Tiger Mother's child-raising tips have women up in arms, but should set tills ringing

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 January, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 January, 2011, 12:00am

You have to hand it to Amy Chua and her publicists at Penguin. On the eve of releasing the US academic's new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, someone had the genius idea of running a highly provocative column, 'Why Chinese mothers are superior', an excerpt from the book, in The Wall Street Journal. And, sure enough, it unleashed a storm across America, causing soul-searching and an outpouring of hate and doubt against Chua. That should sell some serious copies.

The controversy can now qualify as the Chua Affair, as the debate has spread far and wide around the world, with many people in print, on the internet and in the blogosphere defining their parental philosophy as being pro- or anti-Chua. Not bad for a column that is barely one-week old.

The point Chua, a law professor at Yale, makes is that Chinese mothers' harsh method of child-rearing - a highly regimental upbringing of all study and no play - for example, no play dates, no computer games and no sleepovers - produce superior and accomplished children far more often than the touchy-feely variety favoured by Western mothers. As one commentator puts it: 'Forget potty training; this is Pol Potty training. Ruthless, rote-learning and hell-bent on world domination.'

It appears Chua and some of her friends are highly skilled at ruining a party. Chua relates with glee how she upset everyone at a party by admitting she once called one of her daughters 'garbage' because she was being disrespectful. In her previous book, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, she wrote of how a friend, Mei Lan, almost got lynched after pronouncing loudly at a New York party shortly after September 11, 2001, that America had it coming because 'the world hates you'.

Hmm ... I guess Chua and her friend don't get invited to too many parties.