Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

by Amy Chua

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Key thesis and points in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother


The key thesis of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is that strict, traditional Chinese parenting methods produce highly successful children. Key points include the emphasis on discipline, academic excellence, and respect for authority. The book contrasts these methods with more permissive Western parenting styles, arguing that rigorous practices lead to better outcomes in children's achievements and character.

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What is the thesis of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

What's the thesis of Amy Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? You can read about conventional answers to this question on this website and in a lot of other places. Consider, though, the following, somewhat different interpretation of the book's central message:

The author claims her aggressive, harsh parenting made her daughters successful even as it tarnished her relationship with them. Since the truth of this statement depends on how one defines "successful," it's fair to ask, "Successful for whom?" Amy Chua's daughters did what she wanted, and she describes in the book how they grew to disagree and resist this as they grew older. They also expressed resentment at the way they were raised, even as they recognized the value of their achievements in making themselves and their family look good.

When you read the book in this way, you realize that this entire child-rearing effort was about the author, not about her children. She planned out a "successful" education and career path for them. She made them into what she wanted, in spite of their resistance, dissent and, later, disillusionment. Thus, it's reasonable to conclude that the book's central message, it's thesis, goes something like this: Children are your most valuable assets, so you should make them into something you can be proud of.

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What is the thesis of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

In Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, law professor Amy Chua lays out her philosophy of child-rearing and explains how it works in practice through describing her own experiences as a child and a parent. Chua, who is Chinese American, argues that her philosophy is culturally Chinese because her Chinese parents applied it in raising her. This philosophy emphasizes parental authority and children's obedience, an emphasis on perfection, children's responsibility for combined diligence and ambition, and the parents' right to reprimand their children and severely limit or revoke their privileges. The absence of perfection, she claims, disgraces not only the child but the family.

Chua states, as a generality she believes that Chinese parents share, that

"nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work...."

The children's own desires should be discounted, and the parents should make the decisions for them. Failure to achieve perfection matters not so much for the individual child as for its negative reflection on the family.

Each reader's decision about which of these ideas together constitute a central thesis will depend on the relative weight they think Chua places on the different components. "Good child-rearing requires parents to make all the decisions" is one possibility. "American parents should use the same child-rearing methods as their foreign-heritage parents" would be another.

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What is the thesis of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

This book, which is actually a memoir of Chua's own experience of trying to put into practice her own beliefs of child rearing, presents a sharp challenge to the generally accepted philosophy of child rearing in the west. Chua argues that, instead of constantly praising a child for the slightest success, parents should only expect absolute perfection from their children and nothing less. Note what she says to define her beliefs about child rearing:

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child does not get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough.

Whilst some may agree that there is a certain amount of truth in such a statement, at the same time, Chua does not stop at this controversial statement, and instead chooses to go further, saying at one stage:

The solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child.

The bulk of the book relates Chua's own experience of trying to bring up her two daughters by this philosophy, and is an honest if somewhat disturbing account of her successes and failures. Whilst this method did produce results in the case of her daughters, at the same time the extremes to which Chua went should hopefully make us question the price of success. Thus the thesis of the story is that we in the west have got it wrong when it comes to raising children and that we should adopt much tougher tactics.

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What are the key points in Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

One important point the author makes is about the evolution of parenting. From early on in the book, her two daughters are very different and react very individually to her "tiger mom" style of parenting. Starting when her younger daughter is three, she realizes she must change her style to achieve the goals she had set (much of this realization revolves around the playing of piano by both daughters). Another major point is about the differences in Eastern versus Western parenting. There are times when her husband, who was raised in the latter, disagrees with her stricter Chinese style of parenting, but eventually he agrees to it. The central point of the book, underlying these other points, is the importance of family. The book discusses the family's responses in times of joy and suffering and dearly values the involvement of family members in each others' lives.

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