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The tiger mom phenomenon.

Until the 2011 publication of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, the term "tiger mom" was not commonly known. Since the book's publication, many commentaries have been written, both pro and con, about this controversial source and what it means to be a tiger mother. Maxie Kohler, Jennifer Kilgo, and Lois M. Christensen, all professors of education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, jointly reviewed the following popular articles about tiger moms.--Jerry Aldridge


Dominus, S. The New York Times Book Review (February 13, 2011), p. 7. The author of this article, Susan Dominus, was surprised to find Amy Chua's memoirs to be different than what she expected. After reading an excerpt from Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother published in The Washington Post, as well as the negative reactions and outrage of parents from across the United States, Dominus imagined the book would be another boring account of the struggles involved in parenting difficult children. Instead, Chua describes the way in which she used "extreme parenting" and "tortured" her two young daughters in the name of Chinese tradition and with the goal of them excelling in all endeavors and performing one day at Carnegie Hall.

While Dominus acknowledges that Amy Chua had extremely high expectations for her daughters and used outrageous tactics to push her young daughters to succeed, she found the book to be "entertaining, bracingly honest, and, yes, thought provoking" (p. 7). Further, Dominus contends that Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has caused parents everywhere to react to and examine Chua's childrearing practices in relation to their own parenting practices. She says, "Chua's book has struck fury, envy or doubt in the hearts of tens of thousands of parents across the country" (p. 7). Dominus notes the letter published in the New York Post, in which Chua's 18-year-old daughter defends her mother and her childrearing practices. The daughter also wrote an essay in Chua's book about her own perception of performing at Carnegie Hall. Dominus concludes, "Whatever Amy Chua stole from that daughter's childhood, she somehow left her soul intact" (p. 7).


Bronson, P. New York (January 31, 2011), p. 10. Most critics of Chua's book voice outrage over her ironfisted parenting and the harsh techniques she used as she pushed her children to be successful. In this article, Bronson notes that something about the information contained in the book has led to numerous sales. One possibility is that American parents are looking for a reason to be tougher on their children and to push them harder to excel. As Chua explains, "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it" (p. 10) and that is why they teach their children how to improve in sports, music, school, etc. Yet Bronson notes how, over the past 10 years, most Chinese American parents have adopted more Westernized parenting styles, and studies have supported the notion that many Chinese parents are as warm and accepting as other American parents. Bronson believes that American parents are able to filter out Chua's extreme parenting techniques and are looking to her book to learn how to help their own children be more successful. Bronson says that Chua's book teaches parents that their children often want to get ahead as much as their parents want them to succeed, and that this is "a message that relieves the guilt of achievement-driven parents, freeing them to let up on the self-esteem boosting and concentrate on the result" (p. 10). Rather than following Chua's specific parenting techniques, American parents are using Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as an inspiration for helping their children achieve successful outcomes.

AMERICA'S TOP PARENT: What's Behind the "Tiger Mother" Craze? Kolbert, E. The New Yorker (January 31, 2011), pp. 70-73. Elizabeth Kolbert provides her perspective on the fascination with the "Tiger Morn" phenomenon sparked by the publication of Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The notoriety of Chua's book increased when The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," which was followed by an interview with Amy Chua on NPR's "All Things Considered" and on NBC'S "Nightly News" and "Today" television broadcasts. In addition to explaining the media craze and public interest in Chua's book and providing a summary of the book's basic premises, Kolbert's article provides a rationale for the interest in the book.

Kolbert explains that the book has caused many Americans to question whether they are producing flexible and creative children who will do well in the global economy, or if Chua may be right in her assertion that the Western parenting style is "garbage." For some time, Americans have been concerned about Eastern nations surpassing the United States in terms of wealth, research, technology, and in many other areas. The recent publication of the test results by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) shows that children from Shanghai ranked first in every area measured while children from the United States ranked 17th in reading, 23rd in science, and 31st in math. Consequently, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about being surpassed by China and other countries in the area of education.

Finally, the article includes numerous criticisms of Chugs book. As Kolbert explains, Chua shows limited evidence of critical thinking and introspection in her memoir and demonstrates no evolution regarding her views of parenting practices.

THE TIGER MOM MANIFESTO: Why a 237-Page Memoir Sparked a Parenting Controversy. Paul, A. M. Time (January 31, 2011), pp. 34-40. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother sparked international debate over Chugs "politically incorrect" parenting style, with most readers expressing shock and horror over the methods she used, as well as concern over a perceived lack of love and acceptance. The author of this article, Anne Marie Paul, explains that the book has caused tremendous outrage and defensiveness in the United States because of "our fears about losing ground to China and other rising powers and adequately preparing our children to survive in the global economy" (p. 16). Chugs book implies that Western parents are indulgent and weak-willed, resulting in ill-equipped children who will be surpassed by the well-prepared offspring of authoritarian tiger moms. Americans are left wondering if Chugs assertions about the negative effects of permissive Western parenting could be true. Paul says that American parents have every reason to wonder as they consider the poor U.S. economy in comparison to the soaring Chinese economy, as well as the low test scores of American students when compared to the high rankings of Chinese students. "Ihe elevated Chinese economy and the high achievement levels of Chinese students may force Americans to examine the practices that may account for Chings success (e.g., higher expectations for students, stronger work ethic, longer school year).

