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New Outlook: Cultures, Tigers

One of the most controversial books this year, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, shares how Chua has taught her children using the “Chinese mother” method – hard work.

<Editor’s Note: This is a guest opinion blog by Emily Zheng, a student at Dana Middle School.>

Emily Zheng

I agree with the general idea of Chua’s book: from experience, I have learned that nothing is easy, and everything takes practice. As an Asian-American myself, I have heard many friends complain about their parents’ constant nagging. However, I have never received this kind of treatment: I volunteered to play piano at the age of seven, inspired by my brother who was fourteen at the time; I was an average student in elementary school, never having my parents tutor me extra in math or any other subject; in fourth grade, I picked to play the flute and played in my elementary school band. I was never pressured to the extent of Chua’s daughters, and lived a relaxing, obedient childhood. However, my mother is still a “Chinese mother,” but less extreme.

One of the aspects of the Chinese way of parenthood that Chua has captured is the way of setting priorities. For the Chinese, usually, priorities are grades and music. Most have heard of children complaining that their parents are forcing them to get straight A’s and that they have to practice every single day on their instrument. Some of my peers listen in horror when they hear that I willingly play piano and flute over an hour each every day. What some do not understand, which Chua stated, is that Chinese parents sacrifice everything for their children when they push them to practice harder and to achieve the primary goal of straight A’s. Most immigrated Chinese parents did not have the opportunities that children these days have: my parents were growing up during the Communist era in China, when education was discouraged. However, my father continued to study, without teachers and having only a limited number of books, while also juggling a factory job and caring for his younger siblings. When the Communist era ended, he applied to Massachusetts Institute of Technology and was accepted as a Ph.D. graduate student, arriving in the United States with only a bag of luggage and thirty dollars in his pocket.

In addition, many Chinese parents sacrifice hundreds of thousands of dollars on their child’s education. Instruments and lessons; sports equipment like rackets, tennis shoes, basketball shoes, ice skates; transportation fees like gasoline – all this money, and more, is invested in their child. Not only this, but also time. Many parents accompany their children when they practice at home and they also go to almost, if not all, of their child’s games, tournaments, and competitions. The money spent on their children could be used to buy a bigger house and luxury cars; the time spend on their children could be spent dining out with friends and going to parties. No; Chinese parents, when driven, are not selfish – I am in complete agreement with Chua when I read about her sacrifices as a parent.

Chinese mothers drive their children on the motivation that their children can win a competition and that they can get straight A’s. Once a child accomplishes a goal that seemed impossible, it lifts up their self-esteem and usually encourages them to work harder. They become top of the class and musical prodigies and whiz kids. Confidence surges in both the child and the parent. Isn’t that what the Western principle is trying to enforce?

— By Emily Zheng

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