What are Chinese Parents doing Different to Western Parents when it comes to their children learning a musical instrument?

The Stereotype

There is a lot of stereotypes when it comes to Chinese kids compared to western kids. Chinese kids appear to have a natural talent for mastering music and maths to become little protégés. But what is really going on to make them so different? What is happening with their parenting for their children to have these abilities so consistently? 

I am writing this partially from a first-hand point of view. I have met many western parents here in the UK while having grown up in Hong Kong. Seeing first-hand accounts of children who have had strict Chinese upbringing. There is a clear cultural difference between the two, and this is what I've learned from them both. Of course, many other cultures fall into the stereotype "Chinese" parenting. 

The Emphasis on Education 

education children learning guitar playing .png

In Hong Kong, competition is high, and education is placed at the utmost importance because of it. If a child does not have a grade 3 or above in a musical instrument, they cannot enter a "decent" high school. This puts more pressure on parents to ensure their child pass their musical grades and exams. 

When I speak to western parents, for most of them, the most important thing is for their child to have fun learning. Their child's happiness and self-esteem is the centre of every decision when it comes to music. Many western parents would agree that music has many benefits to a child's development. They will not pressure their child to do music if it's something they don't enjoy. 

Chinese parents appear to be able to forego a child's happiness for the sake of progress and grades. They believe system is that a child will enjoy the instrument once they get good at it. 

Practising the Instrument

Chinese parents will make sure their child practises late into the night to perfect a piece if necessary. While a child does not have the ability to be disciplined enough to practise by themselves. It is the parent's role to push their child to be the best version of themselves. 

Western parents are a lot more laid back. They do not want to hassle a child to practice. 

Forcing a child to practice can have two effects. Either they end up overcoming their challenges. Realising how much they enjoy playing now that they are better. 

Or they rebel, throw tantrums and want to stop altogether. 

Getting the balance relies on how compliant your child is. How much they have for you as a parent. And how much they want to play the instrument. If you can find a way to spark up their interest, so there is a small fire inside that you can harness. That is the best scenario for them. 

It is also important that the child knows what to practise, and how. So when they do it, they know that they are improving, so they don't get frustrated. 

If you want more tips on how to encourage your child to play the guitar, then have a read of our other articles. 

As a parent. It is important to understand that learning any musical instrument, guitar included. Is a craft that with perfect practice. Any child can be brilliant at it. 

The Emphasis on Hard Work

It's much more common in Western society to place "talent" as the reason why their child can or can't do something well. This is one thing that we can learn a lot from Chinese culture. They believe it is hard work and effort that will get you results. 

As I said before, perfect practice along with enough hours and determination. Means that any child can master a musical instrument. So instead of thinking your child isn't "talented" when they can't play something. It may be worth considering, how can I encourage them to work a little harder to overcome this challenge? 


There is one big difference between western children and chinese children who play their instrument long term. And that's creativity.  

western child playing guitar

The reason is that creativity is not valued in the Chinese culture. They want perfection in grades, not improvisation. While creativity is something that is trainable. (We do it here every day with kids and adults on the guitar.) It's not something that Chinese kids work on. They focus is on perfecting exam pieces. Which is why many of them, when they grow up to adulthood. Give up their musical instrument. They struggle to be creative and don’t feel like a musician. 

Creativity combined with hard work is what produces what appears to be "talent". And for children who work hard on their music in the UK, with supportive parents. They are able to become brilliant at their instruments and feel good about their playing. Often wanting to go on to become musicians. 

This is why the UK, for such a small country, make up 17.6% of the world's global music industry in record sales. The teaching and the culture of western parenting create a different kind of protege. This also has a significant lasting effect.  


In Conclusion

There are many merits in both western and Chinese parenting. While it is impressive what these Chinese children can do. A balance of creativity and hard work ethics is key to a child's result on a musical instrument. 

While you may look at Chinese children and believe it is innate talent that allows them to be little musical geniuses. Know that it's the strict parenting behind it that creates this illusion. 

Remember that being able to perfect exam pieces at a young age is not a determinant of the child achievement for music in their lifetime. 

Nurture and encourage any love your child has for music. Be firm enough so that your child knows that perfect practice is important for their success. Get a great teacher who will teach them how to be creative and have fun on their instrument, and give them lots of opportunities to be inspired. All these components to help towards your child's success on a musical instrument. 

If you would like a school that focuses on both your child having fun, and teaching them to work ethics at the same time. On top of that, have a focus on creativity. While giving them opportunities to perform to boost their confidence and self-esteem. Then you've come to the right place. 

Then click on the button below to sign up for a free introductory lesson to find out how we can help your child. 

The Introductory Guitar Lesson will help us workout we are a good fit with your child, and make sure they get on with our guitar teacher too.