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Book Review - Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

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Photo by Eugenio Mazzone on Unsplash

This book is rather old, I know. And a lot has been said about it, I know. When it came out I only heard about it (there was a big media storm). Back when the book came out, in 2011, I was swamped with raising two kids under two. I was also in the trenches of the so-called mommy wars: breastfeeding vs formula, when to go back to work without scarring your child for life, that kind of thing.

Anyway, I read this book now not because I plan on becoming a tiger mum. That's way too much work. I read it as research for the book I'm working on. And it's enlightening.

First, the writing is actually good. It's funny and ironic and written in a casual tone that makes the reading easy. When it came out I thought she was advocating imitating her methods, and it was clear when I finished the book that she doesn't. She's simply telling her story, the story of her motherhood.

What is this book about? She says it was supposed to be about how Chinese parents are better at raising children than Western parents, but it turned out to be "about a bitter clash of cultures". In my opinion, it's neither. It's about control. It's about how much control can we exert on our children. On the one hand, they are our children, surely we can determine some of their behaviours. On the other hand, you've read my opinion about owning children, and you can read in Chua's book about how successful that turns out to be (spoiler: it depends on the child).

I think the language we use (our children, for instance) and our society's individualistic ideas that place the responsibility of child-rearing solely on the shoulders of the parents (read: the mothers) is problematic and creates conflicts and angst. The sooner we come to terms with the fact that our children do not reflect us as people, the better parents we become. More generally, the sooner we come to terms that there's very little we can control in this life, the better. But that's a different post.

In summary: worth a read for the funny stories. Don't read this as a parenting manual, please. And whatever you do, don't form your opinion based on the beginning. She changes. A lot. That's the point.


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