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Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother

Amy Chua

Big trouble convincing second daughter, Lulu, to learn violin. But found a Suzuki teacher who charmed his little pupils. His secret was to translate everything technical about the violin into stories or images children could understand. Instead of legato, staccato or accelerando, he spoke of caressing the fur of a purring cat, armies of marching ants, and mice on unicycles rolling down a hill.

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"I admit that this schedule might seem a little intense ...I was already at a disadvantage because I had an American husband who believed that childhood should be fun.

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When she told dinner party friends that she routinely called her daughter "garbage" one of guests got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. But in fact it worked great with Sophia. Chua sees three big differences between Chinese and Western parental mind-sets.

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First, Western parents are extremely anxious about their children's self-esteem. They worry about how they will feel if they fail at something, and they are constantly trying to reassure their kids about how good they are, notwithstanding a mediocre performance at a test. But Chinese parents assume strength, not fragility.

(A story of Chinese coercion, as Chua puts it)'The Little White Donkey': an incredibly difficult piece because kids have to learn to play each hand working independently. Lulu gave up and refused to try any more. Mother forces her. "Back at the piano, Lulu made me pay. She punched, thrashed and kicked. She tore the score 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 if she didn't have Little White Donkey perfect for 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 presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. 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 ....I went back to Lulu. I used every weapon I could think of. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, 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 doing their own imperturbable thing. "Look Mummy - it's easy" After that she wanted to play the piece over and over and wouldn't leave the piano."

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Girls' grandmother believed childhood should be full of spontaneity, freedom, discovery and experience. At (vacation cabin by a lake) she wanted them to swim walk and explore wherever they pleased. "I told them if they stepped off the front porch, kidnappers would get them. I told them that the deep parts of the lake had ferocious biting fish.....I may have gone a bit overboard."

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"Happiness is not a concept I tend to dwell on. Chinese parenting does not address happiness....But here's the thing. When I look around at all the Western families that fall apart - all the grown sons and daughters who can't stand to be around their parents or don't even talk to them - I have a hard time believing that Western parenting does a better job with happiness .... It's amazing how many older Western parents who say "No matter what you do, your kids will grow up resenting you." By contrast, I can't tell you how many Asian kids who, while acknowledging how oppressively strict and demanding their parents were, happily describe themselves as devoted to their parents and unbelievably grateful to them, seemingly without a trace of bitterness or resentment.

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