Determined not to financially support a book preaching about so outlandishly different a parenting approach than my own style, I had to wait my turn on the library reserve list to read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. I'm glad I did. There's no subsitute for reading a book and forming an opinion even if the New York Times Book Review offers the Cliff Notes and a spin that seems to work for carpool conversation starters.
You MUST read and form your own opinions. When you read Amy Chua and about her mothering style, I suspect you will begin to name your own child rearing style and become more committed to it.
Chua is an accomplished professional and the mother of two very successful daughters. More importantly, I suspect that her daughters are loving children who have every intention of being around their crabbily controlling mother when she's old and gray. This says more to me than any cursory review of her work in speculating on the book's enduring value.
In addition to her amazingly structured and controlling parenting approach, Chua does comes across as a loving and committed mother, and for that reasons alone...her kids will forgive a lot of the stupid things that parents do (on the way to figuring out all other stuff that doesn't show up in the parenting books.) Hours of piano practice and forbidding giggling girlfriend spend-the-nights...these pale in comparison, for me, to the foolishness of rejecting a handmade gift for its presumed half-hearted effort. We all have parenting moments we regret, and Chua alludes to hers.
Children do not raise themselves. My great grandmother, my grandmother and my mom would have all like Amy Chua. They were big proponents of self-discipline and of setting the bar high. As an academic of Asian descent, Chua is easily understood as a woman driven by the cultural and the inner workings of accomplishment. I, too, grew up in a family of strong women. I often wonder how my own grandmother, a college educated woman in a time when women were rarely afforded that opportunity, created a life for herself and her children when she became a widow in her thirties.
My grandmother was a master in the art of cultivating self-discipline, but unlike the Asian stereotype of Amy Chua, she knew that those attributes emerged from within and could rarely be successfully imposed from outside. I'll stick my neck out and agree with my grandmother: American children could stand to practice self-discipline a great deal more than they do.
I was born in the year of the Rabbit. We are determined and resilient, out-going and diplomatic. My children laughed when I read them about Rabbit Mothers. At bedtime, I tucked in those who needed tucking and reminded the rest about brushing and flossing. It was a day of music practice, of AP exam prep, and of after dinner chores. I realized that Tiger Mother, Amy Chua doesn't have to be wrong so that I can be right. We both love our children. It is when mothering and parenting is offered with unconditional love... no strings attached, that our children thrive and that they forgive us for all the ways we get it wrong. Perhaps that is why Tiger Mothers and Rabbit Mothers sometimes have to learn from one another. She doesn't have to be wrong, so that I can be right.