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雨夜相思客

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中国妈妈何以更优越 -- Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (中英文)  

2011-01-14 10:59:02|  分类: 子女 * 教育 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

  下载LOFTER 我的照片书  |
(这篇文章在美国媒体无论是是电视广播还是网路上,都掀起轩然大波,我也是由家里的青少年介绍读了原文,觉得不失是一份有借鉴的文字,故而翻译成中文,以供所有的为人父母者阅读、对比、感受和思考)


中国妈妈何以更优越 -- Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (中英文) - Jennifer - 雨夜相思客  艾米和她的两位女儿

很多人想知道中国父母如何能养育出那么成功的孩子。他们想知道这些父母都做了什么以至于培养出这么多的数学和音乐神童,他们又有一种怎样的家庭。这些人很想知道自己是否也能做到这一点。嗯,我可以告诉他们,因为我已经做到了。这里有一些我的女儿:索菲亚和路易莎永远也不被允许做的事情:

* 在外面过夜

* 有一整天的玩乐

* 参加学校整天的玩乐

* 抱怨说没有参加学校的玩乐

* 看电视或玩电脑游戏

* 选择适合自己的课外活动

* 获得任何 A 以下的成绩

* 不是科目的第一名 (体育和戏剧 科目除外)

* 弹奏乐曲(钢琴或小提琴 除外)

* 不练习钢琴或小提琴。

我笼统使用的这个字眼“中国妈妈”。我知道一些韩国,印度,牙买加,爱尔兰和加纳的父母也同样合格这个称号。相反,我知道有些华裔母亲,几乎都是出生在西方,并不符合这个称谓。我也要用“西方家长”这个术语。这包括形刑种种的西方父母。

当涉及到育儿,似乎是中国人的孩子展示了卓越的学术成就、音乐技能和事业的成功 – 所谓的刻板形象。华尔街日报的克里斯蒂娜崔採访了两位中国移民妈妈,分享他们成长的经历,以及他们如何希望培育自己的孩子。

即使西方的父母觉得他们对孩子严格,那种严厉通常与中国妈妈的标准天差地远。例如,我的西方朋友认为自己让孩子每天花 30 分钟练习乐器是够严格的了,最多不会超过一小时。可对于一个中国母亲,一小时简直太容易了,两三个小时都不是艰难的事。

撇除对文化的成见和过敏,研究显示中西方之间,当谈到中西父母的差异,有着明显的本质的区别。在一项对美国 50 个西方母亲和 48 个中国移民的母亲调查中,几乎 70 %的西方母亲说“强调高分对孩子不好”或“父母需要培育孩子学习的乐趣。”相比之下,约 0 %的中国母亲有同感。相反,绝大多数的中国母亲说,他们相信他们的子女能够成为“最好的”学生,孩子“学习成绩反映了为人父母的成功和失败”,而如果孩子没有在学校出类拔萃则是“问题”所在,父母“没有做好他们自身的工作。”其他研究表明,相对于西方的父母,中国父母大概花约 10 倍的时间检查他们的孩子每天相关的学习活动。相比之下,西方的孩子更多地参与体育运动团队。

华人父母认为,没有任何东西是有趣的,直到你很擅长和掌握自如。任何的掌握自如都需要努力。孩子本身不喜欢辛苦,这就是为什么有时至关重要的为人父母为孩子做出选择。这通常需要为人父母者坚韧不拔的坚持,因为孩子会顽强地抵制,万事开头难,这也是很多西方的父母往往放弃的原因。但是,如果处理得当,中国战略可以产生了一个良性循环。坚持不懈的实践、实践再实践是最终卓越的关键,死记硬背也是美国人低估了的一种功效。一旦孩子开始擅长和运用自如一种东西,无论是数学、钢琴、投球或芭蕾,他或她得到一致好评、赞赏和自我满足。这种自信心的建立,使得一度不太有趣的活动成为乐趣。反过来,这也使得孩子的父母的工作容易得多。

中国的父母可以做西方父母所不能做的。我年少之时,不止一次当我不尊重我的母亲时,我的父亲用我们闽南土语生气地叫我“垃圾”。这种责骂非常管用。我对自己的行为感到可怕和深深的羞愧。但是,这并不损害我的自尊之类的东西。我清楚地知道他对我抱有的期望。我其实并没有觉得自己像一堆毫无价值的垃圾。

中国妈妈何以更优越 -- Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (中英文) - Jennifer - 雨夜相思客刚出生的艾米和她新移民父母

