Helicopter Moms

This is silly, this Helicopter/Tiger Mom thing.

A while back, a Law Professor structured time and demanded excellence from her kid. This law professor, well paid and affluent, with every advantage of her status in society, demanded excellence and wouldn't settle for anything other than optimal performance. That she did this and wrote a book about it, making even more money, is all well and good but what in the world is this about.

The key phrase here is "what in the world". Times aren't so hot for a lot of people and the idea of piano lessons much less a piano in a room in a house that has space for one to be pounded on 3 hours a day so the kid won't learn a useful skill but will acquire the discipline to sit and pound on a piano for 3 hours a day ...I have to take a deep breath.. The debate is a yuppie debate, upscale, urban professionals wringing their hands over how much they are a parent and how much they are a life partner to their kids....a best buddy so to speak. But where is the passion in the kids? Think about that word. Passion.

Let's visit the music aspect of this debate. Unless the kid has the gift of the muse, learning to play the piano may, can or will give at best, a lifetime's enjoyment and personal entertainment. It is always something one can do in one form or another. For most who are taught, the effort is one of discipline rather than artistry. For 99.99% of all "musicians" every new piece of music is a task; one that has to be worked out, torn apart and slaved over until all sections of a piece are mastered. It might take a day or might take months. The discipline of overcoming and perfecting is what the Tiger Mom is giving the kid, not the music making. Synthesizing motor skills into expressive and passionate music making isn't a lockstep thing. It in fact rarely happens just because it rarely happens.

Down south of the US is Venezuela that has “El Sistema” (The System) - now a way of life for kids without Tiger Moms. Starting as early as age 3, kids, any kid, the poorest kids for whom the luxury of a yuppie Tiger Mom is as foreign as the far side of the moon, join the national youth music system.

Blind, poor, deaf - it doesn't matter. It takes all comers and turns no one away. No one. Instruments are free. Lessons are free. There is no cost ever. Well over half million kids are doing this. The rules are simple. Every spare minute you have is spent on mastering your instrument, voice, whatever. 5-7 hours a day. 365 days a year. You are either in school or studying your schoolwork OR working on music. On purpose there is little time for anything else.

The kids rise through the ranks or not but the highest level ensembles are filled with kids who are like few others on earth. They are both artists and think artistically and with spirit, and have developed into incredibly disciplined self reliant and confident persons who are, as it turns out, the cream of the Venezuelan academic crop as well and it is because they have a confidence that they can do what it takes to succeed and know it is a matter of effort and dedication first and foremost - and little else matters.

I've seen a lot of Tiger Kids in my years. . They have always been there. Of late, I have also seen a lot of "good job" kids - the opposite where anything they do is met with overwhelming praise. Encouragement of "trying" is well and good. Doing is a matter of degree - nice try versus do or not do.

Then I have seen kids who elect the inner discipline of "the system" and stay with it and transfer that "I can" to all aspects of life. Look at the faces of these kids, seen in countless YouTube videos like the one that follows. Aside from marvelous skills there is brightness in the eye, a passion in the face and a confidence that is born from electing to do something and accomplishing it. There isn't a helicopter mom in sight. Not a one.

The vast difference is in "electing to" rather than "taken to" or "made to". A vast vast voyage of difference.