Tiger Mothers or Elephant Mothers?

Yale Law Professor Amy Chua's recent paean to what she describes as the Chinese "tiger" style of mothering has stirred debate worldwide. But do we really want to live in a world of solitary tigers who have been rigorously trained to think only of themselves?

MELBOURNE – Many years ago, my wife and I were driving somewhere with our three young daughters in the back, when one of them suddenly asked: “Would you rather that we were clever or that we were happy?”

I was reminded of that moment last month when I read Amy Chua’s Wall Street Journal article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior,” which sparked more than 4,000 comments on wsj.com and over 100,000 comments on Facebook. The article was a promotional piece for Chua’s book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which has become an instant bestseller.

Chua’s thesis is that, when compared to Americans, Chinese children tend to be successful because they have “tiger mothers,” whereas Western mothers are pussycats, or worse. Chua’s daughters, Sophia and Louise, were never allowed to watch television, play computer games, sleep over at a friend’s home, or be in a school play. They had to spend hours every day practicing the piano or violin. They were expected to be the top student in every subject except gym and drama.

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