In a recent conversation I heard a reference to the Wall Street Journal article Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior and I just had to read it. While I don’t agree with everything, I found myself nodding in agreement throughout the article. I read it to my son and he baulked, “why would you want to be like that!” I thought about how some of those methods had served me well in the past. But I like to think of myself as using a combination of both methods the writer describes in the article:
“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.”
In the education of my sons, I first start with the vision. A wise home school mom told me that I had to have a vision for my sons. This is very important where African American males are concerned. That vision has helped me expect nothing less than the best and push when necessary. For example, almost everything that my children participant in came about through my close observation of what they gravitate towards. Both boys are heavily into music. Kingman, my 10yo, plays piano, snare drums, xylophone and African drums. Lion Heart, my 4yo, takes Suzuki Violin lessons and plays African drums. The rule in my home is that no one can quit until complete mastery of the instrument has been accomplished (the 10,000 hour rule applies here). If I gave into every whine and groan, they would never get to experience what practice and cultivation yields.
|Lion Heart's last recital at Levine School of Music|
I’m like the description of the Chinese mother in this respect and agree with this quote from the article: “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.” Well, I wouldn't say children "never want to work," but in my home pushing is required to get the best out of them.
|Kingman's last Recital at Levine School of Music|
Now that we have a piano in the home Kingman has gone from moaning and groaning to practicing 4-5 times a day and teaching himself to play by ear. Just yesterday he was promoted from A level percussion orchestra to B level. He left the class skipping and beaming with pride, high-fiving his friends. What if I had listened to him when he said, “I want to quit orchestra because I don’t want to get up at 8 a.m. in the morning on a Saturday!” Or what if I had listened to him when he practically screamed at me for enrolling him in art class? “Mom I hate art! Why would you put me in a stupid art class?!” he said. After completing a full year of art he began to refer to himself as an artist and asked if he could spend some time on the steps of the Capitol in D.C. to do some painting. Or what if I had listened when he told me that he hated piano and wanted to quit? While I don’t completely override my boys’ preferences I do agree with this quote from the article: “Chinese parents believe that they know what is best for their children and therefore override all of their children's own desires and preferences.” As parents we do know best, and if you don’t, raising a Black boy, well then you better find out!
I have nothing but the highest expectations for my sons and will accept nothing less. Not because I’m overbearing or mean, but because I believe in the divinity that exists within them and I know they are cable of it. More importantly, I’m willing to do the work to push and pull it out. Sometimes it’s easy for parents to allow the child to give up because that means less work for them. I still mourn the day my mother allowed me to stop taking ballet lessons because I didn’t want to go anymore. I wish I had been pushed to stick with ballet, to continue playing the flute, and a host of other activities that I dibbled and dabbed in before quitting.
As mothers of boys we have to find our footing and firmly plant our feet: having a vision for your sons and a method to achieve it helps. I’ll probably read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the book from which the article was excerpted. I know I won’t agree with everything in the book. But I’m sure I’ll find some gems. Next I want to read an article about Why African Mothers Are Superior. I know it's coming. Did you know that Africans receive more advance degrees than all other immigrant ethnic groups combined in the U.S.? I don't have the reference for it, but I'm searching frantically. More on that in the next post.