Upcoming IECA Conferences:

May 10-13, 2017
Denver, CO

November 15-18, 2017
Washington, DC

‘Tiger Mother’ Book is More Interesting Than the Snippets You’ve Heard

Mark Sklarow

by Mark Sklarow, Executive Director, IECA

I had heard so many pieces of stories and scores of opinions based on the same few passages. Rejecting her daughter’s birthday card because not enough effort was put into it. No play dates because there is no free time in her daughters’ schedules…for the next year or two. Accusations of disgracing the family name over some small matter, like not wanting to try caviar. Threatening to dispose of holiday presents if a difficult musical piece wasn’t mastered and performed flawlessly. Upon hearing one daughter came in second during a weekly multiplication speed drill, she required the daughter to do 20 hours of drills the next week so that would never happen again. And on it goes.

There’s no question that Amy Chua has hit some raw nerves in her explosive bestseller, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.” I winced often as I read the book over the last few days, especially when she quoted herself using words like “horrible,” “disgrace,” “failure,” and worse to ‘motivate’ her daughters. One wonders whether Amy Chua was thinking mainly of her daughters—or her own glory—when pushing them to practice piano or violin for six hours a day. In one disturbing segment she threatened to cancel her daughter’s Bat Mitzvah: perform the violin or no party, even as the girl sought to make the day a religiously significant one and made pleas not to play the violin. Mom won.

But the book is not, as some have led you to believe, simply a recitation by Amy Chua of why her method of parenting—the Chinese way—is superior to permissive Western parenting. Rather it helps understand another mindset. One where allowing a child to stop when something gets tough reinforces failure, while she wanted her daughters to see they could achieve more than they imagined with hard work. More importantly it is a story of two very different daughters and how the “Chinese way” worked for one, but not the other. By book’s end it is clear that the book is really about discovering that children are different, requiring different motivators, parenting, and approaches. And that’s a story that resonates.

Amy Chua will be a featured speaker at the IECA Spring Conference this May in Philadelphia. Watch for conference registration to open in a few days.

7 Responses to ‘Tiger Mother’ Book is More Interesting Than the Snippets You’ve Heard

  1. Robin Abedon says:

    I echo this message heartily. I found the book very insightful. Amy Chua presents a complex picture of herself and of her parenting. Those of us who are parents can readily undesrstand how our family history, our personal experience, and our desires to be our own best parents come together, often, in very conflicting ways. I give her great credit for her willingness to confront these complexities and for sharing herself as she has in this memoir.

  2. My eyes opened wide and I became speechless when my daughter (age 28) told me that I was no different than Chua, the mom in Amy Chua’s The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Although I didn’t prevent play dates or reject cards and gifts because they weren’t perfect, I am guilty of refusing to purchase Nintendo because I thought my daughters’ energies could be better spent, and urging my children to work hard in school and to perform to the best of their abilities.

    Parenting doesn’t come with a manual, and being a parent isn’t any easy job. What works well for the first child might not be the best for the second or third. I invite you to join me and the Education and Training Committee at the inaugural IECA book club in Philadelphia for, what promises to be a spirited discussion of this provocative and controversial book. All conference attendees are welcome!

  3. Sandy Furth says:

    I devoured this book from a variety of perspectives. I enjoyed the last few chapters, ‘hearing’ from her daughters, that they reminded their mom that this was her story, not theirs (will we hear their side one day?). I have several questions for Amy Chua…when did she go to work and when did she sleep?

    I also think, if any of us have any time to revisit or read for the first time The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, this might be a good time to do so. Both of these reads give some tremendous cultural insight.

  4. Yo Mark,

    I have just downloaded the book on my brand-new Kindle, thanks to my eldest son, Patrick, for Christmas! I must agree with you. I was expecting a very different story. And I find that the story is much more multi-faceted than I had expected, more dimensional than I thought it would be from the write-ups and the hype. Amy does not react all the time the way I think she will, depending on the circumstance and the daughter she is relating to. And so I totally agree with the way you are positioning this book. I encourage all my colleagues to read the book with an open mind, maybe even more open than the way I began to read the book. And I look forward to hearing Amy in Philadelphia. I am delighted that she was invited to come and speak to us! It will be an eye-opening experience for all of us.

    with a smile,

  5. The problem is that Amy Chua presents the issue as a general way of bringing up children in China and I think this approach may offend those Chinese parents who don’t subscribe to her theory.

  6. Mark Sklarow Mark Sklarow says:

    That’s true Julie, although in the book Chua makes it clear that many Chinese parents don’t ascribe to her methods… while many non-Chinese parents do. In fact her own parents cautioned her about the way she parented. I think every IEC has, at some point, worked with (or will) a “Tiger Mother.” By hearing Chua speak, it will be an opportunity for members to better understand these parents and gain a handle on how best to advise them.

  7. I also devoured the book and found it very enlightening as well as entertaining. My parents were Hungarian immigrants that aspired to be Tiger Parents. I also have 2 daughters that responded to parenting as differently as Chua’s girls. I can clearly see the 3 generation descriptions that Chua uses come to life. IECs get the opportunity to work with the full variety of parents and students, maybe even within the same family. I especially like one of the morals that stepping back is sometimes harder than pressing ahead at full velocity.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CAPTCHA * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.