Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

When our daughter was born six years ago, I made a commitment to myself that I would raise her much differently than I was raised. She would have my unconditional love and support. She would have all the opportunities that I never had as a child. (How many parents have these same goals?!!) Although I am mostly proud of the way that I've filled, exposed, widened, or enriched Willa's life and experiences, I still find myself asking, "Am I parenting effectively? Am I raising her in a way that is preparing her for current and future successes? Are my standards high enough? Am I too lax with structure and discipline?" Am I doing enough?"

I thought again about these questions, and others, recently when Amy Chua's controversial book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, began receiving a lot of press. The reviews of Battle Hymn have been polarized, at least to those readers who decided that this was strictly a how-to parenting, a "why my way is better than your way" kind of book. Truth is Battle Hymn is not really about that at all. Rather, it's a memoir about Chua's parenting, about how and why she decided to parent in this "Chinese" way, about how it was both rewarding and successful yet painful and a failure. Still, I really hoped that I'd find a morsel or two of parenting wisdom or a parenting strategy that would make me feel more empowered and effective with raising my own daughter. So, I read it and, in the end, I didn't find what I had hoped that I would. I'm not disappointed though; Chua's experiences reaffirmed what most of us already know: parents succeed and they fail; parenting isn't easy; parents and kids alike are far from perfect; it's not always easy to have an unpopular idea and it can be even harder to sustain the conviction, hard work, and endurance that it takes to see it through; we make mistakes and need to be able to admit it and move forward. I think that those are good lessons for us all, Chinese mothers or not.

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