What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children on their own never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences. This often requires fortitude on the part of the parents because the child will resist; things are always hardest at the beginning, which is where Western parents tend to give up. But if done properly, the Chinese strategy produces a virtuous circle. Tenacious practice, practice, practice is crucial for excellence.... and some not-so-good parts.
A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many math whizzes and music prodigies, what it's like inside the family, and whether they could do it too. Well, I can tell them, because I've done it. Here are some things my daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to do:My daughter is just now starting to turn the corner in soccer. When we work out, she understands why she needs to work on a particular part of her game and she works harder and wants to stay at it longer than I do. She's showing the attitude and tenacity she needs to reach her goal which is to play on a high school team. However, she chose soccer, not me. I let her choose her passion, but I'm not letting her be mediocre at it and not letting her quit. I'm particularly happy that she chose something that helps her have a better social life - one where she does something as a group with other girls her own age.
- 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
Pushing her to do well in soccer has been difficult enough. I've had to drive home the concept that Amy Chua makes above about success leading to fun, but I tried to do it so she would get to the point where she chose to practice. I can't imagine how hard this task would be if I had forced her into something she didn't want to do or didn't have the talent to do.
In the end, I want her to know how to make her own choices, do what she loves, but not accept mediocrity. I'm not sure I can get there with Amy Chua's techniques.