my expectations this morning were just to have their breakfasts eaten and not to fall asleep at the table…they did it, mostly! :)

  9. I used to be the absolutely 100% perfect parent, the pinnacle of parenting if you will (before I had kids). I, too, totally judged Amy Chua (based on the Time article and before I read her book). And now, I hope that she has received the $0.01 in royalty money from my book purchase since I really found myself relating to some parts of her parenting style, appalled by others, aspiring to emulate some, and overall really enjoying her sense of candor and humor. I might be a Tiger Mother Lite – I found myself doing some Jersey style fist pumping while reading this book – and I feel pretty okay about it. Thanks for your honest assessment.

  10. It is so difficult to have an exact parenting skill. Kids are all differant, times change etc. The important thing I have learned now that the kids are grown, is to just try your best. Not one size fits all, not one book or person has all the answers. I did not read the book, but have watched this author on TV and she bothers me.

  11. My sister-in-law and I read the article (I didn’t realize there was a book, maybe the article was an excerpt…too lazy to check Right This Minute!) in the New York Times; as we read the headline (I think that’s right…it was around New Year’s) or maybe the subtitle, we laughed. Her daughters never watched TV, and the six kids we have between the two of us were headed into hour three maybe of television that morning (we had stayed at her house for New Year’s Eve). I looked at the kids, looked at my S-I-L and said,”She would not approve!”
    Seriously, though, I thought a lot of what she said was very provocative…I am one of those parents who knows that the way I’m doing this isn’t right, but HOW DO I CHANGE IT? Anyway, thanks for this post…loved it.

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