Tough Love, from a Chinese Mother

Article excerpt

Byline: Lisa Miller

A memoir of a woman's take-no-prisoners parenting style hits a nerve.

Amy Chua's email in-box has become the latest front in the mommy wars. Ever since Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, her warts-and-all book on parenting the Chinese way, inflamed the mommy-blogger universe with its publication last week, Chua has been under attack. "Oh. My. Gosh," she says, when asked how many messages she gets each day. "I don't know--300? 600?" Many of them are notes of praise and thanks, she says. But many are vicious. "There are death threats. And 'Go back to China, you abusive monster.' It's much more overwhelming than I thought it would be."

Broadly speaking, Chua's book is about how she endeavored to raise her two American girls, now teenagers, the way her Chinese-immigrant parents raised her. For Chua, a professor at Yale Law School, the Chinese way includes lots of rules and high expectations--and disciplinary techniques that can come across as cruel and unusual. She makes one daughter stand outside in the frigid winter weather--at age 3--for not practicing the piano as instructed, and she berates both for the sloppiness of the handmade cards they created for her birthday. The book has come to be seen as an indictment of the kind of permissive parenting that permeates the country's affluent neighborhoods, where kids get trophies even when they lose and ice-cream sundaes just for making their beds.

Now it's Chua who's enduring the admonishments. On Internet discussion boards (prompted by a piece in The Wall Street Journal with the headline WHY CHINESE MOTHERS ARE SUPERIOR) her critics say that she has no regard for the plight of working families, that she values achievement and status above all, and that the parenting strategies she advocates produce weak-willed, self-loathing robots destined for the therapist's couch. …