Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua
Man! I don't even know where to begin with this one. Just keep in mind that the reviews are the opinion of the reader. ;)
Chua gives us an up close and personal look at "Chinese Parenting". I'd like to refer to this as emotional child abuse. Holy cow! This woman is definitely a piece of work. If this is the way all Chinese raise their children, a psychologist could make a fortune in China.
By page 8 I knew that this had issues when she said that her children wouldn't have just any hobbies, such as crafts, which would lead them nowhere or playing the drums, which would lead to drug use. Seriously? It's no wonder that Chinese parents who use this method in the United States keep their parenting ways a secret. At the age of three, Chua's daughter does not play the piano the way Chua thinks she should (um, she's three???). Instead, the child bangs and smashes the keys, which infuriates Chua. To get Lulu to comply, she takes her to the back door, opens it, and tells her that she can't come in until she plays the way she wants her to play. The problem? It's twenty degrees outside!!! Well, Lulu takes her up on her threat and actually goes outside and refuses to come back in. The fact that Lulu would rather stand outside in the freezing cold than play the piano should have been a clue to Chua that this form of parenting wouldn't work with Lulu, but being the bull headed woman that she is, she didn't see it, or worse, just didn't care. In addition to this punishment, Chua would often threaten to withhold food from her children if they did not practice the violin (for Lulu) or piano (for Sophia). Really? What type of parent refuses to feed their child for not practicing? She would also call them names, telling them they were an embarrassment to themselves and her, and degrade them in all sorts of ways. Now, I can understand wanting your child to succeed, but to damage their psyche in the process? That's taking it too far.
Finally about half way through the book, we get an insight into Chua. She finally admits that she is no good at enjoying life. She says that she always has a to-do list and doesn't enjoy relaxing on vacation. She even goes as far as bashing her American husband for believing that childhood should be fun for children. When the family does vacation, she forces the girls to practice for at least 2 hours a day and will go to whatever length necessary to find a venue for them to do so.
Another insight into how selfish Chua is, is the chapter on her birthday. She is extremely upset with her husband because they are having dinner at what she considers a mediocre restaurant. Instead of being grateful that she has her health and her family, she is upset that her husband forgot to make reservations at the upscale, expensive restaurant she wanted to go to. To make matters worse, she once again, takes things out on the children. The girls give her hand written cards that they made that day. She then tells them that the cards aren't good enough and that she doesn't want them. She tells the girls that they MUST remake her birthday cards! I was absolutely appalled at this! This woman is so ungrateful!
Finally, after years of fights and being treated like this, Lulu blows up around the age of 13. This actually happens in public while they are on vacation. It is a very small turning point, however, for Chua. The blowup causes her to allow Lulu to give up the violin if she so chooses, which she does, to an extent. She chooses to try tennis, which she ends up loving. But of course, even though she allowed her to choose another activity, Chua still can't fight the urge to stay out of this activity and begins to try and control the tennis just as she did with the violin.
While the book was good, I found this woman's behavior quite disgusting and throughout most of the book I wanted to slap her silly. She is clearly selfish and I can't help but wonder if her behavior is a result of her own lack of self-esteem, despite being a successful Yale law professor. If you're a parent and have ever thought you were being too strict with your children, I would highly recommend this book. I would love for Lulu to write a book about 10 years from now reflecting on how her mother treated them.