Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua | Teen Ink

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua MAG

April 12, 2011
By Orielleiris BRONZE, Indianapolis, Indiana
Orielleiris BRONZE, Indianapolis, Indiana
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments

With my fingers crossed, I click on the link to check my grades. I close my eyes and say a quick prayer. Please be good. Please be all A's. My heart pounds and skips beats, but the rational part of my mind knows there's no reason to stress out. There's no reason why my grades shouldn't be stellar.

Such confidence is a trend among many of my high-achieving friends, most of whom also happen to be Chinese. It's true that I often talk about how I will fail this test, that test, school, and life in general. But beneath the surface insecurity lies a solid core of confidence that propels me to be the best. What's my secret? The answer is my pushy, ambitious, controlling Chinese tiger mom.

Amy Chua, the author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and a self-proclaimed “Tiger Mom,” is an accomplished parent. Her daughters are both musical prodigies, partly due to natural talent but mostly just hard work and perseverance. As Chua says in her book, “What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it.” Sophie Chua, the elder daughter, performed at Carnegie Hall when she was 14. How many 14-year-olds can boast that? The surge of pride she must have felt as she took her bow in that famed hall after her flawless performance must have been nauseatingly satisfying. But to be good at anything requires practice and dedication; that's the part that's not fun. Sophie spent countless hours practicing piano to reach Carnegie Hall.

In my exercises of practice and dedication, I have spent countless hours at math and chemistry lessons and other enrichment courses outside of school. The distress I suffered on car rides to each of these classes is still clear in my memory. I can't count how many times I wished that I had “normal” parents (like my American friends) who would be ecstatic if I came home with a B+. Due to these extra classes, I had to miss dances and parties. For a teenager, that is social suicide. But academics always comes first, and sometimes second and third too; that has been drilled into my head since babyhood.

The Chinese model of parenting isn't meant to breed idle happiness. It's not meant to create a nurturing environment in which a child has freedom to explore his or her individuality and passions. The child is introduced to the realities of life from the very beginning: It is a mean, competitive world out there; it's survival of the fittest. When my mother heard homework, she took it to mean homework. Sometimes I wonder if I learned more outside of school than in; I had to, so I could stay ahead. A timeline of my summers and holidays can be traced through enrichment workbooks ranging from reading comprehension to paleontology.

But, of course, I was not always so compliant with my mother's strict parenting. We had many fights that always seem to be on the edge of causing World War III, but at the end of the day, everything turned out fine. The conflicts only made both of us stronger and wiser.

Is it all worth it? Well, I'm taking chemistry this year, which is unusual for a freshman. My need to prove myself, to prove that my test results weren't a fluke, to prove that I belong in an advanced class, were so great that I initially dreaded the class, imagining everyone would think I was just a stupid freshman who lucked out. But as the lectures and labs rolled by, days turned into weeks, and I realized that it really wasn't that bad. I actually knew what was going on, not just because I'm a quick learner, but the Friday night chemistry class that had caused me to miss parties had prepped me very well. I had already learned most of the concepts, so I aced tests and labs and even completed the extra projects that would allow me to pursue honors in chemistry. I found myself ahead of classmates, who were all sophomores.

The pride and satisfaction I gained from being at the top surpassed my grief at being forced to attend extra classes. Like Sophie, when I finally tasted the rewards of my efforts, it erased the pain. I remember how much I had wanted to quit these classes, but my tiger mom made me stick with them. That didn't make her my favorite person at the time, but she knew that my future happiness would be more important than fleeting present happiness.

My mother overrode my preferences, just like Amy Chua. “To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences.” Living under such a policy is never pleasant, but as a survivor, I can say it works.

The best thing my tiger mother has given me is not pride, satisfaction, or academic excellence; certainly I have achieved those. The best thing she instilled in me is the desire to survive and win. She taught me not to fear adversity or obstacles; I should instead welcome challenges because they will make me stronger and better prepared for the next obstacle. I learned that there is nothing in this world that can't be accomplished with hard work and determination.

Although I don't go around saying it, I really like who I am. I'm proud of all I have accomplished and I am certain that one day I will do great things. If I decide to have children, I will raise them in this tiger mom style. Sure, it may be strict and bordering on abusive, but the result is usually worth the frustration and tears. If my child turns out to be like me, then I will feel satisfied and confident that I have prepared my child to be a strong force in the competitive world.

The webpage with my grades finishes loading, and I smile. My favorite letter is aligned down the row of my classes: A. Thank you, tiger mom, thank you for being strong enough to push me, patient enough to stand by me, ambitious enough to believe in me, and loving enough to be there through everything.

