Amy Chua on Raising Her Kids the Chinese Way

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Amy Chua talks about raising her children the Chinese way, and explains how it’s different—and why she thinks it’s better—than the American way. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother explores the differences in Eastern and Western parenting, and is a chronicle about raising her daughters the Chinese way—no play dates, no school plays, the expectation that they get straight As and that they play the piano or violin.


Amy Chua

Comments [56]

S. Shimanovskaya from Boston

This is really disturbing. Amy Chua keeps telling us the book is a memoir and not a how-to book. But she is backing away..... The back of the book clearly states "How to Be a Tiger Mother". If anything the book is a satire but very troubling episodes described indeed. One doesn't need to strip your kid from dignity to instill good work habits and great self-esteem.

May. 03 2011 10:47 AM

Amy Chu is my hero. I have raised 3 children with pretty much the same standards as Amy. Her premise if you listen is; you love your children regardless. Secondly you push them to attain the highest achievements they are capable of regardless of their attitude at the time you are pushing them. My son who is in Medical School and my daughter who is destined for medical school, they will attest that without a nudge to push them through their comfort zone they would not be where they are now. We now hug and laugh about the many episodes of tears. It is very apparent that Amy fiercely loves her children. It is also apparent like all great parents that she expends a great deal of energy helping her children achieve their highest talent. It is only the lazy detached parents that will take an opportunity to give her negative press for their own phony ideals of "I just want my child to be happy". This phony ideal is a convenient excuse to be lazy themselves as a parent. Many parents don’t realize their children will be happy with themselves and have a strong inner self esteem when they are proud for achieving what is best within themselves. If Amy's child was mentally handicapped I believe she would love them just as much but still push them to be the best they can be within this world. HOW COOL!!! Go Amy!!!!!!!

Mar. 03 2011 08:24 PM
Sunshine from Brooklyn

One doesn't have to be mean--as Ms. Chua is to her kids in a number of incidents she recorded--to instill a good work ethic. The piano story and the birthday card story are both horrible and not at all funny. Perhaps if Ms. Chua had been allowed more social time as a child she would not be so afraid of the "other" as David Brooks so clumsily points out.

Jan. 23 2011 03:13 AM
Natalie from NYC

Does Amy Chua have ANY idea how she sounds? Has she ever considered that the compulsive need to tell everyone how funny, smart and complex she is and her book is, to constantly defend and declare in the manner that she does, only confirms the belief that offspring of overly critical parents lack in self esteem. Whether they are worldly "successes" such as Amy Chua, or people who cant hold down a job or relationship or perhaps even struggle with addictions, children who are harshly criticized by their parents, particularly when they ARE performing well or even excellently but perhaps not perfectly, these children grow into adults for whom nothing is ever good enough. Whether the overly criticized child spends their entire adulthood frantically running towards more achievement, or away from life's commitments and challenges in an endless act of rebellion or worse, defeat, it ultimately hardly matters which - experiencing life as a constant frantic sprint to betterment is no way to live. You can hear it in Amy Chua's voice and word choice - she sounds like she has been sprinting from her shadow her entire life. She actually has some interesting and perhaps even valid perspectives but who can bear listening for more than a few minutes before the flood of neurosis and overcompensation threatens your own sense of sanity and you just have to tune out? I am thankful that we live in a free society and as adults we are allowed to tune her out before we drown. And yes, I grew up with a Tiger Father who was actually a white Australian but freely expressed that a 98% advanced math exam result was still 2% less than good enough. And no, it wasn't helpful to building my self esteem nor improving my math performance - I dropped out from math classes altogether altogether exactly 1 year later at age 15.

Jan. 21 2011 12:21 PM
sd from nyc

this author is SO full of herself. i'm a parent too, of very highly successful students, and I think amy chua is awful. i am not interested in meeting her, or knowing her children.

Jan. 20 2011 11:41 AM
Erwin Alber from New Zealand

Isn't China the place where parents commonly abort baby girls in order to have a son, because of their government's one child policy?

Jan. 19 2011 02:59 AM

This woman needs some serious therapy. No, skip that. Save the money for her children's therapy.

Jan. 17 2011 04:47 PM
another Chinese opinion from New York

Chua herself is a perfect example of adverse consequences. Her parents have created an obnoxious monster.

Jan. 17 2011 02:41 PM

After that WSJ article last week with over 5,000 comments, glad to hear her twisting in the wind!

