Tiger Mom

Last week I blogged about an article that compared French and American parenting styles.  I have since learned about another Wall Street Journal article that compares Chinese and American ones.  This one is even more controversial.  Because I enjoy reading and reflecting on motherhood, I invite you to join me in exploring the topic this week.

From the looks of it, author Amy Chua set off quite a debate in her article, "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," which is an excerpt from her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.  She begins her article with an extensive list of several things that her children have never been able to do, which includes: Have a playdate, watch TV or play computer games, get any grade less than an A, and not play the piano or violin.  Her approach reflects a shocking strictness.

This strictness manifests itself in three primary ways that she believes distinguishes Chinese parents.  First, Chinese parents are not concerned with their children's self-esteem.  They are comfortable employing harsh strategies in order to produce achievement.  Self-esteem is the result of children's joy at excelling, not parental coddling.  Second, Chinese parents believe their children are indebted to them.  Parents sacrifice for their children and should be comfortable even being hated in an effort to inspire success; children in turn owe their parents obedience and the desire to make their parents proud.  Third, "Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences."

This model is certainly different from mainstream American parenting.  Chua recognizes this in her concluding paragraph, which paints the picture well:  "Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment.  By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away."  Chua acknowledges that we all want what is best for our children; we can just have very different ideas about what that is and styles in how to attain it.

No doubt there are many accomplished Chinese children, and the country itself is a major global player.  I appreciate Chua's transparency with respect to the culture and certainly admire achievement, but I have numerous reservations.  No doubt rigorous practice will produce results.  I wonder how fulfilling those results are, however, when it is in a discipline that the child does not preference.  One can appreciate praise and acquire a certain amount of self-esteem from it, but it would feel rather hallow in the absence of passion.  Instead, I purpose that true success is a confluence of passion, talent, hard work, and being willing to think outside of the lines. 

I also wonder how children can build self-esteem when their parent always knows better?  This actually places a great burden on the parent.  An amazing gift we have as Christian mothers is that we do not have to have all of the answers.  When we teach our children about God and God's love, we introduce them to a perfect heavenly parent who will be there when we inevitably fall short or one day are not around. 

The most important tasks we have as mothers, other than teaching our children about God, is to make sure our children know our love and fan their God given passions.  God has given each of us a special purpose, and we are to provide every tool we can to our children to help them discover their purpose, nurture its development, and send them out into the world.

I guess the difference comes down to how one defines success - is it worldly standards where the "A" means everything, or something more?  I do not think Americans, or parents in general for that matter, fall short if they answer this question a different way.  I seek to enjoy life, celebrate each moment, pursue excellence, and most importantly live in response to God's call.  My children will be winners if they do the same.

Prayer:  Dear God, Thank you for creating children and dwelling in their heart.  Grant me discernment in my measure of success and the needs of my children.  Guide me as I shape my children in the way that they should go - the way that honors you.  In Jesus' name, Amen. 

Jesus said, "But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:33, NRSV).

To read Amy Chua's article, click here:


  1. The Wall Street Journal posted a follow up last week to its initial article discussed above. It sounds like Chua has rethought some of her ways while rearing her children. The article reflects a sense of balance and respect for one's children that I appreciate. It is an interesting article that I hope you will read:



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