Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

When my friends saw me reading this book, they asked if I really want to be a Tiger Mother, to which I reply “I am a Tiger Mum. My son was born in the year of Tiger, not me”.

Jokes aside after reading through this book, I really think I’m not cut out to be a Tiger Mother. I mean a real Tiger Mother, one who uses real strict parenting style. Personally, I didn’t grow up in a strict Chinese parenting style. I mean my parents never pushes us to do anything. They pretty much left us to do what we like, probably also because they have been too busy making ends meet when we were young. But whenever we request to learn somethings, they will allow us to. For example, my Mom brought me for art and ballet lessons when I was really young. I remember I started dancing at the age of 4. The art lesson was even earlier,  I only have very snapshot memories of it. But I wasn’t the arty kind, so I remember I told my Mom that I don’t like to go for art lesson and she left me at it. As for ballet, it was my love for a long time. I danced till my late 20s. However, I wasn’t the best dancer in class. I just manage to pass all my graded exams with a decent grade. I also remember that I requested to learn piano when I saw my sis learning. However, I gave it up when I was 16. Mom nags a bit but pretty much left me to it, although at times she will still nags about the money she spent buying the piano. It was a huge sum considering that we are just making ends meet at that time. My Mom hardly scold me too, I only remember a few times when I did badly for tests and it was due to careless mistakes.

So I was very surprise when Chubby told me that his Mom actually scold him using really nasty words when he was young. Always saying that he was useless and all. I know Chubby must have really hated it (no, he loves his Mom, but cannot appreciate the scolding) and went into a stage of rebellion at some point of time. So I think Chubby had a closer experience of strict “Chinese Parenting” then me.

With that I really think that the Tiger Mother style can only be applied to certain kids with certain personality traits. Some kids like Chubby and the author’s own 2nd daughter wouldn’t adapt well to this kind of parenting. Besides, I’m not an ambitious Mom, I don’t need my kids to live a glamorous life. I just wish that they are doing what they like and find a meaningful purpose in their life. So nope, I’m unlikely going to follow the Tiger Mother style, although there are still some parenting tips that I can pick up from the book. However, I have to agree with the author that this is not a parenting self-help book, but really a memoir. Its a good read of how the dynamics are between the Mom and her two kids.


One thing that really strike a cord in me is her talk about generation decline. In Chinese we always say 富不過三代, which means a wealth will not pass through 3 generations. She put it in a family concept too. According to her the first generation, which is her father, are the immigrants to US. They are not rich so they are very frugal and will ensure that their kids are successful through their strict parenting. The 2nd generation, which is her, are the successful personnel and will be richer. They are still frugal but is not as frugal as their parents. They will occasionally splurge on certain things. While the 3rd generation, which are her kids, are the ones that will enjoyed the fruits of the two generation labor. For example, they will get hard cover books, expect expensive brand name clothes and all. This is the generation that seems to be on the way to doom, which is why she is determined not to let her kids go down that path.

Well, I couldn’t say it applies exactly in my family. We are probably the .5. My grandparents are migrants from China. But they are not highly educated in the first place, which is probably why they ended in Singapore rather than the US. But they do live frugally. So I will say they are the .5. For my parents, they are better educated, but nope they didn’t become the professionals yet. They are the “blue collar” workers and still live frugally. So they are like the 1.5. While my generations are they ones who are more successful. Most of us are professionals, we are slightly richer. However, we are not as frugal as the author herself. So we are the 2.5. But I have to say our kids will be like her kids and maybe even worst.

This is because my kids are the ones who get broad books. Not only that, DVDs, expensive toys and even brand-name wears. Birthday parties are common too. I think because we are working parents so to compensate the time lost with them, we tend to splurge on them.

After reading all these, I’m determined too that I will not let my kids go down that path. I will still get them toys and all, but I will tell myself to control and not splurge. And more importantly to teach them the concept of money. Coincidentally, the boy school is holding a “food fiesta” today. Where his class is tasked to make popcorns and sell them. He may be a little too young to understand much now. But its a first step.

Last month, I also read in YP a very useful tip for his age. As they don’t get pocket money now, one way to teach them to “save” is through using their normal treats as an exchange. For example, if he wants a toy badly, we can say okie we are not eating ice-cream today so as to save for that toy. I have yet to try it on my boy yet. Cause (luckily), there isn’t anything that he wants so badly. But I will keep this in view and apply it when the opportunity comes!

So what’s your view on Tiger Mother and any tips in teaching money concepts to young kids?


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