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Behind the scenes with the "Tiger Mother" and daughters

With all the controversy over Amy Chua’s parenting memoir, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” what do her two daughters think of an upbringing that included mandatory daily music practice, no playdates or sleepovers, lots of criticism and incredible pressure to excel?

Amy Chua supervises piano practice.

NBC News correspondent Rehema Ellis shares her impressions from inside the “Tiger Mother” home.

"I love my mother," both girls told me.  They credit their mother with helping them develop strong study habits, academic and musical skills which they expect will benefit them long into adulthood.

Now, granted, I only spent a few hours with them but, they seemed happy, well-rounded and engaging. I got no sense of tortured "mommy dearest" kids.

The Chua family said "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" is NOT a manual for how other people should raise their children. Chua says she just wanted to tell her "Chinese mother" story.  She adds that it's also a story of how a lot of Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish were raised, too -- and I would add African-American kids of a generation ago.

If it gets people to think about how they're raising their own children and whether they're helping their kids establish foundations for excellence, then the book is certainly worth the read.

Part of Chua’s thinking is if kids spend as much time on academic pursuits as they do on social matters, they would be better students.

Rehema Ellis

"I think Westerners tend to romanticize these play dates and sleepovers a little bit," Chua told me recently when I interviewed her at her home.  "I'm not opposed to any of those things in principle. [But], I think in order to achieve excellence, you really need hard work and discipline," she said.

Hard to argue with that, but surely many will find reason to disagree with Chua's approach to achieving excellence. Some will point to Chua's own admission that her youngest daughter rebelled as evidence that strict parenting alienates children.  

Chua's rebellious daughter was quick to tell me that besides wanting to spend more time with her friends, part of her misbehaving may have been a consequence of being a teenager. Never mind that everybody knows of at least one kid, and probably more, raised in a house with "liberal" rules, and they rebelled, too.  Go figure.  

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As an NBC News correspondent, Rehema Ellis has reported on Hurricane Katrina, the 9-11 attacks, Obama's election and the Haiti earthquake, among many other stories. She lives in New York with her son.