The Most Important Parenting Book of the Decade

Battle Hymn of the Tiger MotherAmy Chua’s little memoire on parenting, BATTLE HYMN OF THE TIGER MOTHER, is both fascinating and controversial. I read the Time magazine article and immediately downloaded the book to the Kindle app on my iPhone. I then read the entire book in two evenings with rapt enthusiasm.

The fact that it is so well written, interesting, and easy to digest means it will be widely read. Most parenting books have a limited appeal, which stunts their impact. This book, however, will undoubtedly have a much bigger audience and a correspondingly larger influence.

The fact that it is so provocatively written ensures it will incite debate. The sides of the debate as defined by Ms. Chua are “Western” vs. “Chinese” ways of raising children. As in every dialectic of thesis vs. antithesis, the truth or synthesis is somewhere in the middle, as Ms. Chua partially and reluctantly concedes by the end of the book.

What may be overlooked amidst all the hype are the many important concepts about raising successful children in a modern context that Ms. Chua highlights, sometimes inadvertently.

First, is that affluence can be a handicap when it comes to raising kids. This might seem counterintuitive while reading about all luxuries that Ms. Chua and her family enjoy. However, Ms. Chua knows how intoxicating and ambition-dulling the effects of wealth can be on the children of the very successful. This book is as much an antidote to second and third generation complacency as anything else. It’s an important concept even for those without an Ivy League pedigree.

Second, is that hard work and discipline are essential to success. This is true regardless of the venue. With books like OUTLIERS and GAME ON touting the magic of ten thousand hours as the key to success, who can doubt the age-old adage that “practice makes perfect.”

Finally, is that children eventually have to take command of their own success. The goal of parenting is not to raise large children, but independent adults. This requires the gradual granting of autonomy. If autonomy isn’t carefully measured out, it will eventually be wrested away, or — even worse — never gained at all.

The biggest mistake anyone could make after reading this book is to get too fixated on the details of Ms. Chua’s child-rearing techniques. Every parent makes mistakes. It was brave of her to document her own for the world to read. In most cases, the opposite of parental love is not hate, but apathy. No one can accuse Ms. Chua of being apathetic.

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