Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, by Amy Chua, has captured global attention and aroused heated debate. Since the author, a professor at Yale Law School and a mother of two daughters, is a Chinese-American and stresses throughout her book the merits of Chinese-style parenting, overseas readers may wonder: Are Chinese-style parenting methods really that tough? Are mothers in China all tiger-like in adopting harsh measures with their children?
Chinese-style parenting is comparatively strict. Its core emphasis is on discipline, hard work, and tolerance for hardship in order to achieve desirable outcomes. Old-fashioned Chinese parents tend to make decisions for their children; emphasize getting top test scores; believe "practice makes perfect;" invest a great deal of time and energy to help their children achieve; and prefer using punishment rather than encouragement when children fail to meet high expectations.
Those are the general principles. However, different families implement these principles differently. Some families may be more moderate or extreme than others. There are indeed some extreme examples. The father of the world-famed pianist Lang Lang is an example of making his offspring endure hardship to become ferociously competitive. He once forced his son at an early age to practice for 16 hours in a row. During the boiling summer, the young protégé had to use a basin of cold water to cool his feet while working at the keyboard.
Recently, the situation has begun to change. During the past three decades, as the nation has opened to the world, Chinese people have increasingly reflected on the pros and cons of Chinese-style of parenting and explored Western-style education and parenting styles. In fact, Western educational concepts have gradually achieved some acceptance among Chinese families. Many have realized that if pushed too hard, their children might develop symptoms of depression or even worse, instead of growing into a second Lang Lang. They try to find a middle-of-the-road approach and a blend of the best of East and West. As a result, more Chinese parents encourage their children as well as respect their children's choices.
A general consensus among Chinese is that the old-fashioned style of parenting should be reformed, just as Chua later did with her second daughter. But, under the current educational system, many believe only students who attend the best primary and middle schools, and graduate from elite universities have a chance of getting good jobs. So, only those students who have top grades and unique talents can go to these top schools. For this reason, mainstream Chinese parents feel they can hardly dare to take a risk on how they raise their children. Especially when most urban Chinese families have only one child, some mothers still, against their personal desire, decide they have no choice but being tiger mothers.