Chinese Teens Respond To Amy Chau's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

by MaryLou Driedger, Mar 27, 2011 | Destinations: Hong Kong / Singapore / China / Taiwan

Amy Chau has gained international attention since an excerpt from her new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was published in the January 8th, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal.  It has already garnered nearly 8000 responses and vaulted Amy onto the cover of Time Magazine. Amazon claims her book is a blockbuster hit.

Amy Chau writes about why Chinese mothers are superior to Western mothers and why they raise such stereotypically bright and gifted kids. She claims its tough love- the kind of tough love that includes insulting your children, calling them names and banning sleepovers, play dates, computer games and television. It means worrying about your child's accomplishments not their self- esteem and demanding nothing but straight A's from them at school.

I teach at an international school in Hong Kong and I asked my predominately Chinese students  to read Amy Chau's Wall Street Journal article and respond to it. Here is what some of them had to say.

Dealing with traditional Chinese parents is difficult and frustrating. The techniques Amy Chau used to discipline her children may horrify many of her readers but this is just the way it is in the Asian culture. Amy called her daughter 'garbage'. Well I remember the day my Dad called my brother 'garbage.' The crude statement broke my brother's heart. I've never seen him so hurt.  Amy Chau is simply describing the reality for most children growing up in a Chinese family. Chinese children must obey their parents and never question their authority. I'm not going to judge the morality of the way Chinese parents treat their children, but I believe a change should certainly be made.

You might think this writer is exaggerating the way Chinese mothers behave. Well, she's not! Growing up in a Chinese family has been exactly the same for me. I've never had a grade less than an A and I've always been the top student in my grade. I also started studying piano when I was very small and I've been practicing hard every day since. It means I've been restricted from participating in lots of other things but now that I'm studying music in high school my piano skills are really coming in handy. Chinese mothers believe if their children work hard they will have a better life in the future. Chinese mothers may be tough, but they are only tough for their children's benefit.

Chinese mothers are anxious about their children's academic and music skills. Nearly all my Chinese friends play at least one or two instruments, take lessons in a sport and have a tutor for school work. But not all Chinese parents fly into a frenzy when their children get a B. Most Hong Kong parents don't have time to spend practicing piano with their kids or doing anything with them for that matter, they are too busy working! Amy Chau may be an extremely ambitious and over protective mother but that does not mean all Chinese mothers are like that. I know for a fact that my Mom isn't!

I am a Chinese child who has experienced exactly the kind of parenting Amy Chau writes about. I have also experienced the consequences associated with the Chinese style of parenting including low self -esteem and a fear of failure. Despite this I believe the way I've been raised will ultimately make me a successful person, a person my parents will be proud of and someone their friends will look at with admiration.

My Mom and I actually sat and read Amy Chau's article together. Amy said that Chinese parents believe their children owe them everything.  My Mom told me that I don't owe her anything. My mother has never hit me or insulted me. I even got some D's last year at school but my parents didn't get upset or make me go to a tutor. I dislike the way Amy Chau labels Chinese mothers and makes them seem all the same.

Sometimes my parents call me a pig for doing something wrong. I know they don't really mean it and it helps me to improve.

I believe many Chinese parents are becoming more respectful of their children's individuality and more of them are encouraging their children to pursue their dreams, rather than just please their parents.

I feel sorry for the poor children being raised by this dragon lady, Amy Chau.  If those tactics were used on me I would have left my parents. Amy Chau says that Chinese parents believe they know what is best for their children and therefore over ride all their children's own desires and preferences. This is exactly what my parents believe. Chinese mothers may raise successful children but do they actually communicate with them? NO!  My biggest passion is for drama and performing but my Mom wants me to go to law school and become a lawyer. She doesn't care about what I want to do because she wants me to be 'successful'.  The problem is we have very different definitions of success. I believe that to be successful is to be happy. She thinks it is to have a high income. I don't doubt my mother's good intentions. I just wish she'd listen to what I think sometimes.

When I was young I experienced exactly what Amy's kids Sophia and Louisa endured. But by the time I reached sixth grade my parents realized that all their threats and restrictions were only making me hate them.  Amy says her tactics teach kids to excel, but I know kids whose parents are just like Amy. Their kids study all night and still get a B.  Being tough on kids doesn't insure an A.

Asia has the highest suicide rate in the world. Looking at all the students who spend all night studying, spend all their free time doing things they don't love, and all the kids who are told they are worthless, instead of beautiful, its fairly easy to understand that suicide rate.

My Mom is a Chinese mother but she is not like Amy. She praises me when I try my best- not when I get an A. I've always appreciated that except now when I am applying for university I have to compete with all those Chinese kids with perfect marks.

I am very glad that my Chinese mother is not a Tiger Mother- cruel, cold-hearted and unsympathetic. She is almost the opposite. She just wants me to do my best. In fact I put more pressure on myself than my Mom does. I am lucky that my mother is not like the Tiger Mother.

* * * * *