Though I did learn a bit about Yale, not that I wanted to.

Jan. 16 2011 04:21 PM
leslie yu

Chua said anyone who criticizes or disagrees with her just "don't get it". Are we all so stupid? She is confused, probably brainwashed by her father. Consider this: There can only be one "#1".
What about the rest of the parents and/or children? There would be plenty of "humiliation" to go around.

Jan. 15 2011 09:35 PM
Mei Guo Ren from not in US

Robin in NY, NY:

I have a child who has been playing cello for six years. We live abroad, she attends a very demanding music school, practises regularly and has won prizes in competitions. This whole time either myself or my husband has been practising with her. She regularly has to memorize pieces. I think that is very important, but I have NEVER had to resort to abusive methods to spur her on. That is what I find objectionable in Chua's approach as described in her WSJ article. She is a talented musician, derives great joy from her accomplishments, and we have shared many joyful moments around this. For me that is what counts.

Jan. 15 2011 12:06 PM

Not every picture deserves to be on the fridge? That's not a picture it's an expression of love - it should be sincere, not a Rembrandt! My parents praised worthy efforts and chided what deserved to be chided (like being insensitive to the feelings of others) They contributed many children and grandchildren who give back to the world.

Jan. 15 2011 09:16 AM

I am so *glad* that Ms. Chua pointed out that this is not a parenting guide; it is a memoir, in which she talks with what was intended as humor about her obstacles, her mistakes, and how she *transformed*. What a great opportunity this is to learn about another culture.

Jan. 13 2011 10:25 PM
Kate B. from Park Slope

Sorry, but Ms. Chua is a sociopath more obsessed with the outward trappings of "achievement" than with genuine, inner development. Her interview recealed a shrill narcissist who makes Sarah Palin look warm and genuine.


Jan. 13 2011 09:49 PM
Gerald from Urayasu, Japan

I agree with those who note the main point is that self-esteem and creativity derive from mastery and technique not the other way around. This is the so-called "10,000 hours theory" that guests on this show have discussed.

I would, however, point out the fuzzy logic of correlating the supposed poor state of innovation in China with the child rearing described by Ms. Chua. During the Cultural Revolution of 40 years ago intellectuals were persecuted, even killed. Parents rearing children to be elites would have been tarred as "capitalist roaders." Hence it is unlikely that adults over age 30 - 35 would have experienced family life of the sort described. But what will happen when that current generation of Shanghai kids who scored so well on those tests will meet their American counterparts raised on Barney the Dinosaur and his silly "I love you. You love me" ?

Jan. 13 2011 09:45 PM
Linda from Greenwich, CT

I'll always find Chinese people to be inscrutable. It must be difficult for a number 1 son for example to be American and Chinese. I enjoyed the interview very much.

Jan. 13 2011 08:04 PM

Amy Wells from Greenwich
I don't know where you're getting that about this generation - I only know really great young people but then their parents had the courage to respect their own priorities (no keeping up with Joneses, for example) and model that clarity and coherence. They all do well and they're good people, enjoy what they are pursuing and at top schools btw.

Jan. 13 2011 03:46 PM
Rosemary Wells from Greenwich, Ct.

Wonderful interview! Amy Chua did not run away with the interview as one listener suggested. Her Chinese way is something Americans need to learn from, not to do 100% but perhaps 50 or 75%. We need to reinstate respect, manners, high standards and discipline into a really wobbly generation that we have going for us!

Bravo Amy!

Jan. 13 2011 03:23 PM
Nothing Like Chinese from

some chinese want to be "chinese". if the rest of the world wished to copy them they probably would.

In reality, what put china on the map THIS century has been chinese poisoning their own countrymen with purposely toxic milk.

LAST century it was binding women's feet so they couldn't walk.

There are many things I like about the chinese but the arrogance isn't on that list.

Jan. 13 2011 01:31 PM
Jocelyn from NYC

I wholeheartedly agree with the essence of Amy Chua's experience in parenting:
"Many things are not fun at the initial stage until later when you have put in the effort."

"Strict but very loving"

"Be the best that you can be"

I am an immigrant - Chinese/Filipino background married to a Jewish man.
It has been a struggle to instill strong work ethic in my daughter.

Jan. 13 2011 01:29 PM
C L from New York, NY

It's really not about Chinese vs Western, but rather "laissez faire parents" vs "authoritarian parents".

