Piano Lessons and Tiger Moms

Just finished a single sitting read of Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and thought I’d dash off a few thoughts before I forgot them.

The book has short, entertaining chapters and the author is both doggedly devoted to her convictions and delightfully self-deprecating. She’s not inhuman, and she truly wants the best for her family (husband, parents, in-laws, and dogs included). Naturally, being a Western-born lover of the dramatic arts, freestyle-homeschooled kid, I disagree with the woman on a million points. She claims her girls were never allowed a playdate or a sleepover. Her parenting style seems demeaning, and completely focused on trophies and gold stars.  She dreadfully misinterpreted the beauty of the Suzuki method of music education. I doubt Dr. Suzuki’s quote “happiness develops ability” or emphasis on “one-point mastery” resonated deeply with her determination that Sophia and Lulu achieve as piano and violin prodigies. Besides all that, how could any other mortal compete with this woman’s ability to handle stress?  She teaches at Yale Law School, writes books, travels giving speeches, and keeps an intact marriage, while making sure that her daughters get straight A’s and practice anywhere from three to six hours a day?

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Of course, I’m a teeny bit jealous.  I’m a total slacker compared to either of her daughters at age five.  I’ll never play anything at Carnegie Hall and a scholarship to Harvard is completely out of the picture at this point. Oh well. I had playdates. (No sleepovers though. Thanks, Mom & Dad.)

She did get a few things right.

If Western parents who are paying for music instruction would spend a quarter of the time as Amy Chua attending lessons WITH their child, learning alongside them, taking notes, lovingly assisting them (and yes, requiring them) to practice at home every day, their kids would get to play fun, impressive pieces a whole lot faster. I promise.  (But really, Asian parents, calm down.  Attending Julliard is not essential to life).


Things ARE usually hard before they are fun.  It’s true and I ought to be reminded of that fact a lot more often.

When I have kids, I don’t think I’ll be a Tiger Mom.  I think I’ll formulate a new parenting method with which to experiment on my future offspring.  Hmmm… Lioness Mom? Elephant Mom? Otter Mom?

Look for my book in 2037. And pray for the poor innocents when you think of it, because they will certainly be required to play a classical AND a rock and roll instrument.


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