The whole nation or at least moms have been talking about the controversial “Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother” by Ms. Amy Chua, a second generation Chinese American (interestingly, it was only Ms.Chua's grandparents who lived in China; her parents were raised in the Philippines). I had read the article based on the book in WSJ and Time magazine, seen the CNN HLN program where she was interviewed by Joy Behar and had followed the almost vitriolic debate that followed it. But I ordered the book only when a very good friend of mine (who coincidentally and ironically happens to be Chinese) asked me to read it. This friend encourages her kids to enjoy all the activities that Ms. Chua prohibits. And I have no doubt in my mind that these kids will be accepted in Harvard, Yale, Princeton or any other Ivy League school. The contrasting views motivated me to read Ms. Chua’s book. One thing was already clear: I could not generalize “Chinese moms”.

The book was a quick and easy read. With all that I had heard about the book, I was expecting to read a very strict “How to parent” guide. But I was pleasantly surprised to read a self-deprecating (in parts), witty and honest memoir. Just as Ms. Chua has stated in many interviews, I am a bit surprised to notice the polarizing views this book has generated. But, on the other hand, I am not stunned either. Ms. Chua may seem extreme to many, yet there is a sizeable population that identifies with several of her parenting tenets such as “To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences” or “Not allowing kids to play computer games or watch TV”. The difference, however, is the degree or the extreme to which Ms. Chua may have adopted these tenets. For example, I know several parents who insist on taking their kids to Kumon, Karate or, in my case, Chess. There may be times when the kids would rather watch TV or play, instead of doing math, yet parents insist (and probably rightfully so) that the kids have to go for lessons or practice their “extra-curricular activity”. It is just that most parents may not insist that the kids practice for 3 hours every day. Likewise, I, for one, do not encourage my children to play video games or watch TV for an extended duration but they are allowed to watch sports on weekends, play the DSI on long drives and flights and occasionally at home. What may have caused the umbrage is her extreme style. But what seems to have been missed out completely by most people is her self-deprecating style of humor in this book as when she insisted that her children will not be allowed to become lazy especially “not on my watch” or when she decided to apply Chinese parenting to her dog.
A contributing factor to the wrath against her is her generalization about Western parents who she refers to as weak-willed. In the beginning of the book she did state that she was using the term “Western parents” loosely. But that statement gets quickly nullified by the several comments she makes against their parenting style. The reality is that parenting is very personal and therefore these broad over-generalizations that Western parents encourage mediocrity and tend to give up easily can be a source of indignation to most Western parents.

But Ms. Chua also stated that over a period of time she started questioning her own parenting style. And yet, she received death threats! I am not sure how many of her critics have actually read her book and if they have, I would like to state that ultimately Ms. Chua did point out “All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.” So, please, cut Ms. Chua some slack. Or, go buy her book – at least for all the threats she has received, her book sales have sky-rocketed. Ms. Chua (Chuha means “rat” in Hindi – no offence intended), irrespective of your parenting style, for all your honesty, humor & candor, my vote goes to you. May this rat keep roaring & growling!

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