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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

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Colten Wade

Professor Poppen-Eagan

Communications 105

21 May 2018

In the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the author Amy Chua describes her journey of parenting. Amy, a daughter of two Chinese immigrants, married an American named Jed and together they had two children, Sophia and Louisa (Lulu). Both Amy and Jed had different views on what childhood should be about. Since Amy was going to do most of the parenting Jed agreed to let Amy raise them how she saw best fit. In the book she describes what she sees as the major differences between Chinese and Western parenting methods. There are also other differences that a Westerner who is reading the book is likely to spot. To many Westerners the traditional Chinese method of parenting would appear to be something out of a nightmare, but for the Chinese, it is the best way to raise a child. Both parenting styles claim that they love and know what is best for their children, but the way that this is shown is completely different. Chinese parents will sometimes shame their child for bad performance in school and call them worthless. Due to the differences of High and Low-context these situations can be misinterpreted. These differences are explained through different cultural views based on collectivism and individualism as well as High and Low-context communication.

In the book Amy Chua describes what she sees as the three big differences between Chinese and Western parenting mindsets. Theses parenting methods reflect collectivist and individualist cultures. According to Amy, western parents focus more on the child’s self-esteem and making sure that they are happy. If their child fails in something they do they are quick to make them feel good about themselves by telling them they are still proud and to remember that they are still very good.  Some parents are harder on their kids than others, but many make sure the child’s self esteem is high whether they pass or fail. Western parents focus heavily on the mental happiness of the child. If a Chinese child comes home with an A- on a test they will surely be ridiculed and sent to start drilling what they “failed” on. While many Western parents would still like their child to get a better grade, they will still make sure not to hurt the child’s self-esteem. It is quite the opposite in Chinese culture.

The second difference that Amy points out in the book is that “Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything.” (Chua. 60) Chinese parents sacrifice and do a lot to make sure that their children are successful in school so that they can have a good life in the future. While it may be a lot of work for the child, it is very hard to force your child to do something that they don’t want to repeatedly. Chinese children must spend their lives making their parents proud of them. This ties into the parenting because every mother is a child to someone else, so by raising a child the right way, they are making their mothers proud. In other words, your child is a reflection of yourself. Westerners have a different view of this. Amy talks about her husband Jed and how he always said that you don’t get to choose to be born, so a child is the parents responsibility to take care of them. This is an individualistic idea because parents are focusing on what the child wants to do. In the west you are encouraged to follow your dreams and what you want to do in life. Westerners understand that the child is their responsibility because they did not choose to be born. Therefore, they are given the opportunity to live the life that they want to.

The third thing that Amy points out is that Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their child and because of this they don’t let their children follow their own desires. Chinese children are not allowed to do many things that Westerners can do such as spend the night at a friend’s house. Western cultures are individualistic and focus on what the child wants to do rather than what the parent wants the child to do.  Chinese children are forced to do whatever their parents want them to do. For example, Amy talks about how her parents never asked her opinion on anything, they just believed that whatever they made her do was what needed to happen and best for her. Many Chinese parents believe that your childhood is not supposed to be fun. You are supposed to spend all the time you can learning and become a smarter person. On page 53 Amy says “Besides, I was already at a disadvantage because I had an American husband who believed that childhood should be fun. Jed always wanted to play board games with the girls, or go mini-golfing with them, or worst of all, drive them to faraway water parks with dangerous slides” (Chau, 53) My parents were just like Amy’s husband Jed. They would always ask me what I wanted to do, and we would go on trips as a family. They tried to make learning fun and did not force me to study 10 hours a day. Chinese parents generally pay for everything that the child needs even as they grew older. Their number one goal is to raise a smart successful child. This means while 16-year old’s in the west may have a job to pay for things, Chinese parents would make sure that their children don’t have to get jobs, so they can focus on school and whatever instrument that their parents have chosen for them. I noticed in the book that all of the parents seemed to raise their child in the same way. This may be due to the collectivism in china because they act as one big group following the same standard. In Western cultures we are very individualistic and focus on the child’s wants and needs. On the contrary growing up I had many friends who were forced to play sports that they did not want to play. Their parents wanted them to and this relates to the book because Amy would force her kids to practice.

Due to the High context communication of Chinese parents Westerners often misinterpret what parents are saying, according to Amy Chua. When Chinese mothers tell their child that they did terrible and freak out, its not because they think they are dumb, it is because they know their child is capable of doing much better. Amy says in the book “That’s why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish, and shame the child.” (Chua, 59) The idea behind this is that Chinese parents believe their child is strong and will learn from it. Another example of this is Amy notices Lulu is not playing the piano piece perfectly and Amy said to her “stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent, and pathetic.” (Chua, 67) She believed that Lulu was purposely playing it wrong because she secretly thought that she could not do it. According to Amy, Chinese parents are likely to openly compare their children to each other. This is something Westerners would never do to their children because we tend to say exactly what we mean. Due to our low context communication we say what me mean most of the time. There is no hidden meaning behind something like that in the west. In China, this would mean the parent is expressing that they know their child can do just as good as their sibling. In other times this is not the case. Amy Talks about how her Grandma would compare her to her siblings at family events. She favored Amy over her sisters and would say that she is beautiful, and her sisters took after her mother “who looks like a monkey” (Chua, 49) Working hard every day is not going to change the way you look.



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