作为一个成年人,我曾经对我的女儿索菲亚做过同样的事情,当她对我非常无礼的时候,用英语骂她垃圾。当我在一次宴会上提到我那样做(对我的女儿),我立刻被排斥。玛西说她太难过了以至于泣不成声,更不得不不得不提早离开宴会。我的朋友苏珊,晚会的主人,试图在留下的客人中为我平反。

中国父母可以做一些似乎不可思议的事情,对西方人来说他们甚至可以采取法律行动,。中国妈妈可以对他们的女儿说,“嘿!胖子!该减肥了。”相比之下,西方家长要蹑手蹑脚围绕这个问题“舞蹈”,用“健康”来引导,永远不会提胖字,而他们的孩子仍然要在结束饮食失调和负面的自我形象治疗之间挣扎。 (我也曾经听到一个西方的父亲祝酒他成年的女儿叫她“美丽,令人难以置信的能力。”后来她告诉我,他父亲虚假的语言让她有一种垃圾的感觉。)

中国的父母可以要求他们的孩子成绩拿全 A 。西方父母只要求他们的孩子尽力就好。中国的父母可以说:“你这懒虫!你所有的同学都超越你了。”相比之下,西方父母不得不关于成就与自己的冲突的感觉斗争,试图说服他们自己,他们的孩子不理想的成绩没有让他们失望。

我想了很久有关华人父母如何能做那些西方父母认为不可思议的事情。我认为在西方父母和之间的中国父母之间, 存在着三个思想上差异。

首先,我注意到,西方的父母非常关心孩子的自尊心。他们担心自己的孩子如果失败会感觉如何,他们不断尝试从正面去安抚他们的孩子,尽管孩子在考试或演奏上表现平平。换言之,西方的父母关心孩子的心理。中国的父母却不是!他们断定孩子是坚强的,而不是脆弱的,这两种假设和断定结果,导致了非常不一样的结果。

例如,如果一个孩子带着 A – 的成绩单回家,西方家长极有可能表扬孩子。中国妈妈会喘息不顺并问出了什么差错。如果一个孩子带着 B 成绩单回家,一些西方父母仍然会称赞孩子。另一些西方父母坐下来和他们的孩子谈话并来表达不满,但他们要小心,不要让孩子们感到不适或缺乏安全感,他们不会骂他们的孩子“笨”,“没用”或“羞耻”。私下里,西方的父母可能会担心他们的孩子没有考好,或者对课程甚至学校产生怀疑。如果孩子的成绩没有改善,他们最终可能安排与该校校长面谈,挑战教学方法和正在执教老师的能力。

如果中国的孩子获得了 B - 这似乎是永远不会发生的事情,首先会听到一声尖叫,仿佛头发撕裂爆炸。气急败坏的中国妈妈可能以数十个也许上百个练习题和测试给她的孩子,直到他们的孩子拿到 A 。

中国家长要求他们的孩子取得完美的成绩,因为他们相信,他们的孩子可以做到。如果他们的孩子没有得到(完美的成绩),中国父母认为是因为孩子没有足够努力。这就是为什么中国父母对孩子不合标准的结果解决方式始终是苛责、惩罚和羞辱。中国父母认为,他们的孩子足以承担羞辱并改善不佳。

其次,中国家长认为,孩子欠他们的一切。这个原因不明确,但它可能是儒家孝道以及加进去了父母为孩子的某种牺牲,父母为孩子做了很多的事情。 (的而且确,中国妈妈长期艰苦的奋斗亲自辅导、培训、审问他们的孩子,有时甚至像从事间谍活动一样。)据了解,中国孩子必须尽自己的一生偿还服从父母,让他们的父母以此为荣。

相比之下,我不认为大多数西方人的子女有永久地感谢他们的父母的观点。我的丈夫,杰德,看法刚好相反。 “孩子没有选择父母的权利,”他曾经对我说。 “他们甚至无法选择出生。是父母强加给他们的孩子生命,所以父母有责任为他们提供生活所需。孩子不欠父母任何东西。他们的职责将是自己的孩子。”这番话给了我巨大的冲击。

第三,中国的父母认为,他们知道什么是对他们的孩子来说是最好的,因此他们忽略孩子自身的欲望和喜好。这就是为什么中国女儿在高中不能有男朋友,中国的孩子不能去住宿营地。这也是为什么中国的孩子永远不敢对他们的母亲说,“我学校有场演出,我演村民第六号,我放学之后要留校,从三点至七点排练,我还需要周末被送过去参加排练。”愿上帝帮助中国孩子有勇气尝试去那么做。

