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Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior – My Response To The WSJ Article

January 14, 2011

You’ve likely heard about Amy Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. According to Mrs Chua, Westerners are lax on raising their children. Ms. Chua would never allow her children to:

• attend a sleepover

• have a playdate

• be in a school play

• complain about not being in a school play

• watch TV or play computer games

• choose their own extracurricular activities

• get any grade less than an A

• not be the No. 1 student in every subject except gym and drama

• play any instrument other than the piano or violin

• not play the piano or violin.

My family climbing into our green Ford van on the way to my solo French Horn performance as part of the Utah Valley Symphony Young Artists series--I'm the nervous 13-year-old wearing a bow tie.

I grew up in a musical home. Not practicing was not an option. My mom even wrote a book about her experiences raising eight musical children–how to get your children to practice (a book which has sold thousands and thousands of copies over the years.) Here’s my own list of things I will be eternally grateful to my parent’s for:

• making me practice even when I was kicking the piano–looking back it was a great way to learn discipline

• practicing with me until I was disciplined enough to practice on my own

• when I expressed a real interest in art at the age of 13, my parents didn’t let me quit music. they made me continue for another year to prove my interest in art wasn’t just a fleeting distraction.

• when the time came, they fostered my new interest by finding an art teacher to replace my music teacher

• my parents always encouraged me in my interests. when friends and their parents expressed doubts in my future as an artist, my parents were solidly supportive

• the whole time, my parents let me have a normal “Western” childhood (well, a normal childhood without an atari or a nintendo:))

Okay, so I’m not going to call my kid “fatty” or “lazy” in order to get them to perform, but there are three things I solidly agree with: 1. kids would rather play than work, 2. they won’t really know the joy of a discipline until they’re really good at it, 3. if they are ever going to be really good, parents have to provide motivation to get them through the hard times.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. mary reeder permalink
    January 14, 2011 9:56 am

    I cannot imagine my life as a child without my art classes in New York. It was my anchor. Now as an adult I cannot imagine not teaching art. I feel very sorry for these narrow minded and strict approaches.

  2. Mike burns permalink
    January 14, 2011 10:38 am

    So true! There is a balance between freedom and discipline that is tough to strike, but crucial to attempt.

  3. Michelle Jones permalink
    January 14, 2011 3:00 pm

    I want your moms book. 🙂

  4. January 14, 2011 4:02 pm

    I had to go read that article after reading this post. I thought this was interesting, “Western parents worry a lot about their children’s self-esteem. But as a parent, one of the worst things you can do for your child’s self-esteem is to let them give up. On the flip side, there’s nothing better for building confidence than learning you can do something you thought you couldn’t.” I think this is true. I need to consider all of these things more. It seems related to the recent conference talk on courageous parenting.

    I’d like to know more about you, and your family.

  5. Stephen Thomas permalink
    January 14, 2011 7:33 pm

    Wait…you were kicking the piano all that time I was teaching you? (I’m glad it wasn’t my piano).

    I posted a long response to this article on David Winters’ FB thread (you can go there if you care to read it).

    I just wanted to say here that I agree with your response…and with what I knew of your parents’ style of parenting. I think it qualified as what is often called “authoritative” as opposed to “authoritarian.” You might have seen the article on parenting styles that discusses the difference between the two in the BYU Magazine a while back: http://magazine.byu.edu/print.php?a=1236

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re a disciplined, but independent and innovative artist as a result (at least in part) of the parening you received. I’m not sure that would have resulted from the purely “superior” Chinese approach Amy Chua outlines.

  6. Emily permalink
    February 3, 2011 10:45 pm

    Wow! Where did you dig up that beauty of a photo?

    This is the response to the article I wrote on FB:

    Well, I agree that American parents are lazy (i.e. children video gaming indicates lazy parenting). I agree that you shouldn’t allow a child to give up. Children are capable of much more than we generally expect. I want to be able to work with my children on their practicing and academics. That is my goal but it’s true it requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice, which most American parents won’t do. Most Western parents send their kids to school just to get them out of their hair.

    However, I disagree with the notion that a child is a failure if he is not better than everyone else. That is just sad to me. And sad to think of children suffering under that impossible expectation.

    I also disagree with trying to motivate a child by calling them names or demeaning them. I know that kind of motivation would never have worked on me. I thrived under a violin teacher that expected a lot from me but quickly learned that chastising me too harshly would render me unable to function. I worked VERY hard to earn praise from him and accomplished much more that way

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