New strict parenting book has some Utah moms buzzing

Published: Sunday, Jan. 16 2011 1:03 a.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Imagine raising your kids with no play dates, TV, sleepovers or extracurricular activities — while expecting nothing less than straight A's in school.

One mother adhered to that strict style of parenting. Her new book, "Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother," has other moms buzzing.

“I think you miss out on a lot if you were just to come home from school and do homework and be on the piano, you wouldn't be as fun as a person," said Ashlie Bundy, a mother of three.

Since the book only came out this week, Bundy and other moms we talked to hadn’t read the book yet, but many have read excerpts explaining that so called "Chinese moms" raise stereotypically successful kids not because Asian kids are naturally smart, but because the mothers demand — and expect — excellence above all else.

"Western" style parenting, the author says, often defaults to what the children want, rather than what is best for them.

"People aren't born good at math. Almost everything, the Chinese believe, comes down to hard work," said the author, Amy Chua, a Yale law professor who says this is how she raised her two daughters. Her children were expected to get all A's and practice their musical instruments two hours a day, even on weekends and vacation.

 But it's not how many Utah moms plan to raise their children.

"I think it's awesome if people can do that, but being realistic I think they need a little bit of play time in there for their social skills," said Kathryne Mangum, a mother of three.

"That doesn't work so good for us. It's important to be strict with them and let them know your expectations, but I think a balance is good," Bundy said.

Developing social skills and having fun are important things for children, according to these mothers.

One mom said she fears if she took TV or computer time away from her son, which he is allowed after his studies, it would ruin their relationship.

"I think that it would be a fight to get his homework done. We would be arguing all the time to get his homework done," said Jennifer Rasmussen.

Chua does admit in the book that there are conflicts in raising kids in the so called Chinese traditional way. When her younger daughter rebelled at the age of 13, Chua described her home as a "war zone," but eventually there were compromises — and little regrets.

"Well, if I had changed anything, then I wouldn't be who I was. So I wouldn't like that!" laughs Lulu Chua, the younger daughter.

"I wish I hadn't been so harsh with them," her mother said. "But if I had to do it all over again, I think I would basically do the same thing."

As for these moms, there will be TV time, computer time and play dates. And they say they won't demand perfection in everything.

"You're only a child once, and I think you want to squeeze them and love them while you can, and have fun with them," Bundy said.

"Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom" is currently ranked No. 1 on Amazon.com for Asian American Studies.

E-mail: abutterfield@desnews.com

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