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Tiger moms under attack

The best selling book, "Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother" by Yale professor Amy Chua has started a global debate over Chinese and Western parenting. Is the West losing to Chinese competition in educational methods as well?

Amy Chua, professor at Yale University, has been criticized for her harsh parenting methods

Amy Chua, professor at Yale University, has been criticized for her harsh parenting methods

Amy Chua is a second generation immigrant living in the USA. Her parents were from China. She was born in the state of Illinois and later studied law and pursued her career. Now a Yale professor, Amy Chua claims in her new book that only strict Chinese-style parenting can lead to success.

The topic made headlines in almost all US newspapers and a public debate broke out in the US about Chinese and Western parenting methods. Even before the German translation of the book was published last week, it had already sparked public debate in the German blogosphere, with users posting comments like, "if you suffer while learning, the pain gets engraved into the kids' minds" and "such education is tantamount to child abuse."

Amy Chua's book has stirred debate over her controversial parenting methods inside and outside the US

Amy Chua's controversial book

Chua's ideas divided the US into two groups: the one that thinks she's completely crazy and the other that thinks the self-proclaimed "tiger mother" has a point to a certain degree.

Competition means pressure

But is Chinese parenting really as strict as Chua claims? It certainly is, says Li Junhe, Chinese star TV host at China Education TV. He says it is because of the competition in Chinese society. "There are so many people in China. There is a lot of competition. And selection is usually based on tough exams for which students have to study hard. It is not about creativity but pure diligence."

Tiger moms are bigger on scare tactics than on rewards

Tiger moms are bigger on scare tactics than on rewards

Amy Chua describes her strict parenting methods in her book. Her two daughters were forbidden from doing many things that are very normal for children, like playing computer games, sleeping over at friends’ houses and being in the school drama club. One time, Chua threatened to burn her children's stuffed animals if they didn't get a piano piece down pat.

This so-called Chinese style parenting is completely different from Western parenting, according to Professor Ingrid Gogolin, an educationalist at Hamburg University. She says one common characteristic in Western parenting (if you can call it that) is "the thought that children should grow and develop independently, that they should gradually become independent from their parents and teachers."

This is exactly why Amy Chua thinks parenting in the US has failed. She believes American parents give their children too much freedom. Chinese parents, on the contrary, set goals for their children early on and implement strict rules that provide the children with stability and self-confidence, according to Chua. Chua believes the fact that Shanghai students scored the highest on the last international PISA testing speaks in favor of her methods.

Don't generalize

The German version of the book, die mutter des erfolges, came out recently and has sparked public debate in Germany

The German version of the book came out recently

But Gogolin says one can’t generalize when it comes to parenting and points out that there are many other societal factors that influence parenting and test scores. "Religious or philosophical traditions play a role in parenting and have an effect on exam results. These cannot be generalized. But you can see that there were different PISA results for different regions."

Jiang Chuan is an educationalist from Beijing who has lived in the US for the past 11 years. She works in the marketing department for a renowned publishing house and has been following the tiger mother debate in the media for the past few weeks. While she personally prefers the tolerant style of parenting, she defends the tiger mother.

She says Chua is so strict "out of love for her children. Western children might have a happier childhood with tolerant parents. But when I think of my childhood in China and consider the success I have had in my career, I think strict parenting was good for me."

Amy Chua recently emphasized in an interview that some readers misunderstood the intentions of her book, which was not thought to be an instructional guide, but rather a book in which she shares her personal experiences as a mother and which might get people thinking about parenting methods in the West.

Author: Xiegong Fischer (sb)
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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