When I read Amy Chua's WSJ article on the same issue, I noticed her disclaimer about who are Chinese mothers and who are Western mothers. A bit too academic for a newspaper article, I thought. So I googled and found out that she's a professor at Yale Law.

Her story reminded me of the white "Chinese parents" I once worked with in the Deep South, none of them ethnically Chinese.

I'm Chinese, Ivy League graduate, Wall Street retiree, but I'm not a "Chinese parent". However, I admire Amy Chua for making those politically incorrect/sensative comments.

Jan. 13 2011 01:28 PM
Henry from Manhattan

I wish Amy had allowed Leonard interview her instead running with her own thoughts. Not Leonard’s fault, he was very gracious not to interject and was able to rein her in as skillfully as he did.

The smart and successful people I know, I mean the really smart ones, genius types, weren’t really brought up in the fashion Amy Chu describes.

Sure there was discipline, but they had upbringings the fostered curiosity and learning stemming from the parents where education and personal development was just an integral part of life. But the children were not “pushed” so to speak; it came naturally, not because the child was innately intelligent (though genetics probably do matter in some respects) but because the parents furnished the right environment, and the environment was not necessarily “Chinese” (for lack of better description.

If I had a child. I’d rather read a book on Jewish parenting. I’m not Jewish myself, but they seem to have a small monopoly on success relative to their population size, whether it’s financial, intellectual (science, mathematics, literature, etc.) and even media and entertainment. Check your history books to see what I mean.

Jan. 13 2011 01:19 PM

as having parents from two diff parts of the world - who met in a colombia doctorate program - albeit in the 70s. All Ill say is all parents want their children to be everything and more, naturally.. but America is a type homologous force that rewards proto fascists like her (look she published a book!)
especially for my parents who expected to not be involved in their children's lives certainly not in this capacity

Jan. 13 2011 01:15 PM

I think I have a better understanding of her ideas and goals thanks to this interview. I don't agree with all of it and would use different methods for my kids. Oddly enough I agree with her to some extent in the birthday card story. I get really annoyed when I hear parents and grandparents over praise a child for almost everything they do. Not every picture deserves to be on the fridge.

Jan. 13 2011 01:12 PM
PETE from MV

I am so sick of type-A personalities passing off their visions of the world as truth. This book I think has less to do with Chinese tradition than this women's (and her husband's) watermelon sized ego.

Personally I think we've seen the results of this brittle system in place with regards to the Japanese: they were obedient and industrious, in contrast to our supposed laziness and look them now: in a perennial recession and we are, if not in a diminished capacity, still the main source of innovation for the world. I think China will come out on top eventually, but will ultimately see the limits and conflict such rigidness creates.

Jan. 13 2011 01:12 PM
Dave D. from Westfield, NJ

Ugh. What an annoying lady.

God spare us from these self-conratulatory Ivy League overachievers and their obnoxious offspring.

If this is the new ruling class - then I say off with their smug heads!

Jan. 13 2011 01:10 PM
Hardkandy from Nyc

While I agree with the speaker on several things, she fails to see the differences amongst 'Westerners': European and American parents and schools for that matter have very different methods. I'd suggest she spends some time studying the European system and parenting manners.

Jan. 13 2011 01:05 PM

barbara from westchester county and Robin from NY, NY ,

I agree with you completely!

Jan. 13 2011 01:04 PM
Howard from Bronx

Educational theory says that self esteem comes from achievement. Focusing on self esteem without it leads to lower self esteem and disappointment and a narrowing of options (I can't do math = I can't be a scientist vs I can get good at math and be a scientist or a musician!

Jan. 13 2011 01:04 PM
James from Harlem

This is a great interview. thanks Leonard.

Jan. 13 2011 01:00 PM
Sandra from Astoria

I was raised by super-strict, overly critical, Eastern European-immigrant parents and I grew up to be a neurotic, underachieving mess! So go figure.

Jan. 13 2011 01:00 PM
Robin from NY, NY

Thank you! As a musician, I am appalled by the current American belief that memorization is something horrible. I just cringe each time that commercial for Rosetta Stone comes on the radio (not WNYC, thank you). Parents now want the child to do what they "want" to do, but if they are only exposed to any subject matter in a superficial, week-end recreation, or "buffet style" manner, that doesn't "challenge their self-esteme" how will they become good enough at something to be creative or competitive in that field? In classical music, for example, you must admit that you don't know it in order to learn it thoroghly. You must follow a teacher until you have mastered your instrument enough to continue on your own, then you must follow the musical score as the composer wrote it. Is that dogmatic? No, it's joy.

