Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Amy Chua (World on Fire) married a Jewish man — a Yale Law professor like herself — but appears intent on raising her daughters in the traditional Chinese manner. Here is a description of her new book on the subject, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:

All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children’s individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe 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.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua’s iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way — the Chinese way — and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:

  • have a playdate
  • be in a school play
  • complain about not being in a school play
  • not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
  • play any instrument other than the piano or violin
  • not play the piano or violin

The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin.

Arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence all sounds good, but socially crippling them by never allowing them to have a play date does not seem the least bit productive. There are seriously diminishing returns to two or three more hours of piano practice per week.

Her scorn for drama takes on a sinister cast when we find out that her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, studied theater in the Drama Division of the Juilliard School from 1980 through 1982.

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