Monday, October 24, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Actually, whenever I say that I came back to the United States for my daughter’s education, some American people say, “Wow…you Korean people are so obsessed with education.” Their response made me think about what is the difference between American and Korean perception of children’s education. This video clip instantly caught me because Tiger mom’s point of view about her own children’s education was very familiar to me. You can have a chance to consider your own view of educaiton based on cultural differences.

When I watched CNN about the story of the author, Amy Chua and her book, “The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, I was automatically interested in the issue that the book raised. Since I was brought up in the traditional Korean collectivistic culture, I am very familiar with a strict parenting style. Mostly, I agree with Chua’s way of raising children, even though the way she pushes her children for their excellence seems harsh. However, in the western culture emphasizing individual right and self-esteem, her training methods are absolutely bizarre and ferocious. Therefore, her book provokes controversy between western and eastern way of raising children.

This controversial issue reminds me that when Yuna Kim won a 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic gold medal and set a world record in women’s figure skating competition, her mother, Meehee Park published a book, “Give Wings to Your Child’s Dreams”. It was about how she supported Yuna, sacrificing Yuna’s sister’s dream, disregarding her husband’s birthdays, neglecting any other house chores, and ignoring any family functions only for Yuna’s successful performance. Most Korean people praised her unconditional devotion; regardless of Yuna’s great achievement, many western people criticized her reckless method after her interview with The New York Times. Unexpected negative responses from western audience made me think about cultural differences on parenting.Amy Chua has had many interviews in a variety of programs in order to respond to the heated debate issue about parenting that her book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” caused. In most of the interviews, Chua repeatedly stated that it is not a how to guide for raising child prodigies, but a memoir and made her position clear that the article from The Wall Street Journal is an excerpt from her book, but the content of the excerpt unfairly consists of inflammatory and anti-Western parenting portions. Besides, the headline, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” is absolutely provoking and against her intention.

This is the interview that Amy Chua had with Alison Stewart of the program, “Need to Know” on PBS.

Chua to spend enough time on defending her point of view and dealing with all the criticism in every detail. First of all, she was able to explain that she did not have any intention of offending Western mothers’ self-pride in terms of raising children. Second, both interviewers asked questions by quoting some controversial sentences and gave her a chance to dispute those arguments. Third, Chua seemed to succeed in drawing something positive from the audience by clarifying that the headline of The Wall Street Journal failed to adequately reflect the book as a whole, but she would be responsible for the article because the excerpt was from her book.     

Overall, Chua was considerably confident by using powerful language and making determined facial expressions while being interviewed. She knew how to focus on getting one main message across in the interview. For instance, she emphasized that the book was a memoir full of personal experience as a mother, and an excerpt in The Wall Street Journal just caused an international firestorm. However, she never forgot to mention her parenting philosophy, such as “Be firm!”, “Listen to your child!” and “Don’t assume your child is weak!” Besides, she always smiled during the interview even when she was asked some unpleasant questions. Although she spoke at a brisk pace, it was easy to understand because she enunciated with a clear voice.

Her interviews with TV shows seemed to be quite a success in terms of mitigating hostility toward her strict parenting and helping the audience not to react emotionally without concerning cultural differences. She also took advantage of her attractive appearance and maintained a humble attitude in order to draw out a positive reaction from the audience. She stimulated the audience’s sympathy, telling people that she was not a tiger mother, but a rabbit mother who cried out for help because she did not know how to deal with her kid’s sudden rebellion.

When it comes to raising children, there is no right or wrong method because nobody knows what works until it gets done and also it cannot be applied in general. Although Chua kept saying that the sensational excerpt of The Wall Street Journal induced people to misunderstand her, the book would not have made a big hit without the provocative title, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.        

GIBBS, N. (2011). Roaring Tigers, Anxious Choppers. In , Time (p. 68). Time Inc. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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