TODAY   |  March 08, 2014

‘Tiger Mom’ on new book: Teaching kids to focus pays off

Amy Chua, author of the book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” is out with a new book about culture and success, which she wrote with her husband and fellow law professor Jed Rubenfeld.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> this morning on "today's moms," the tiger mom is back with a new book, and there's a new controversy. you may recall, amy chua 's book three years ago advocating strict rules for raising successful children. well, now, she and her husband, fellow yale law professor jed rubenfeld , have written the triple package, how three traits explain the rise and fall of cultural groups in america. and they are both with us. thanks for being here.

>> thanks for having us.

>> first, before we get into the controversy that may or may not be there over the book, explain for us, what is "the triple package" that you see as the key to success in this country?

>> well, you know what, the book is about, it's about how to make it in a tough, increasingly competitive economy, and basically, we show that there are lots of people out there who are instilling in their children -- and the book is about how to instill in every child a sense of exceptional potential and drive and self-discipline. those three things are basically what it comes down to. lots of people are out there doing it, people from all different backgrounds, all different faiths, skin colors. that's what the book's about.

>> so, specifically, a superiority complex, an insecurity, which may sound contradictory to have those two together, and also the impulse control that uyou mentioned or the discipline. this is this triple package.

>> right. what's so interesting is that all of these groups that are doing so well with their children right now, they're simultaneously instilling in their children a sense of exceptionality. you're special, you're destined for great things, but just a dash of, you know, but you haven't done it yet. and to me, this is the exact opposite of, i was just reading about the girl who's suing her parents --

>> yes.

>> -- for a college education . so, "the triple package" mentality is the exact opposite of entitled. because entitled is like, i don't need to prove myself, i'm perfect the way i am, you should pay for me. the triple package mentality is i can do great things, but you know, i owe my parents and i need to work hard and i need to prove myself.

>> need to work hard.

>> i'm not good enough yet.

>> some of the initial criticism before the book came out has dissipated since the book actually came out, but some of the criticism was that you focused on eight groups in the book. now, you said it wasn't only these eight groups or ethnicities that showed a number of these characteristics, but by focusing on those groups, there were even calls of racism. the book was called provocative. those things can be great to sell books, but when we're looking at it, is this about a cultural group teaching their kids things, or is this more about the immigrant experience? because the way i read it -- sorry, this is the world's longest question, but it seemed more about these are traits that people have when they first come to this country, and they're trying to make it, but these traits go away over time .

>> yeah. you have it exactly right. well, first of all, some of the most successful groups in the country are african-american and hispanic americans . so, the idea that the book's racist is ridiculous, but it is in a sense about the immigrant experience, because it's how it's a special set of qualities and outlooks and behaviors that immigrant families often have, although mormons have it, too, and they're not immigrants. but the question is, can we learn from what they have? because it's not biological, it does go away. it's something to do with those cultures and families. can we learn from this?

>> and it tends to go away by essentially the third generation.

>> right.

>> where people don't have the same drive anymore. so, to your point, can this be taught and should we be teaching this to our kids?

>> it actually can be. so, some of the studies that we show in our book is that you can at a very early age instill in children more self-discipline and more focus, which, by the way, studies show has tremendous benefits down the road. like in high school , you have all this high school anxiety, but if you know how to sit and focus, if you've had that instilled in you as a young child it has these big payoffs. and every one of the groups that are doing really well right now, korean americans , vietnamese americans , they do this more with their children at a young age, and so, it absolutely can be translated. it's not -- i mean, that's the whole point, it's very accessible.

>> well, a lot to think about. the book is "the triple package." nice to have you both with us this morning. thank you.

>> thank you.

>> thanks so much.