Amy Chua’s memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, has captured the attention of parents all across the United States of America. Controversy has surrounded the author ever since an excerpt of her book about strict Asian parenting was published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year. The book has topped bestseller lists around the world and is responsible for an explosion of, at times, ferocious debates and discussions over parenting styles.
Amy tells Reader’s Digest Asia that she’s a little bewildered about how her book has struck so many nerves in the US.
Reader’s Digest: Did you want your book to be controversial?
Amy Chua: No. I did not think it would be. I thought it was going to be much more universal because it’s a memoir about struggles all parents have. I don’t think it would have been controversial at all if it wasn’t for the Wall Street Journal headline that was called, “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior”. I don’t think people would have gotten upset over one person’s story. In fact, now that people are actually starting to read the book, I’m getting lovely e-mails from people who say, “Oh I was so mad at you after reading the Wall Street Journal article, but now that I’ve read the whole book, I love it”.
We all want to raise happy kids. We all have different ideas on how we want to do this. We all make mistakes and hopefully try to learn from them. I knew it would be a little provocative, but I certainly didn’t think it was going to be like this. My Dad said, “Oh Amy, nobody’s going to read this book. You’re not a famous person, why would anyone want to read your memoir!”
What do your parents think about the entire furore created by your book?
You can’t believe how wonderful my parents are. Before I published the book, my mother told me how un-Chinese the book was because it was so personal. But she actually loved the book. I would have never published the book if anyone in my family had been upset with it. This is the Asian part of me. My mother, father, three sisters, two daughters and my husband cleared every single line.
But my mother is right – a Chinese person would never publish [this book]. It’s so public. I think that Chinese people are much more private. Now that the book is out, my parents are the biggest supporters. I’m so lucky to have such supportive parents. They have encouraged me throughout all of this. My Dad said to me that someday people are going to realise how it’s changing the international dialogue. He’s very proud of me.
In your book you say, “You have to be hated sometimes by someone you love . . . and there’s just no letting up, no point where at which it suddenly becomes easy”. These sentiments are echoed by many mothers across Asia. There’s still very much the belief here that sparing the rod will lead to a spoilt child. What’s your view on really strict parenting?
I think a lot of Western parents don’t want to be hated. The prospect terrifies them. To Westerners, my book is saying, “Look, it’s not so bad to be a little strict and not give your kids too many choices”. In the west, there’s so much emphasis on creativity and freedom and letting your kids do whatever they want. But in countries like Singapore, China and Korea, where in some ways the normal upbringing is already very strict, the message of my book is sort of the opposite, that you shouldn’t be that strict.
My children grew up with one Western parent. My husband doesn’t believe in raising his voice with the kids and we don’t spank. They were really raised in a half Asian family. My book’s message is that we should try to find the balance. I believe that when children are little, you should restrict their choices. I like the traditional Chinese way. Respect authority and don’t just let them watch TV all the time. I don’t think kids under the age of ten can make good choices. I don’t think you can let kids who are five or six pursue their passions because that would mean they would be playing video games all day. But once they start to get older, the lesson I learnt with Lulu (Amy’s second daughter) is that you have to start listening to them. You have to start giving them more choices and more freedom. I really think it’s important to find a balance.
Sometimes I think we’re too strict about the choices we give them. When I was little, my parents really only wanted me to be a scientist or a doctor; they had never even heard of law school. I think even these days if you were to tell your mother you want to be a fashion designer, or an artist or a writer, a lot of Asian parents would be alarmed because they don’t think that’s a secure career. I like the strict Chinese way of discipline, hard work and academics when children are young. But when they’re older, you have to convey love to your child, you have to listen to your child and really strike that balance between creativity, choice and freedom on the one hand, which the west is very good at, and on the other hand, drilling, hard work and self discipline, which I think traditional Chinese parenting is very good at.
|Mary Grace Orbeta on 18 October 2011 ,11:16 |
i really like the story since it shows how the different cultures affect the child's growth and how he or she become the real person. :) inspiring, and BRILLIANT! XD
|Bonnie on 06 July 2011 ,11:15 |
I like how the author emphasized the right upbringing in a child. This must me done to all children. I agree with the author when she said that children must be guide until they are still young because it is true that they don't know the "real" consequences of their actions. Also, I agree that their must be balance in the family; You should allow children to explore so there is balance between studies and social life.
|joanne perez on 30 June 2011 ,20:32 |
that was a very inspiring story ,for me as a parent we have to let them decide for what they want to have in their life,but we have to explain everything unto them the advantages and disadvantages of what ever they chosen of.Thats why the word PARENTS exist we have to guide them and nurture them to be a better person someday.
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