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Meeting the Tiger Mom

Last week, I attended a talk by Amy Chua, the author of  the book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.’ A year ago, a provocative review of her book by Wall Street Journal propelled her into the list of most-talked-about and most-vilified people, as parents (mainly in the West) collectively gasped in horror at her authoritative and harsh parenting methods.

For us in the East, such kind of parenting was something many of us have seen, heard about or even experienced, although we might not subscribe to those methods any more.

When I heard that she was coming to my city, I decided to attend her talk, and finally got around to reading the book so that I would be able to understand where she was coming from. Well, as she said herself in the talk, most people who attacked her were reacting to the WSJ article, which unfortunately was not as objective as such a prestigious publication should have been.

For one, the article was written by a Westerner, who clearly did not get the cultural differences and ironic observations that Chua has made throughout the book.  For example, as she said  in the talk, the fact that her father once called her ‘garbage,’ was blown out of proportion, with several parents writing in to express their horror and dismay at the ‘potential damage to her psyche.’  With several ethnicities in the audience, she asked us whether or not we had been called names by an exasperated parent or teacher?

All of us chuckled – I remember being called ‘gadhi,’ by my Hindi teacher for making some spectacularly stupid mistakes.  It was an instance of clear cultural difference – most of us from older and Eastern cultures were used to far less mollycoddling of both body and psyche from parents and teachers.  As one member of the audience said, as long as the child knows he/she is loved and respected, an occasional name calling is not so terrible.  And as Chua’s own children forgot when she called them ‘garbage’ once, most of us will shrug these things off and carry on.

Another point that got a lot of reactions from the audience was – should we push our kids?  Are we doing our kids a disservice by not expecting a lot from them?  I liked what she said in her book, and in the talk.  While Western culture expects very little from their kids, seeing the children as weak and to be protected,  Asian cultures expect far more from the child as they assume strength in their kids.  She said that having high expectations from children helps them learn to excel, and helps them understand that nothing comes easy. Achievement and success take tremendous amount of hard work and discipline, but these are good life lessons for a child to learn and practice throughout his/her life.

What do you think? Should we push our children or not?  Is it good to have high expectations for our kids – will they thrive and bloom, or buckle under the pressure? And do read her book – I found it quite different from the  image I got from the WSJ article.

Also Read : Getting Children to Do Chores


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Gayatri Kulkarni is on the ParentEdge Editorial Panel. Her children have studied in the Indian ICSE, the International Baccalaureate and American school systems – giving her a ringside view of the pros and cons of all three systems. She has a multicultural approach to education and is interested in learning methods that stimulate a lifelong love for learning.

3 thoughts on “Meeting the Tiger Mom

  1. Aparajita Bose

    Indeed Gayatri, we have grown up the way Amy Chua has been bringing up her kids. There was nothing wrong with that kind of upbringing during those days, and even now it’s not entirely wrong in this changed scenario where kids are growing up with much more freedom, though not much more sense of responsibility!
    We knew the occasional “Stupid”, “Bhondu” etc shook us up and challenged us to show our potential and we gained from such name-calling. Today’s parents are far more liberal and more forgiving and less demanding bcoz the kids have become more demanding!
    I didn’t have “tiger parents”, but they were closer to that than they were to Western parents. They knew “Muted Expectations aren’t any less powerful!” and I have just blogged about how muted expectations helped win a sports-dumbo a few prizes during annual sports in her school!

  2. Miniee

    In my ooipinn the effect produced by the style of bringing up your children that Amy introduces in the book may have a damaging impact on your children. Everyone knows that children will automatically hate everything they have to do under pressure. Such an approach can only damage their later development.

  3. Tasha

    what a great post. We need a bnaalce and who wants a burnt out child/teen, but the idea that we need to shield our children from the spirit of wanting to excel and be competitive is to PC for me.


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