不要误解我:这并不是说中国的家长不关心他们的子女。恰恰相反,他们会为了自己的孩子放弃所有。这只是一个完全不同的养育模式。

在中国,并非所有的爱都以负面的形式出现。问题是:美国父母是否太容易了?这里有一个中式“强逼”的故事。露露, 7 岁左右,学习两种乐器,正在练习钢琴曲法国作曲家雅克的作品“小白驴”。这首曲子真的很可爱,你可以想像一个小毛驴沿着乡村道路欢快地前行,但对于初学者也是非常困难弹奏的曲子,因为两只手必须同时弹奏不同的节奏。

露露弹不好。我们曾一个星期不间断地努力练习,先是两只手分别进行,一遍又一遍。但每当我们试图把两只手放在一起,一只手就会被另一只拖累,然后一切都乱七八糟。最后在她上课的前一天,露露跺着脚恼怒地宣布:她放弃了。

“你坐回到钢琴前去。”我命令。

“你想!”

“哦,是的,我可以。”

回到钢琴前,露露要我付出代价。她拳打脚踢并一把撕碎了乐谱。我把碎片贴到一起到一起,并把它包在一个塑料套里以防再被摧毁。然后我把 Lulu 的娃娃屋拖到我的汽车里,并告诉她,如果她没能在第二天把“小白驴”弹得很完美,我会把她的娃娃屋 一块一块捐给救世军。露露说,“你不是要去救世军吗,你为什么还在这里?”我威吓她她将没有午饭、没有晚餐、没有圣诞节或光明节的礼物,二、三甚至四年内没有生日派对。当她还是不停地弹错,我告诉她,她执意让自己陷入狂乱,因为她偷偷害怕她做不好。我告诉她不要偷懒,不要懦弱,不要自我放纵和不要自己可怜自己。

杰德把我拉到一边。他告诉我要停止侮辱露露,而我什么都还没做呢。我只是激励她,但他不认为威胁露露是任何益处。他说,也许真的露露做 不到那个难度,也许她没有那种协调能力,我是否考虑过这种可能性?

“你不相信她,”我指控。

“可笑!”杰德说,轻蔑地说。 “当然我相信她。”

“索菲亚在这个年龄可以弹奏这个曲子。”

“但露露和索菲亚是不同的两个人,”杰德指出。

“哦,不,不是,”我说,我翻着眼珠: “每个人都是特殊的,”我模仿讽刺。 “即使输家也是以自己特殊方式特别着。好了,别担心,你不必动一根手指。只要需要我愿意面对,我很高兴能唱白脸。你可以继续做他们的偶像,因为你他们做煎饼,带他们到洋基队看比赛。 ”

中国妈妈何以更优越 -- Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (中英文) - Jennifer - 雨夜相思客450) this.width=450">艾米在旅店房间里监督女儿练琴

钻进给为人父母特制的监狱?我卷起衣袖做一个唱白脸的中国妈妈,我用每一种我能想到的武器和战术,我和女儿一起努力,到了废寝忘食的地步,我不会让露露起身离开钢琴,即便是喝水甚至不能去卫生间。这所房子变成了战场,我喊哑了嗓子,但似乎毫无进展,甚至我也开始怀疑。

然后,乌云忽然散去,露露弹好了。她的手突然走到了一起,她左右手分别有条不紊的弹奏着,就是这么简单。

露露和我几乎同时意识到这点。我屏住呼吸。她再次尝试。然后,她更自信、更快捷地弹奏,那节奏依旧完好。一会儿之后,她是喜上眉梢。

“妈妈,你看,很容易!”之后,她一遍又一遍地弹奏着,甚至不愿离开钢琴。那天晚上,她来睡在我床上,我们依偎拥抱,互相打趣取笑。几个星期后,当她在演奏会表演“白色的小驴子”之后,一位家长对我说:“多么完美的作品,非常的勇敢,那么有露露的个性!”

即使杰德也因此给了我赞誉。西方父母过于担心自己的孩子的自尊心。但作为父母,你在孩子的自尊心上可以做的最糟糕的事情就是:让他们放弃。在另一面,没有什么比建立自信心和学习做成你原以为你做不到的事更好的。

外面世界有很多新书把亚裔母亲描绘成阴谋、无情、冷漠到逼迫自己的孩子超负荷的怪物。其实,许多华人暗地里认为他们比西方人更关心孩子并更多地愿意为孩子们牺牲自己,谁愿意自己的孩子不求上进?我认为这是一种两种文化的误解(或差异)。为人父母者都是为了孩子的福祉竭尽所能,华人只不过用了与西方社会截然不同的方式来做到这一点而已。

西方家长尽量尊重孩子的个性,鼓励他们追求自己真正的爱好,支持他们的选择,并提供积极的强化和培育环境。相比之下,中国人认为,最好的保护自己的孩子的方式是为他们的未来做充分的准备,让他们发掘自己的潜能,并用技能、好的工作习惯和发自内心的自信来武装自己,拥有这一切是任何人无法强取豪夺去的。

艾米蔡是耶鲁大学法学院教授,也是“帝国之日”和“失火的世界”两本书的作者。本文摘自艾米蔡“母老虎妈妈战争之歌”,由企鹅出版社出版,企鹅集团(美国)有限公司版权所有。


全文完

(原文链接:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html

The Wall Street Journal

·    ·        JANUARY 8, 2011

Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior

Can a regimen of no playdates, no TV, no computer games and hours of music practice create happy kids? And what happens when they fight back?