Paul, who lives in the same town as Amy Chua, describes a recent interview in which Chua noted that while she has modified her child-rearing practices and has compromised to some degree since the publication of her book (e.g., one daughter plays tennis, the daughters are allowed to have boyfriends and go on dates), she still holds to her basic belief that hard work and persistence pay off. During the interview, Chua described how she was raised in the United States but learned Chinese childrearing practices from her own parents. Paul points out that Chugs story is "quintessentially American" in that it involves an immigrant father who was determined to make a better life for his family. Chua considers herself to be a success story and, therefore, vowed to raise her children in the same way as her parents raised her. Similarly, Chugs daughters report that they plan to be strict parents as well.

Although Paul doesn't promote all elements of Chugs approach to parenting, she believes that much can be learned from Chugs memoirs. The author concludes, "Hard work, persistence, no patience for excuses: whether Chinese or American, that sounds like a prescription for success [against] which it's very difficult to argue" (p. 40).


Williams, P. J. The Nation (February 11, 2011), p. 9. This very well-written, succinct article asserts that Chugs pathology of perfection is really no different than that of many "Westernized" parents who want the very best for their children. Chua does not "corner the market" on her desire to have her children be the absolute best they can be. This article provides numerous examples of parents across the United States in trouble for attempting to deceive educational establishments so their children might acquire a higher quality education.

Although Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is couched in the landscape of cultural differences, virtually everyone who attends an Ivy League school has to work diligently and have unique talents to be admitted. Williams wonders about Chugs use of her Chinese heritage as a backdrop to explain why she pushes her children, noting that the insecurity at the heart of this entire book is not unique to Chua or the Chinese culture. Many, many parents want to push their children to be prepared for life, and equipped to face the unknowns and uncertainties in our world.

What Williams finds interesting about Chugs book is the mechanisms that she chooses to use to motivate her children. Tearing down one's self-esteem, name-calling if children do not achieve at an expected level, etc., are not Western parenting techniques embraced to motivate children. Yet, America is full of over-controlling, overprotective, overindulging parents who will go to almost any lengths to make sure their children get the best education they can so they can achieve. So, while Chua projects the idea that she is highly concerned about her children's success, it may mask what Williams says is a "pathological yearning for dominance, control, standing, and respect" (p. 9).

Williams further states, "Let's not spend too much time wondering why Chua assigns her neurosis to her Chinese-ness rather than her aspirational American upper-middle-class-ness." The bottom line is that no matter how well-schooled and self-disciplined a child is, there will always be variables operating out of one's control that cause uneasiness. Chua appears to be trying to take complete control over some of our world's "uncontrollable" circumstances when possibly one of the best lessons she could teach her children is that life sometimes throws us "curveballs."

MOTHER SUPERIOR: How Chinese Is the "Chinese Mother"? Jen, G. The New Republic. February 17, 2011, pp. 6-7. In this article critiquing Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, Gish Jen begins by saying, "If the goal is efficiency, excellence, and success, it would seem that this Chinese mother, at least, has most American mothers beat" (p. 5). She questions, however, whether we can actually extrapolate from Chua's work that what she does is even the "Chinese way." Chua is the "American-born daughter of ethnic parents raised in the Philippines. As such, she is heir to all that has made Chinese culture what it is" (p. 6). Jen believes that such factors as Chinas large population, societal chaos, and highly competitive college entrance exams all may have had some impact on Chua's writings. Referring to details from one of Chua's earlier books, World on Fire, Jen notes that when Chua's aunt was killed, she had difficulty understanding the event, because no one in the family seemed to be emotionally affected by it. Although Chua grew up in the United States, her parents were adamant about maintaining their Chinese heritage in the home to the extent that they punished their daughter for even speaking English. The author considers all these experiences and asks whether Chugs family had "managed to find themselves an isolated minority in a foreign society once again" (p. 6). Was it possible that her "Chinese-ness" became more important because of these events than it otherwise might have been? Is it possible that she is simply trying to hold on to part of her heritage that is important and inbred in her? The author, a wellregarded Chinese American author, concludes, "Perhaps we should keep Chua's personal context in mind before extrapolating too much. Her 'Chinese way' tells us at least as much about migration and identity, and yes, America, as it does about China today" (p. 7).

TIGER DAUGHTER: An American in Shanghai Reports: I'm Glad My Kid Has a Tiger Mom. Powell, B. Time. January31, 2011, p. 41. This article is essentially a short case study in which Bill Powell, married to a Chinese woman and living in Shanghai, presents a defense of Amy Chua's methods. Powell's daughter is a 1st grader who is involved in numerous extracurricular activities as well as academics. Powell says his daughter is living a "typical Shanghai childhood" (p. 41). He states that although the disciplinary tactics used by Amy Chua may be somewhat extreme, what is not extreme, he says, is the "intellectual and emotional underpinnings of why she does what she does." According to Powell, the most important statement Chua makes is that "Chinese parents assume strength, not fragility." And, although Mr. Powell does help his daughter with her schoolwork, much of the responsibility falls on his wife. According to Powell, every night--every single night--his wife works with their daughter to make sure her schoolwork has been completed correctly. If not, they work until it is. Powell does note that many middle-class Chinese parents are growing tired of the enormous stress generated by the competitive college entrance exams, which determine which university a student can attend. And, little is done to promote creativity in Chinese children. Furthermore, according to studies cited by Chua, Chinese parents spend approximately ten times as long every day as Western parents do drilling their children in academic activities. Overall, however, Powell writes that he is glad his daughter has a Chinese morn who promotes education.

Jerry Aldridge, Editor

by Maxie Kohler, Jennifer Kilgo, and Lois M. Christensen
COPYRIGHT 2012 Association for Childhood Education International
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Title Annotation:Among the Periodicals; Amy Chua's 'Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother'
Author:Kohler, Maxie; Kilgo, Jennifer; Christensen, Lois M.
Publication:Childhood Education
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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