Fighting the Negative “Tiger Mom” Mentality

Photo taken by: Michael Serazio, Communications department

The title “Why Chinese Mothers are Superior” in a Wall Street Journal article naturally lighted up a storm across the web.

Amy Chua, a John M. Duff Jr. Professor of Law at Yale Law School, stood at the center of the January 2011 controversy. Her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom,” provided the excerpts for the WSJ article.

The article mainly compared Western parenting to Chinese parenting, which was an “entirely different parenting model.” Chua said that as she raised her children, she did not allow her daughters to sleep over at friends’ houses, participate in school plays or play instruments other than violin or piano.

Many of those who haven’t read “Battle Hymn” tend to believe that Chua’s book compares Chinese parenting to Western parenting, just because the article did so. On the date of the WSJ article’s release, the comments section received over 8000 comments varying from disgust to praise.

Last Wednesday, the Asian Studies department hosted a lecture on the controversy around the Tiger Mom concept. Panelists Qin Zhang, Danki Li, Jiwei Xiao and Lei Xie wanted to analyze the “Tiger Mom” term that was popularized by Chua.

“The book sparked a firestorm of criticism and really provoked a huge outcry and [started] discussions about how far parents can go to push their children,” said Zhang, associate professor of Communication.

In Chinese culture, the tiger represents strength, power and perseverance. In slang, “Tiger Mom” describes mothers who are extremely strict in their parenting.

However, in regards to the book, Danke Li, associate professor of history, said: “I don’t think it’s [about] parenting at all. It’s all about [Chua].” In an interview, Chua said that her book was meant to make fun of her parenting style and relationship with her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu.

Some of the panelists remarked on how Chua’s specific parenting style might be misinterpreted as traditional Chinese teaching.

Journalism professor and The Mirror adviser Lei “Tommy” Xie compared traditional Confucian teachings to Chua’s parenting style.

He believes that Chua failed to mention any sense of social duty in raising her daughters. Also, while Confucius taught his students “according to their aptitude,” Chua forced her view of things on her children, said Xie.

However, he did give Chua credit for “believing in the potential of her kids,” and showing “great parental responsibility.”

At the lecture, worldly reactions to her book were shown. In one clip on CNN, moms in China, or “Tiger Land,” added their opinions.

One Chinese mother said that today, many families are looking to the West for teaching model, and the ‘traditional’ Chinese way of teaching is “becoming out of style.”

Chinese parents now want to focus on not only academic achievements, but also on the social development of their children.

The discussion also addressed the meaning of “success.” In Chua’s eyes, success might mean her daughters attend Ivy League schools and play violin or piano.

However Dr. Xin James He, attending member and chair and professor in the Information Systems & Operations Management department, believes that “success is case by case because each individual is different.”

Chua’s children might be successful, but other people’s children do not have to do the same things to be equally successful, according to Dr. He.

Some students expressed their disapproval in Chua’s parenting. In a competitive society in which the best candidate for a job has to be well-rounded, Chua’s parenting style instead focuses more on individual accomplishments.

Freshman Robert Hill remarked on how many Asian-Americans are forced to do something because of their parents. He played competitive tennis in high school, and noted that many of his Asian-American teammates disliked the sport. “They were a product of what their parents wanted them to be,” he said.

In doing so, some children cannot find their true passion. Hill disagreed with this parenting method. “I would much rather be happy, a little less talented – happy and enjoying myself – than having to be forced to do something to be better at it.”

On her website, Chua reflected on last year’s controversy and still defends her memoir. “Many people have misunderstood it,” she said. “If I could push a magic button and choose either happiness or success for my children, I’d choose happiness in a second.  But I don’t think it’s as simple as that; it can be a tough world out there, and true self-esteem has to be earned.”

The panelists and students at the lecture concluded that Chinese parenting can be compatible with Western parenting, as long as children are allowed to express their independence.

Article originally posted on The Mirror website on March 7.

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Dates of blog posts

March 2012
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