If Amy Chua, author of the controversial book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, had known about progressive teaching methods, perhaps she could have raised two equally successful daughters without all the drama, an advocate of the Montessori approach believes. 'The majority of the goals espoused for her children are wonderful: self-reliance; belief in oneself; and accomplishment,' says Anne Sawyer, co-founder of the dual language (English-Putonghua) International Montessori School in Hong Kong. 'Most parents would resoundingly agree that these are our hopes for our children.' Where Sawyer differs with the 'tiger mum' is that those goals can be achieved without psychological duress. Instead, the child ought to be shown from an early age how to find their 'own intrinsic motivation and discipline rather than using shame and physical domination'. Achieving moral, social and academic success depends on an ability to control one's own behaviour, rather than having an external motivator - such as a dominant mother - to enforce compliance. 'Belief in a child or another person requires giving them the tools for success, and then the opportunity to attempt, fail and re-attempt,' Sawyer says. 'An example of Ms Chua's approach was her anecdote of her refusal to allow her daughter to stop practising a piano piece through physical and emotional dominance, tears and name-calling until she managed to play it, stating that this showed that she believed in her daughter when her husband did not.' Yet many insist the old-school method achieves the desired results. 'There are other approaches which prove equally, if not more, successful, and which allow for positive parenting,' Sawyer says. 'It is hard to understand the logic of how calling a child 'garbage' might be helpful. Ms Chua, flying in the face of most educational and developmental psychologists, does not appear to believe that self-esteem per se is important to success.' Chua was born and raised in the United States of ethnic-Chinese parents who emigrated half a century ago. Although her book caused a storm in more liberal education circles, it had people lauding how the academic and professional success of many Chinese comes down to a rigid approach to learning. Founded by Dr Maria Montessori in 1907, the child-centred approach to education flew in the face of traditional methods by emphasising a child's self-esteem and individual qualities. Youngsters at Sawyer's school learn to speak, read and write Chinese without the approaches promoted by the 'tiger mums'. 'The work of Sigmund Freud had brought the inner workings of the human mind to the general consciousness of the educated,' Sawyer says. 'It was during this period of great change that Maria Montessori became interested in the development of the child and the way that he or she learns. 'Parents report that Montessori changes the way their children behave and interact. They notice their confidence and observation skills increasing - and the academic [results] speak for themselves.' If most parents in Hong Kong continue to equate success with academic achievement, just as many are convinced that it is possible to have the best of both worlds. 'It is very easy to provide the balance of the discipline of the Asian society when there is, indeed, something to balance,' Sawyer says. 'Perhaps Ms Chua's approach is simply a very personal one.' Not all children are equally gifted, as Chua herself admits, as she has a sister with Down's Syndrome. 'Expecting the best from each child is the Montessori philosophy, which includes determining what each child can achieve, and then setting in place the framework to enable the child to achieve his or her own potential,' Sawyer says.