Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Tiger Mother

Written by: on May 20, 2015


Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother was a fascinating read and really brings to life some key cultural differences in parenting. Her transparent and lively narrative style made reading it a joy. I particularly enjoyed this book because I have had the privilege to teaching seminary classes and intensive training courses on culture for Mexican missionaries being sent out to other countries. One of the “observations” we make when trying to better understand another culture is to study how children are raised, educated, socialized, and disciplined. I wish I had had Chua’s book years ago.

I read much of this book to my wife and relished in her reactions; “You’ve got to be kidding me!” “That’s insane!” “Those poor kids.” “Oh my word!” “What a nut job!” You get the picture. Chua brought up an excellent point to defend her philosophy of parenting, “All decent parents want to do what’s best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.”[1] A phase about cultural differences that I particularly like is, “It’s not better. It’s not worse. It’s just different.” This is a great starting point when evaluating culture. Most differences are just that, “differences”. Once we gain a better perspective and begin to understand the reasoning behind the methodology, we can make better evaluations and judgments. Looking at the success of many Chinese adults that were raised on this style of parenting, it is hard to argue with the results. It is also hard to argue with Chua’s criticism of Western parenting when we look at the condition of so many of our youth. She is quick to point out that, “Western children definitely are no happier than Chinese ones.”[2]

With all the “positive” end results of Chua’s style of parenting, I can honestly say that I would not want to raise my children that way and I am thankful that I was not raised like that, but maybe that is just my Western cultural bent coming out. As I read through this book, I definitely had some objections. As I read Chua’s perspective on parents, I appreciated the respect that is given to parents and elders. I think we could learn a lot from the way many cultures care for aging parents. Where I parted ways with her, was when she said, “when it comes to parents, nothing is negotiable…you owe them everything…you do everything for them (even if it destroys your life).”[3] Scripture tells us that God’s plan is for us to leave our father and mother and be united to our spouse. We don’t abandon our relationship with them or cease to care for them, but our relationship with our spouse supersedes our relationship with them. I have counseled many couple whose marriage was being torn apart by parents and in-laws. I strongly disagree with Chua that, “even if it destroys your life”, you keep doing everything they want you to do.

As I read Chua, I kept wondering how the Chinese parent/child relationship affected a Chinese Christian as they relate to God as Father. Does it lead them to greater devotion and obedience? Do they feel like they have to “perform” well in order to please God? Does it lean toward salvation by works? Does it create more Marthas than Marys? I also wondered how this affects the relationship between church members and pastors/leaders? Do they take on a parental role in the church? I would love to have heard the responses from other cohorts who have international students to see what their response was to the book.

[1] Amy Chua, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 63.

[2] Ibid., 101.

[3] Ibid., 98.

About the Author

Brian Yost

Brian is a husband and father of three. He works with Free Methodist World Missions and is currently serving in Latin America.

6 responses to “Tiger Mother”

  1. Nick Martineau says:

    Thanks Brian…I hope the drive is going well for you.

    I agree with your last line, “I would love to have heard the responses from other cohorts who have international students to see what their response was to the book.”

    How does their parental relationship and their parenting style impact their relationship with God. It would have to be more performance and obedience oriented wouldn’t it? We need an asian in this group to help us. (-:

    It causes good appropriated reflection for us to search for how our own parenting impacts my view with the Father. Thanks for giving me a lot to ponder…Good line of thought Brian.

    • Mary Pandiani says:

      Nick, you made me think about what would happen if a Chinese parent heard these words from Jesus, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) Seems like Jesus does quite a bit of shaking up any culture.

  2. Phillip Struckmeyer says:

    Brian, “I read much of this book to my wife and relished in her reactions; “You’ve got to be kidding me!” “That’s insane!” “Those poor kids.” “Oh my word!” “What a nut job!” You get the picture.” That is so funny! Other than thoroughly enjoying the read myself, telling and reading sections to my wife and kids was the best! I think they share the same vocabulary as your wife. Their reactions were exactly the same. I too appreciate and can respect Chua’s parenting style. I do want the same outcomes, but I definitely prefer a more relational approach that I like to think as “empowering”. I definitely feel the vulnerabilities of the negatives sides of some of the Western extremes, but in our culture and think empowerment is the way to go!

  3. Dave Young says:

    Brian, Like you I really enjoyed the book and feel like it should be a classic when it comes to discerning the depth of cultural differences. I really can’t imagine my parents raising me like this. Even though my parents were what I’d consider very strict regarding obedience to family rules – yet they never had such high expectations of me – nor did my mom invest that kind of time either.

    I appreciated your conclusion that speculated about how chinese would respond to God, would they adapt a performance approach. I imagine they would strive in their relationship with God.

    Glad you’re home safe. Looking forward to HK together.

  4. Travis Biglow says:

    Hey Brian,

    I am with you dont do everything and anything even it kills you to raise your children. Some parents are restricted from that by divorce and visitation rights. They will end up in jail if they dont follow those rules. This is where are culture differs. There are families and homes that are broken up and its hard raising a child under those circumstances. I have had to deal with that years ago. But i understand her point but even though many Chinese are successful what about people in our country who are really successful and come from broken homes? Just a thought. Enjoyed your post! Blessings

  5. Mary Pandiani says:

    Brian – thinking of your background with Latino cultures, I’m reflecting on the value of my students who mostly come from Mexico. They are incredible parents, many under lots of duress. Their kids respect them quite a bit, without the pressure of the Chinese culture that Chua explains. Seems that respect can come in different ways.
    I think it would be fascinating to bring in a variety of cultures and talk about what they see as most valuable in parenting.

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