Written by Rachel Wang and Claire Yu
On the evening of May 11, 2019, throngs of people gathered in the auditorium of Thomas Wootton High School to attend an event titled “From the Tiger Mom’s Mouth: Reflections on Parenting, Career, and Being a Perpetual Outsider.” They were there to listen to Amy Chua, a child of Asian immigrants, widely known as the first “tiger mom” and for her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
Afterwards, the JRC had a unique opportunity to conduct an in-depth interview with Amy Chua, who spoke about her reflections on the Asian American culture and various other modern philosophies.
After a hearty dinner, the CAPA JRC sat down with Chua in the living room for the casual interview. The reporters each briefly introduced themselves, starting off with particular parenting questions, such as the preferred advice given to parents hoping to “open up” a hardworking, yet shy child. Chua addressed the questions in a multifaceted manner, illustrating the impacts of certain decisions in many different lights. Being a “tiger mom” with years of educated parental experience, Chua had a lot to offer in answer.
Chua’s main point was the urge for a parent to set a proper model. “Children,” she says, “naturally have the instinct to imitate, with some perspective.” Thus, as a parent, it is logically a responsibility for them to limit improbable events by setting a reality stage. To elaborate, Chua presented the example of the typical “rock band” anecdote. “Every teenage kid I knew wanted to be in a rock band,” Chua explained, “though most failed, and proceeded into further depression.” Chua’s theory is that most kids viscerally have the urge to emulate their surrounding peers, and it is an additional help for parents to understand when to cut in with their child’s reality. Chua believes that she would be the mom to blatantly state “I don’t think you have any musical, rock-band talent,” as a wake-up call to her child. The “rock band” dream illustrates a child’s need to “not follow the herd,” and to also highlight the importance of certain needs for parental interference.
Additionally, Chua found there to be “some really smart things” about people who appear to be introverted, and thinks that it is better to just “be yourself”. Chua shared that she had been through multiple stages in her life “trying to be somebody else” and that it took her many years to finally get “comfortable with [herself]” and take pride in her own Chinese heritage. Although this was useful to her, Chua emphasized that every child is unique and that each of them should have some “basic pride” in who they are.
When asked about how Chua herself viewed the image of “tiger mom” on the Asian parenting style, Chua expressed a reluctant answer. “I think, it’s had more of a negative impact, in general,” she says, “because many people don’t understand the underlying meaning beneath ‘tiger mom’.” Chua believes that many people don’t grasp the understanding of her relationship with her daughters. “The difference between Asian parents and American parents is the Asian parents’ constant push for their child to reach their fullest potential.” Chua described one’s child having the same impact as oneself, connecting the improvement of the child to the simultaneous enhancement of the parent. Thus, Chua states that an Asian parent’s method of expressing their care for their child is to constantly push and develop them to become a better person, as compared to the Western method of “having fun” and “seeking passions.”
When moving on to the topic of childhood experiences, the JRC questioned Chua about the way her parents treated her at home as the “oldest of four”. Chua said that she is sure that she “got it the worst” compared to her three younger sisters, and that the four of them often debate over this claim. Chua listed out the many things her “old-fashioned” parents prohibited her from doing as a teenager, such as wearing certain clothes or going to parties. Her mother was Catholic, thus holding “the most conservative views”. During her teenage years, Chua “had to lie” to her parents and did multiple risky things behind their backs. Once, Chua rode on a “motorcycle with some girl”, which she now realizes that she could have lost her life. As she knew how her parent’s way of bringing her up had affected her, Chua was determined to make altercations with her own children, since she felt that it would be “better” for them not to feel the need to hide anything from her.
Pressure and Stress
The reporters were also curious about how Chua deals with pressure. When asked, Chua replied that she is not the best when put in stressful situations. For instance, when she was writing essays in college, Chua would frequently have writer’s block and get into “self-destructive modes” at times. Additionally, Chua told the JRC that she spent an “entire week” preparing for her discussion at Wootton. Chua’s only way of handling pressure is “starting things in advance” and “being very organized”. She stated that “you have to know yourself” first to find your own solution to pressure and stress.
After the interview concluded, the CAPA reporters took home many valuable life lessons and inspiration from Amy Chua. The JRC said their thanks and goodbyes to Chua as she headed to her hotel. Chua then immediately returned to her home in New Haven on Mother’s Day to spend some quality time with her visiting daughter Lulu.
Amy Chua is a reflection of the ultimately strong, persevering tiger mother. She is an accomplished woman who illustrates the important core of family in the Asian culture. Her relentless attitude that had motivated her children toward success is what highlights the powerful bond of an exceptional mother.
This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.