By AMY CHUA

Amy Chua is a professor at Yale Law School and author of "Day of Empire" and "World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability." This essay is excerpted from "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother"  

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:

* 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.

I'm using the term "Chinese mother" loosely. I know some Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish and Ghanaian parents who qualify too. Conversely, I know some mothers of Chinese heritage, almost always born in the West, who are not Chinese mothers, by choice or otherwise. I'm also using the term "Western parents" loosely. Western parents come in all varieties.


All the same, even when Western parents think they're being strict, they usually don't come close to being Chinese mothers. For example, my Western friends who consider themselves strict make their children practice their instruments 30 minutes every day. An hour at most. For a Chinese mother, the first hour is the easy part. It's hours two and three that get tough.

Despite our squeamishness about cultural stereotypes, there are tons of studies out there showing marked and quantifiable differences between Chinese and Westerners when it comes to parenting. In one study of 50 Western American mothers and 48 Chinese immigrant mothers, almost 70% of the Western mothers said either that "stressing academic success is not good for children" or that "parents need to foster the idea that learning is fun." By contrast, roughly 0% of the Chinese mothers felt the same way. Instead, the vast majority of the Chinese mothers said that they believe their children can be "the best" students, that "academic achievement reflects successful parenting," and that if children did not excel at school then there was "a problem" and parents "were not doing their job." Other studies indicate that compared to Western parents, Chinese parents spend approximately 10 times as long every day drilling academic activities with their children. By contrast, Western kids are more likely to participate in sports teams.

中国妈妈何以更优越 -- Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior (中英文) - Jennifer - 雨夜相思客Newborn Amy Chua in her mother's arms, a year after her parents arrived in the U.S. 

When it comes to parenting, the Chinese seem to produce children who display academic excellence, musical mastery and professional success - or so the stereotype goes. WSJ's Christina Tsuei speaks to two moms raised by Chinese immigrants who share what it was like growing up and how they hope to raise their children.


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; rote repetition is underrated in America. Once a child starts to excel at something—whether it's math, piano, pitching or ballet—he or she gets praise, admiration and satisfaction. This builds confidence and makes the once not-fun activity fun. This in turn makes it easier for the parent to get the child to work even more.

Chinese parents can get away with things that Western parents can't. Once when I was young—maybe more than once—when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me "garbage" in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn't damage my self-esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn't actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage.

As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophia, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectfully toward me. When I mentioned that I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests.

The fact is that Chinese parents can do things that would seem unimaginable—even legally actionable—to Westerners. Chinese mothers can say to their daughters, "Hey fatty—lose some weight." By contrast, Western parents have to tiptoe around the issue, talking in terms of "health" and never ever mentioning the f-word, and their kids still end up in therapy for eating disorders and negative self-image. (I also once heard a Western father toast his adult daughter by calling her "beautiful and incredibly competent." She later told me that made her feel like garbage.)

Chinese parents can order their kids to get straight As. Western parents can only ask their kids to try their best. Chinese parents can say, "You're lazy. All your classmates are getting ahead of you." By contrast, Western parents have to struggle with their own conflicted feelings about achievement, and try to persuade themselves that they're not disappointed about how their kids turned out.

I've thought long and hard about how Chinese parents can get away with what they do. I think there are three big differences between the Chinese and Western parental mind-sets.

First, I've noticed that Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem. They worry about how their children will feel if they fail at something, and they constantly try to reassure their children about how good they are notwithstanding a mediocre performance on a test or at a recital. In other words, Western parents are concerned about their children's psyches. Chinese parents aren't. They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.

For example, if a child comes home with an A-minus on a test, a Western parent will most likely praise the child. The Chinese mother will gasp in horror and ask what went wrong. If the child comes home with a B on the test, some Western parents will still praise the child. Other Western parents will sit their child down and express disapproval, but they will be careful not to make their child feel inadequate or insecure, and they will not call their child "stupid," "worthless" or "a disgrace." Privately, the Western parents may worry that their child does not test well or have aptitude in the subject or that there is something wrong with the curriculum and possibly the whole school. If the child's grades do not improve, they may eventually schedule a meeting with the school principal to challenge the way the subject is being taught or to call into question the teacher's credentials.

