Yale Law School professor Amy Chua spoke about her controversial memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother last Saturday at Campbell Hall, relating her shift from a strict and demanding mother espousing traditional Chinese parenting methods to cultivating Western ideals of individualism.
Chua’s lecture shed light on the obstacles and revelations presented during the austere upbringing of her daughters Sophia and Lulu, which involved enforcing piano and violin practices for several hours a day and forbidding most social activities. Sharing her opinions and personal accounts, Chua emphasized that the book is not necessarily a guide to child discipline but a reflection on her own experiences of trial and error as a parent.
During the lecture, Chua related the example of Lulu’s struggle with math, a subject in which she first received poor grades before studying incessantly to overcome the challenge it presented. Chua said such experiences allowed her daughters to develop into stronger, happier people by teaching them to successfully overcome obstacles at a young age.
“Even though I had lots of complaints when I was little, today I adore my parents,” Chua said. “Looking back, I would say that my parents’ having high expectations is the greatest gift that anyone has ever given me, and that’s why I wanted to raise my children Sophia and Lulu that way.”
However, Chua said misconceptions about her beliefs arose because people often cited the first two-thirds of the book out of context. The last portion of Battle Hymn describes her adjustment to a more moderate parenting style after a major fight with Lulu jeopardized their relationship.
“At that moment, I changed cold turkey,” Chua said. “It’s weird; I suddenly saw things differently. [I thought,] ‘Oh my gosh, I might actually lose my daughter.’”
Describing the rationale behind her extreme parenting style, Chua said Western parents’ inclination to boost their children’s self-esteem through praise backfires once they face the harsh realities of adult life.
Corinna Rover, who attended the lecture, said overcoming obstacles at a younger age builds confidence for later endeavors, and Chua’s examples reveal the power of determination.
“What I found particularly interesting is the example about when you absolutely feel that you can’t achieve something and then you overcome this point and, suddenly, you are able to do something that you didn’t think you could,” Rover said. “I think that really helps in the future.”
Second-year global studies major Connie Chu said the thought-provoking lecture and Chua’s accounts of personal failure and self-deprecating humor left her with a significantly different impression of the author than she had after hearing popular criticism of the book.
Alex Ung, a second-year political science major, said the event changed his original opinion of the author.
“I really enjoyed coming here,” Ung said. “Prior to coming here, I had a lot of misconceptions. But after listening to her, I’ve come to appreciate her methodologies.”