While reading Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I really felt it related to my African cultural context. I grew up in an authoritarian social structure where age and gender-related expectations and values that have been taught are strictly enforced. Similar to Chinese Culture, children in my culture have little or no say in the day-to-day family life, for adults define parameters of conduct and behavioral norms. Unlike Chinese culture, most parents where I grew up give precedence to household chores over studies, so it is a struggle for children to balance household chores and studies. In African culture, similar to Chinese, children are taught to respect and defer to authority figures. Failure to comply is not limited to the punishment of the household but sometimes includes the community at large. Thus, though it is the responsibility of parents to raise their children, the community or the dominant culture play a major role in shaping the children life.
Coming from this background and currently living as an immigrant in the United States, I find Chua’s work a thought provoking and insightful case study in Chinese culture. I truly admire the author for her bravery to passionately impart her family story. Being a first-generation Chinese-American she knows both cultures and presents a sharp comparison of Chinese parenting versus the Western style of parenting. It is interesting that she chose to raise her two daughters in a strict Chinese immigrant culture as oppose to the Western style of parenting. Unlike many immigrants’ kids I know who reject their parent’s culture, Chua chose to revere her Chinese heritage and set up strict rules for her girls to follow. She said, “she never allowed her daughters to: attend a sleepover, have a playdate, be in a school play, complain about not being in a school play, watch TV or play computer games, choose their own extracurricular activities, get any grade less than an A, not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama, play any instrument other than the piano or violin, not play the piano or violin.”(pp, 3-4). Chua’s parenting methods were apparently culturally acceptable and believed to be producing academically and in piano/violin successful kids. Fortunately, it is not a parenting manual for others. Her family story is a great reminder that parenting varies from culture to culture and at the core of every parting there is the desire to pass down cultural values that shaped their identities. Every parent wishes the best for their children and Chua’s story eloquently demonstrates what a carrying mother can do.
Another lesson from the author is that with the intention to prove the superiority of Chinese parenting over the Western style she heavily criticizes and makes sweeping generalizations. In my opinion, I think judging others using our cultural values will inhibit us from recognizing and appreciating the good in other cultures. I believe we can certainly learn from each other’s ways of parenting. The same lesson can be drawn for leading ministry in cultures different than ours. Instead of simply focusing on the shortcomings, we can choose to focus what we can learn from each other for our ministry context. One of the reason why cross-cultural relationships, whether it is in the family or ministry, often get stuck is when partners undermine their unique differences and fail to recognize other’s ways of leading or parenting as legitimate. This is not easy, as it challenges us to seek to understand things from the point of view of others. It is a humbling process, where listing and discerning are important spiritual traits to find common ground within cross-cultural families and ministry partners.