If a Chinese child gets a B—which would never happen—there would first be a screaming, hair-tearing explosion. The devastated Chinese mother would then get dozens, maybe hundreds of practice tests and work through them with her child for as long as it takes to get the grade up to an A.

Chinese parents demand perfect grades because they believe that their child can get them. If their child doesn't get them, the Chinese parent assumes it's because the child didn't work hard enough. That's why the solution to substandard performance is always to excoriate, punish and shame the child. The Chinese parent believes that their child will be strong enough to take the shaming and to improve from it. (And when Chinese kids do excel, there is plenty of ego-inflating parental praise lavished in the privacy of the home.)


Second, Chinese parents believe that their kids owe them everything. The reason for this is a little unclear, but it's probably a combination of Confucian filial piety and the fact that the parents have sacrificed and done so much for their children. (And it's true that Chinese mothers get in the trenches, putting in long grueling hours personally tutoring, training, interrogating and spying on their kids.) Anyway, the understanding is that Chinese children must spend their lives repaying their parents by obeying them and making them proud.

By contrast, I don't think most Westerners have the same view of children being permanently indebted to their parents. My husband, Jed, actually has the opposite view. "Children don't choose their parents," he once said to me. "They don't even choose to be born. It's parents who foist life on their kids, so it's the parents' responsibility to provide for them. Kids don't owe their parents anything. Their duty will be to their own kids." This strikes me as a terrible deal for the Western parent.

Third, Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences. That's why Chinese daughters can't have boyfriends in high school and why Chinese kids can't go to sleepaway camp. It's also why no Chinese kid would ever dare say to their mother, "I got a part in the school play! I'm Villager Number Six. I'll have to stay after school for rehearsal every day from 3:00 to 7:00, and I'll also need a ride on weekends." God help any Chinese kid who tried that one.

Don't get me wrong: It's not that Chinese parents don't care about their children. Just the opposite. They would give up anything for their children. It's just an entirely different parenting model.

Here's a story in favor of coercion, Chinese-style. Lulu was about 7, still playing two instruments, and working on a piano piece called "The Little White Donkey" by the French composer Jacques Ibert. The piece is really cute—you can just imagine a little donkey ambling along a country road with its master—but it's also incredibly difficult for young players because the two hands have to keep schizophrenically different rhythms.

Lulu couldn't do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off.

"Get back to the piano now," I ordered.

"You can't make me."

"Oh yes, I can."

Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have "The Little White Donkey" perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, "I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?" I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn't do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.

Jed took me aside. He told me to stop insulting Lulu—which I wasn't even doing, I was just motivating her—and that he didn't think threatening Lulu was helpful. Also, he said, maybe Lulu really just couldn't do the technique—perhaps she didn't have the coordination yet—had I considered that possibility?

"You just don't believe in her," I accused.

"That's ridiculous," Jed said scornfully. "Of course I do."

"Sophia could play the piece when she was this age."

"But Lulu and Sophia are different people," Jed pointed out.

"Oh no, not this," I said, rolling my eyes. "Everyone is special in their special own way," I mimicked sarcastically. "Even losers are special in their own special way. Well don't worry, you don't have to lift a finger. I'm willing to put in as long as it takes, and I'm happy to be the one hated. And you can be the one they adore because you make them pancakes and take them to Yankees games."

I rolled up my sleeves and went back to Lulu. I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress, and even I began to have doubts.

Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

 Lulu realized it the same time I did. I held my breath. She tried it tentatively again. Then she played it more confidently and faster, and still the rhythm held. A moment later, she was beaming.

"Mommy, look—it's easy!" After that, she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn't leave the piano. That night, she came to sleep in my bed, and we snuggled and hugged, cracking each other up. When she performed "The Little White Donkey" at a recital a few weeks later, parents came up to me and said, "What a perfect piece for Lulu—it's so spunky and so her."

chau inside  Sophia playing at Carnegie Hall in 2007.

Even Jed gave me credit for that one. 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.

There are all these new books out there portraying Asian mothers as scheming, callous, overdriven people indifferent to their kids' true interests. For their part, many Chinese secretly believe that they care more about their children and are willing to sacrifice much more for them than Westerners, who seem perfectly content to let their children turn out badly. I think it's a misunderstanding on both sides. All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. The Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that.

Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions, supporting their choices, and providing positive reinforcement and a nurturing environment. By contrast, the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they're capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.



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