Jan. 13 2011 12:59 PM
Davis from Summit, NJ

I will reserve judgement on Ms. Chua's book until I read it but the notion that there is a single "american way" of raising children is a confusing premise. As a stay at home father, my kids - who are remarkably well adjusted and do well in school and excel at sports, and both study music and foreign languages - are being raised differently than any other family. I think a lot more influential of how you raise your kids is how well, or not, you were raised.

Jan. 13 2011 12:58 PM
Patricia from FH

There's a lot of truth to what she's saying.

Jan. 13 2011 12:57 PM
barbara from westchester county

Americans believe in the innateness of "intelligence" where as Asians do not have this concept. They have the concept that anyone can excel at anything provided that they work hard enough. This American believe extends to teachers, which may be why there is such a discrepancy between the scores of Asian students in math, science, and reading versus those of American students. American teachers and parents believe that if a child cannot grasp a concept or skill it is because they innately lack that aptitude. This is an incorrect notion.

Jan. 13 2011 12:57 PM

Of course you are smarter than the rest of us, so we just don't get it.

Jan. 13 2011 12:53 PM
Howard from Bronx

Educational theory says that self esteem comes from achievement. Focusing on self esteem without it leads to lower self esteem and disappointment and a narrowing of options (I can't do math = I can't be a scientist vs I can get good at math and be a scientist or a musician!

Jan. 13 2011 12:53 PM
PETE from mv

Oh Man...I love these cultural pissing contests this is almost as good as BL's guest touting the advantages of kids raised by lesbians.

Jan. 13 2011 12:52 PM

Nobody is critical of a good work ethic - people are critical of you and your sadism!

Jan. 13 2011 12:52 PM
ic from Montreal, NY, Hawaii

Expectations, discipline compounded by unspoken flow of love and support is really what Asian culture is based on and what builds a strong person internallly. I feel grateful that I was also raised on that and try my best to live up to what my parents gave us with my Eurasian son, so far he seems to be responding to it very well.

Jan. 13 2011 12:51 PM

She just completely sidestepped the issue of pedagogical method and responded as if Leonard had declared unequivocal opposition to hard work. Nice going.

Jan. 13 2011 12:51 PM
office from office

NYU has to fence off the roofs of their dorms, due to suicides. many of them Asian.

Jan. 13 2011 12:49 PM

She just reminded me of a Cosby Show where Theo told his father that he just wasn't good at school and his parents should just love him as he is. After the audience says a collective "Aww" Cosby tells his son, "that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life! No wonder you get D's in everything!" She's right about expectations. I have many friends that would let their kids stop trying (usually math and science) because they just might not be good at it.

Jan. 13 2011 12:49 PM
Flummoxed from Sleepyland

Dear God, more Yale lawyers telling everybody how to live their lives. Now where have I heard this before?

Jan. 13 2011 12:49 PM

You're full of c--p. How is it that Maureen Corrigan didn't pick up on all this irony?

Jan. 13 2011 12:49 PM
L from CT

She seems to be a mother who is simply not conflicted about being strict, not unlike Rose Rock, the mother of Chris Rock, in her own memoir. People who aren't hyper-sensitive can benefit from seeing a new perspective, simply: stand your ground. I have recently "unfollowed" a section of local moms from my twitter feed because there was no benefit to seeing the constant volley of rationalizing and approval seeking. My parents were similarly frank and strict (and I am grateful)and I do not relate to the insecure "parenting by committee" that seems to run rampant here.Parents give lip service to "peer pressure" that children and teens face, but blogs, twitter feeds, and local events are rampant w/ mothers who seem eager for support for their choices or their shortcomings. In return, children are sometimes not presented w/ solid authority figures that can parent with conviction (my mother has been a nanny for thirty years- we have seen this many times).

Jan. 13 2011 12:46 PM
Katie O'Connell from Queens

After hearing and reading so much about Ms. Chua's new parenting book I was struck by one thought:
Now I know why there are so few great American actors of Asian descent! And why there are so many Asian musical prodigies.

Big whoop!

