08 January 2012

BOOK:Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

If you’re an Asian, tiger mothers have been all around us. The pinnacle of Asians is to have sons or daughters equipped with university degrees is widely acknowledged. Academic success is the measure of how Asian parents succeed in bringing up their children. However, who defines Asians as Asians?

What as some the Westerners believe, Asians are not just Chinese. And to some extent, it is annoying for the Asians to look some Caucasians who referred all Asians as those with slanted eyes only. Indians have by far one of the largest eyes any human can have. And the eyes are very pretty- Aishwarya Rai and Madhuri Dixit can show you how beautiful their eyes are. Don’t think that Asians are short too- we have Yao Ming. The giants of Asia, for example Japan, China and India have influenced the world both economically and politically. This has caused implications to the smaller and less famous countries like Malaysia and Indonesia- they are also associated with the Western notion of Asians that are- Chinese looking, underdeveloped and of course, the slanted eyes.

However, most typical Asians have one thing in common- the style of parenting. This parenting style is what has been portrayed as a parenting memoir of the famous and controversial Amy Chua in her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. The subject of Chinese parenting has been described as ‘harsh’ and this has been true for most Asian parenting styles. Although the Chinese parenting is somehow very much related and coherent with those of Malay or Indian or any other Asian parentings, Amy Chua is wise enough not to group them in the same definition. Asians are too diverse to be grouped in the same parenting style.

The subject of this Asian parenting style is somewhat homogenous in China, Taiwan, South Korea and probably Japan. This probably has been the result of near-homogenous society. In Confucian China, filial piety is very much practiced and Amy Chua could not be truer when she said that Chinese parents feel that their children ‘owe’ them as the parents are the ones who rise up their children. The Malays feel the same thing to.

This concept of filial piety is not just embedded in North Asian parents but is a commandment of Allah SWT to the Muslims. Malaysians and Indonesians which have large Muslim populations are somehow in the same culture and practise as those of their Chinese counterparts in their tradition of obeying the parents. Muslims must adhere to what the parents ask them to do except in conditions where the parents ask the children to do something that is against the teaching of Islam.

However, I can speak from experience that the contemporary Malay parenting style is somehow affected by the Chinese students’ performance in schools. When the highly-performed Chinese students are the top ones in schools, Malay parents always push their children to excel on par with the Chinese as well. This trend can be seen during the 1990s till now. In some ways, the Chinese parenting style has affected the Malays educate their children and this is of course, very distinctive in urban areas where competitions between ‘your child’ and ‘my child’ are the subjects of coffee talk among mothers. Tuition centres have become the new playground.

Indians have also been famous for producing top engineers, IT experts and billionaires. There is this belief among Malaysians that an Indian family should have a doctor, a lawyer and an engineer in the family. However, this has led to another serious problem in Asia- pursuing parents’ dreams instead of pursuing own passions. A Bollywood movie, 3 Idiots which is a massive hit among the Bollywood-obsessed Malays put in the limelight of the situations in Asia about the way Asian parents force their child to take highly-paid jobs instead of letting them choose their own interests.

Amy Chua’s A Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is the best parenting memoir that cuts across the culture and although there are lots of self-boasting and self-crediting, the book should be applauded for its bravery in bringing an important message that transcends all parenting styles- children are not easy to be raised.-The Chukai Insider

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