Similar Articles


This article has 9 comments.

on Aug. 11 2012 at 5:24 pm
chamomile SILVER, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts
8 articles 1 photo 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
She makes it through her day, but doesn't just “make it” through her day. She holds within her at all time the faith that she belongs, even when she doesn't belong. She belongs to the world; she belongs in her life; her heart and mind and soul belong

Tiger parenting gets a lot of hatred. The truth is that it is a world full of diversity, and parenting is very different from culture to culture. I believe in the Machiavellian "the end justifies the means". As long as a child grows into a happy, confident adult, it does not matter how they were raised. I read "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" myself and found every stereotype I had being washed away. Of course, it is easy to thing of this parenting style as "cruel" and insist that it "robs children of their childhood". However, Amy Chua was humorous, straight-forward, and unapolagetically honest. What I took from her book - and from this article - is that "tiger children" grow to be confident and successful. It's hard to disagree with the notion that having a sense of pride, accomplishment and a firm belief in yourself will make you happy. I was raised a different way, and though I love my parents and had happy childhood, despite it's challanges, I wish that they would have pushed me harder, and not allowed me to give up on so many hobbies. I do not have the stellar confidence that comes from being raised in this way. Amy Chua also has a second daughter, who she had to let go to be herself. She admits that tiger parenting is not for every child. She does not apply her parenting style so harshly and rigidly that she makes her own children. Tiger parents are just that; parents. They want the best for their children, and are confident in their children's abilities to succeed. That does not make them any less loving. I whole-heartedly agree with this article and I believe it was very brave of you to post it, knowing that you would recieve condescending and ignorant responses anyway. Well written, indeed.

on Mar. 9 2012 at 6:28 am
Orielleiris BRONZE, Indianapolis, Indiana
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments
Thank you for understanding the message I was trying to send! :)

on Feb. 18 2012 at 6:13 pm
The home loans are essential for guys, which want to start their organization. In fact, that is comfortable to receive a secured loan.

on Dec. 24 2011 at 8:32 pm
theweirdworder DIAMOND, Newtown, Pennsylvania
65 articles 49 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.

While I respect your opinion, I also think that fun and living life is more important than grades. I remember the days when I used to freak out and agonize over my grades to get straight-As. It totally wasn't worth it. You only have one life to live and I certainly don't think you should spend it holed up in your room studying! It feels good to get good grades and be successful, but it's also important to know how to have fun. Success isn't always the key to true happiness.

on Nov. 19 2011 at 2:01 pm
SarahWaters SILVER, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
8 articles 0 photos 18 comments
While I admire your hard work, I don’t think tiger parenting is the key to success. My own parents- successful, white Americans- have never pushed me in the extremes you discuss, but I similarly look down my report card to a series of A’s. My parents aren’t “ecstatic” when I get a B+. They’ll ask me if I need help in a subject- not because I’m failing them but because they know that I have the capabilities and the desire to do better. My mother doesn’t ask me if I’ve done my homework, she just expects that I do it. I am completely responsible for myself. I don’t need a tiger mom hovering over me to teach me how good it feels when hard work pays up. I don’t need classes outside of school to learn- with the invention of the internet, I can learn about anything I want, and I seek it out because I’m passionate about it. I believe it takes a lot of A’s to achieve success, but I hope to get there while simultaneously having wonderful relationships with my family and friends.

on Nov. 1 2011 at 8:35 pm
What many people don't understand is that this author (and Amy Chua) are not arguing that success is the key to happiness. Nowhere do either of them say that happiness is bred solely from success; they only argue that they take pride and, yes, happiness, in accomplishing something difficult. This does not preclude them from finding joy and fulfillment in friendships, gardening, rock'n'roll, building sandcastles, or any other activity, no matter how simple. Tiger parenting (and personal fulfillment) is not either/or. When the author is not studying chemistry, she probably does hang out with friends and do more "typical" things. Just because she commits herself to serious pursuits some of the time does not mean she has to lie around in oppressed misery in the remaining hours of her day. I applaud the author for having the maturity to look down the road at her future and to attempt to understand her mother from a perspective that few begrudging teenagers can muster. Don't let others tell you what you should be doing or what is supposed to make you happy-- you've cultivated a strong brain that's capable of thinking for itself! (of course an exception to the "others" in the last sentence might be people who house, clothe, and feed you, and invest countless hours into building your future-- listening to those people is oftentimes worth it :)

on Nov. 1 2011 at 6:16 pm
Imaginedangerous PLATINUM, Riverton, Utah
31 articles 0 photos 402 comments
I see another future tiger parent here...

on Nov. 1 2011 at 5:31 pm
Second place is first place . . . for losers.  Being the best may not be the "key to happiness," but being a loser is definitely the key to being a loser.

on Nov. 1 2011 at 3:43 pm
Imaginedangerous PLATINUM, Riverton, Utah
31 articles 0 photos 402 comments
Tiger parenting works if being the best at everything is the key to happiness. Apparently you think so, and that's terrific. Most people, though, would disagree.