Yes, children can be coerced into doing anything, and denied access to specific activities by parents and therefore not experience them. So, seriously, what is new or exciting or even controversial about Ms. Chua's observations? All she has done is shine a light on a coercive and shaming parenting model. She can neither defend it as positive nor dismiss it as harmless.

My parenting advice couldn't fill a book:
Be worthy of their imitation.

Love your show Leonard!
Kate O'Connell
RN nursing student, Queensborough Community College, Bayside, Queens.

Jan. 13 2011 12:35 PM
Sue from North Salem, NY

Everything in moderation. (Including moderation.)

Jan. 13 2011 12:21 PM

One more thing, if your kids have no free time because they are working all the time they would never listen to shows like this and learn what's going in the world. My wife is from Asia and she has had many Asian coworkers that were very intelligent people but had no idea what was happening in the world (politics, war, science, etc) unless it pertained to their career. How does this help the world get better? This view is only about enriching yourself. Look at Wall Street and the financial crisis if you want to see the results

Jan. 13 2011 12:19 PM
Mr. Bad from NYC

There is such a deep sense of inferiority pouring out of every page of this book you have to feel bad for this woman and even worse for her kids. Chua is right to criticize the selfish, lackadaisical and undisciplined parenting common in this country but replacing it with the fascist strain is equally as bad, and entirely self serving. This book is going to star in a "where are they now" doc in ten years ... LOL

Jan. 13 2011 12:13 PM
JT from LI

@RJ from 07078
Having discipline implies having a choice. From what I've read of her book it seems that her children had no choice. It seems that she even deprived them of simple pleasure of socializing with friends, listening to music or seeing movies because there was no medal to be won. I want my children to succeed but I also want them to enjoy their lives. That doesn't mean partying, drinking, etc.

Jan. 13 2011 12:11 PM

every immigrant group has had its obstacles to overcome - europeans can also be brow-beaters - but child abuse, rote learning and autocracy do not make problem-solving minds or caring hearts. My family's younger generation abounds with kindly raised children who are very accomplished and do well - and most importantly are decent, kind, thoughtful, creative people. I believe this is from parental modeling.They were offered support for their interests, and found guidance with their natural inclinations - they were allowed to excel and to learn from their failures*. They were allowed to enjoy learning and challenges - and taught to share. A psychiatrist once told my parents that if they wanted to see changes in their designated problem child, they would have to make those changes in themselves. * Winston Churchill said (paraphrase) success is the ability to go from failure to failure and not lose hope. Say what you will about America - you cannot argue with our creativity.

Jan. 13 2011 12:06 PM
Denise from Westwood, NJ

I respect the expectation of strength and excellence, but I am baffled by the narrowness of the permitted activities. For instance, why only piano or violin? Aside from depriving her children of the opportunity to excel at other endeavors, she is necessarily rejecting instruments, dance, and other artistic expressions from her own heritage and that of her Jewish husband. I think Ms. Chua has excellent points to make, but loses me with details such as this and no playdates.

Jan. 13 2011 11:57 AM


havent you notice the frat boys now run the world???

Jan. 13 2011 11:49 AM
RJ from 07078

I am an Indian American(first generation immigrant), and i can only wish i am able to do what she could. I come from an over crowded country, where we had to fight for every little opportunity, and only excelling in education was a sure fire way to get to where we wanted to get to. And learning classical music and dance was part of being cultured and upper class. this sentiment comes with us to our new country and we try to get into the keeping up with the Jones spiral. here the Jones are others from our ethnic background.
This is where i come from and i still feel, to have an edge in life, we need to push ourself and have the work discipline to achieve what we set out to. This same discipline get these kids into the best universities. and hence Asians are the most successful minority group in the US. they have the highest median income too. Yes there are always exception, there are kids who have been pushed over the edge and have snapped, and yes not all Asian kids have gone on to achieve greatness, but in todays Topsy turvy economy, they are more equipped with providing for their families than those than who spent their teenage years partying, dating, drinking. and that is just my opinion.

Jan. 13 2011 08:16 AM
George from Bay Ridge

As a Chinese-American born in New York, I must state my Chinese-born parents were never as strict as Amy Chua's description. Is there a generation gap in parenting styles among Chinese parents?

Do Chinese-Americans raise children using a mix of Asian and western beliefs?

What are the downsides of such forms of "intense" parenting?

Why are sporting activities not as emphasized as strongly as academics or music?

Jan. 13 2011 04:23 AM

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