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.” 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.”
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).” 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.
 Amy Chua, The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 63.
 Ibid., 101.
 Ibid., 98.