Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom


This is sort of an odd book to review.  Technically it's not actually a parenting book. It sort of masquerades as one, but the reality is it's a memoir about a mother raising her daughters.  Either way, on with the review...

The book starts out with a few premises.  That tiger moms are focused on their kids educations, that sleepovers are absolutely not allowed, and that you are not your child's friend, you are a parent.

The controversial part of the story is the many times she pushes her children beyond what many of us think is good.  The story about her youngest learning a piano song, and denying her dinner, bathroom breaks, etc.

However, when I started reading, it wasn't these things that stuck in my mind.  It was the fact that she was extremely dedicated, and recognized that her two daughters were different people.  If there was a theme to the story, it was that you have to choose your battles wisely, and understand your children for who they are.

Yes, she does enforce strict rules.  She knows what she wants, and she's not afraid of the words "i hate you mom".  Which I think is a good thing.  She points out that children have a hard time getting through conflict and not doing well.  And that once we start to do well at something our natural desire to be good can often compel us to keep going, and get better.  Remember NurtureShock?  There was a whole chapter about empty praise, which included a study about tests and compared Asian parents to white parents.  White parents avoided talking about the test, or telling their kids they could do better.  This Tiger Mom isn't afraid to say "you are better than that."

My favorite story along this line is when her daughters give her cards.  She hands them right back and says no, these are not good.  You put no thought into them, and you are capable of something much better than these pieces of paper.  I love you, and I want to enjoy your work, but I won't just take what is your minor effort.  I deserve more.

She also dedicates an extreme amount of attention and work into her children's activities.  She discusses a few pages of her daughters piano music, pointing out errors and working diligently with her on each measure of music.  Not many of us commit to our children's learning in this way.  I haven't decided where I stand on that one, but it's interesting to think about this level of commitment.
What's hard for me is the concept of allowing your children their own successes and failures.  She is a working mom, so she has her own independent accomplishments.  I fear that taking this level of commitment without a personal outlet would be unhelpful for many of us.

Overall, definitely worth a read- however- don't expect tips, tricks or real parenting advice.  Just take the stories, understand the threads, and get a good laugh.

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