China Girl, China Mom

Last night I received an e-mail from a father who was going to talk seriously with his daughter, again, about whether she wanted to continue with piano lessons.  She had been putting up a fight at practice time, he reported, and he was tired of trying to force the issue.  If she didn't want to do the work, he declared, he certainly couldn't force her to.

Later that evening, on the recommendation of a very different father, I read this in the Wall Street Journal:
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.


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.

That excerpt is probably the least controversial part of the article.  The author also claims that her daughters were "never" allowed to watch television or attend sleepovers and gives a horrifying account of a piano practice session that nearly tore the family apart but ended, unfathomably, in cuddles and laughter.  I certainly can't endorse the full gamut of her technique, which I think depends on a forceful personality and the cultural underpinnings that support and accompany it.  But I have to say, I admire the (courage?  foolishness?) it took to air those beliefs in a forum that has already crucified her for them, 3000+ negative comments strong.