Amy Chua was born in the United States to strict Chinese immigrant parents who pushed her to work hard and succeed instead of coddling and encouraging her. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011) is about her experience of raising her third-generation kids according to her parents’ old-school beliefs. Chua offers not only an insightful and often controversial take on parenting, but also a memoir of a very stern yet loving tiger mother.
If you’re a parent, you want the best for your children. However, Chinese and Western parents have very different views on what “best” means. Here are three primary differences:
First, Western parents want their children to have high self-esteem, while building self-esteem doesn’t hold much importance for Chinese parents.
Western parents become concerned about their children’s feelings if they lose or fail. On the contrary, Chinese parents expect inner strength from their offspring, rather than believing they’ll be easily hurt. If a Western child doesn’t do well in school, for example, her parents will often be tactful and try not to hurt the kid’s feelings when expressing disapproval. Chinese parents, on the other hand, respond to poor results by demanding improvement, no matter how this may affect their child’s self-esteem.
Second, Chinese parents believe that their children owe them everything.
This likely stems from a combination of the Chinese tradition of respecting one’s elders and the fact that Chinese parents work very hard to ensure they can give their children a good education. The Chinese perspective is therefore that the children should spend their lives paying back their parents by making them proud. Western parents think otherwise. They believe that as it was they who decided to become parents, it’s their duty to take care of their children and that their children don’t owe them anything.
Third, Chinese parents feel that they know what is best for their children.
While Western parents usually ask their offspring what activities they’d like to try, Chinese parents believe it’s best to tell children how to spend their time. What their children want for themselves plays a far lesser role, if any.
This means you’ll never hear of a Chinese child coming home from school and announcing proudly to her parents, “I got a part in the school play.” This is because Chinese parents feel it’s best for their offspring to only partake in extracurricular activities in which they can win a medal – preferably a gold one.