閱書報告：《虎媽的戰歌》Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
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(Image from http://depayser.wordpress.com/)
My favourite quotes from Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother
Chapter 5 - On Generational Decline
Classical music was the opposite of decline, the opposite of laziness, vulgarity, and spoiledness.
“Be modest, be humble, be simple,” my mother used to chide. “The last shall come first.” What she really meant of course was, “Make sure you come in first so that you have something to be humble about.” One of my father’s bedrock principles was, “Never complain or make excuses. If something seems unfair at school, just prove yourself by working twice as hard and being twice as good.”
Chapter 6 - The Virtuous Circle
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.
Chapter 9 - The Violin
The violin is really hard—in my view, much harder to learn than the piano. First, there is the matter of holding the thing, which isn’t an issue with the piano. Contrary to what a normal person might think, the violin isn’t held up by the left arm; it only looks that way. According to the famous violin teacher Carl Flesch in The Art of Violin Playing, the violin is to be “placed on the collarbone” and “kept in place by the left lower jaw,” leaving the left hand free to move around.
Then there’s “intonation”—meaning how in tune you are—another reason I think the violin is harder than the piano, at least for beginners. With piano you just push a key and you know what note you’re getting. With violin, you have to place your finger exactly on the right spot on the fingerboard—if you’re even just 1/10 of a centimeter off, you’re not perfectly in tune. Even though the violin has only four strings, it can produce 53 different notes measured by half-step increments—and infinitely more tone colors by using different strings and bowing techniques.
“My goal as a parent is to prepare you for the future—not to make you like me.”
Chapter 10 - Teeth Marks and Bubbles
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.
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.
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.
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.
Back in New Haven a few months later, when I referred in passing to Sophia as being Chinese, she interrupted me: “Mommy—I’m not Chinese.” “Yes, you are.” “No, Mommy—you’re the only one who thinks so. No one in China thinks I’m Chinese. No one in America thinks I’m Chinese.” This bothered me intensely, but all I said was, “Well, they’re all wrong. You are Chinese.”
Chapter 11 - “The Little White Donkey”
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.
Chapter 12 - The Cadenza
“You already have a pet,” I snapped. “Your violin is your pet.”
A fundamental tenet of being Chinese is that you always do all of the extra credit all of the time.
Practicing more than everyone else is also why Asian kids dominate the top music conservatories.
Chapter 14 - London, Athens, Barcelona, Bombay
Whenever I hear Sophia or Lulu giggle at a foreign name—whether it’s Freek de Groot or Kwok Gum—I go wild. “Do you know how ignorant and close-minded you sound?” I’ll blow up at them. “Jasminder and Parminder are popular names in India. And coming from this family! What a disgrace. My mother’s father’s name was Go Ga Yong—do you think that’s funny? I should have named one of you that. Never judge people by their names.”
“Never ever make fun of foreign accents,” I’ve exhorted them on many occasions. “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It’s a sign of bravery. Those are people who crossed an ocean to come to this country. My parents had accents—I had an accent. I was thrown into nursery school not speaking a word of English. Even in third grade, classmates made fun of me. Do you know where those people are now? They’re janitors, that’s where.”
Chapter 15 - Popo
For Chinese people, when it comes to parents, nothing is negotiable.Your parents are your parents, you owe everything to them (even if you don’t), and you have to do everything for them (even if it destroys your life).
Chapter 28 - The Sack of Rice
“Sophia,” I said, “you’re just like I was in my family: the oldest, the one that everyone counts on and no one has to worry about. It’s an honor to play that role. The problem is that Western culture doesn’t see it that way. In Disney movies, the ‘good daughter’ always has to have a breakdown and realize that life is not all about following rules and winning prizes, and then take off her clothes and run into the ocean or something like that. But that’s just Disney’s way of appealing to all the people who never win any prizes. Winning prizes gives you opportunities, and that’s freedom—not running into the ocean.”
Chapter 32 - The Symbol
To me, the violin symbolized respect for hierarchy, standards, and expertise.