'Tiger Mom' Didn't 'Expect This Level of Intensity'

Amy Chua says her controversial book was not meant as a parenting how-to guide.

ByABC News
January 26, 2011, 10:55 AM

Jan. 26, 2011— -- Cruel and abusive or simply tough love? That has been the continuing controversy surrounding author Amy Chua.

Her self-proclaimed mantra, laid out in her bestselling book, "Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother," includes telling her daughters no play dates, no sleepovers, no school plays; and no whining about no school plays.

It has created a firestorm on mommy blogs since it was published and excerpted in her Wall Street Journal editorial headlined "Chinese Mothers Are Superior."

"I didn't expect this level of intensity," she said. "The book, of course, it's not a how-to guide, it's really about my own journey and transformation as a mother."

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote on its China Real Time Report blog that, "although Ms. Chua has since pointed out that she offers a much more nuanced take on parenting in the book itself, the debate around the excerpt continues to rage, attracting nearly 7,500 comments and counting."

From the fierce backlash, Chua said she has received death threats and people have posted personal attacks about her on the Internet.

"People saying terrible things about my kids, wishing bad things on my family," she said. "I guess it's just so personal for everybody."

Even other Chinese mothers have gone as far as to say that Chua's book is giving them all a bad name, and making them look like horrible, cold parents, or "dragon moms."

Others said that U.S.-born Chua, whose Chinese ethnic parents emigrated from the Philippines, should not be representing "Chinese" parents, according to the Journal.

"I'm sad about that, and I'm also a little puzzled," Chua said. "The last third of the book is ... it's not a tiger ... it's a crying little rabbit... At the end, I'm saying, 'Listen to your child and if they are crying out for you, this isn't working. You have to stop."

Chua said she was taken aback by how people have reacted to the book and continue to ruthlessly criticize her parenting skills.

"I didn't intend to be a criticism of other people," she said. "I can see that so many people get to great places so many different ways. You know, lenient parents, strict parents, Western parents, Eastern parents."

One of the most controversial excerpts from the book was when Chua wrote how she rejected a Mother's Day card that Sophia, one of her daughters, had given her when she was a kid.

Amy Chua Talks About the Mother's Day Card Incident

Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, now 18, defended her mother's reaction in a recent New York Post article, saying, "Let's face it, the card was feeble and I was busted. If I had actually tried my best at something, you'd never throw it back in my face."

"Never, never," Amy Chua said. "Both of my daughters know that, that if they really, really put their best effort, then that's good enough for me."

But in her book, Chua repeatedly mentioned that an "A-minus is not acceptable," and wrote that she refused to let her daughters quit piano or violin for a long time, all of which Chua defended.

"You have to realize that the book is a little bit self-parody," she said. "I experienced that as a kid. ... I do believe in excellence, or trying for excellence. I do. You know, but I think you can be excellent at anything."

Through her reflections and the journey of writing the book, Chua said she came away from it with a sense that she was "over confident" as a mother and offered advice to other parents, based on her experiences.