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Daughters of demanding 'Tiger Mom' Amy Chua open up about their childhood

The two daughters of 'Tiger Mom' Amy Chua, whose best-selling book advocated for demanding parenting, have opened up about their childhood.
/ Source: TODAY

Five years after Yale law professor Amy Chua became a polarizing figure as the perfection-demanding "Tiger Mom," her two daughters are speaking out about what their childhood was like under her stratospheric expectations.

Critics claimed Chua's iron-fisted approach would be damaging to her two girls, but it turns out that Sophia, 23, and Lulu, 20, have turned out just fine, according to the type of standards outlined in Chua's 2011 best-seller "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." The book suggested Chinese mothers tend to raise more successful children because of strict, cultural tendencies.

Lulu is in her second year studying art history at Harvard, while Sophia has finished an undergraduate degree at Harvard and is currently a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army who is working toward her graduate law degree at Yale.

“Everyone talks about my mother threatening to throw my toys on the fire, but the funny thing is that was not a major memory. I remember my childhood as happy,” Sophia told The Telegraph. “I am not scared of my mom and never have been. It was my dad (law professor Jed Rubenfeld) who I was much more afraid of disappointing. It was always unequivocally clear in my mind that my parents were on my side, no matter what. They did have high expectations of me, but because they had the confidence that I could do amazing things.”

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Lulu admitted that while her childhood was trying at times, it ultimately was rewarding.

“I think I had a tough childhood, but a happy one,” Lulu told The Telegraph. “I was playing up to six hours of violin a day and it was too much. However, when I rebelled because it was putting too much of a strain on me, my mom could easily have given up on me. If I did poorly in a test, she did not let me lie in bed and wallow. She’d tell me I needed to get up and study to get a better mark so I would feel better. She pushed me when I needed it.”

Chua advocated for pushing children hard in order to build a foundation for success later in life.

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"But maybe we can pull — you know, learn a little something, too,'' Chua said on TODAY in 2011. "A little harder on early child — I don't know if 'drilling''s the right word, but sort of hard work, building the basic skills early on, not being so afraid that our kids are just going to crack if we're a little hard on them. You know, it's just finding that balance."

However, now that her children are adults, Chua is not involved in every aspect of their lives.

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“My mom feels she has done her job, so she does not hover over my life in the way some of my friends’ parents do,” Lulu said.

Sophia feels there are some positive takeaways from her mother's approach.

“I don’t think what we should take from tiger parenting that every kid needs to become a violin prodigy or get into Harvard,” she said. “But when it comes to smaller issues like, ‘You won’t get every toy you want until your grades improve,’ or ‘You can’t quit the team because you lost two games in a row,’ then I believe tiger parenting does have its place.”

Follow writer Scott Stump on Twitter.