What No One Tells You About Asian Parent Expectations (4 minute read)

Have you ever seen the High Expectations Asian Father meme? 

**Click Below To Listen** 

Or remember Amy Chua back in the early 2010's when her controversial book about Tiger Mothers blew up around the world? Some praised her and some threatened her.

I was doing my Master's at the time and they were talking about her book on the radio and the hosts asked listeners to call in.  I really wanted to call in but I felt I could only speak of my experiences as a child.  Now as a parent, I feel I have come full circle to be able to give a more meaningful perspective. 

I am a child of Asian immigrant parents. I was that scholarship kid who got straight A's, who practiced piano, who spent Saturday mornings at Chinese school. I was that responsible, mature, always does the right thing kid...well at least on the outside.

Other parents would often see my accomplishments, manners, ambition and character, and hope that their own kid would strive to be more like me. I'm not tooting my own horn. I was that kid. Assumptions were often made about my parents...like, "man, her parents must be strict as hell."

The thing is, my parents were not tigers. The way they parented me did not fit the Asian parent stereotype. They didn't have high expectations of me. 


Yeah, seriously (I've been watching too much Grey's). Let me explain.

I was the youngest of 3 daughters and the way my mom and dad parented me was very different than the way it was for my sisters. 

My overachieving, oldest sister fulfilled most of those high expectations (skipped a grade, worked her ass off, got into Med School etc.). She was the shiny star who my parents put a lot of pressure on. She didn't misbehave. I don't even remember if she swore during her teenage years. I rarely saw her because she was always in some after-school activity. Through my eldest sister, my parents got to see the limelight and had so much pride with their first-born that by the time I rolled around to achieving similar things, my accomplishments lost their novelty

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My second sister was the adventurer. She enjoyed testing limits. She was the rule-breaker, the Chinese school drop-out. She liked to do things that were out of the ordinary, going against the grain. She basically did all the "non-Asian"/cool experiences first like dating, piercings, dyeing hair...etc

She was cool, always had friends and broke hearts. She was the one that kept my parents up at night; however, through the experiences of raising her, my parents became more open-minded, more understanding, less judgmental, less traditional and most importantly, they became empathetic Asian parents. 

So when I started doing those "non-Asian" things, it didn't phase them; instead, they were like "OK...we know you're level-headed, kid."

The thing with being the 3rd kid and having siblings who broke all the Firsts for you is that you want to do it better than them. You want to be different by excelling at everything so you give them the least burden possible. You want to be praised for doing it the right way from the start even though they've already seen it done. 

So I became the stereotypical Asian kid. More on how that translated into disordered eating and self-harm in my previous post.

And my reward for doing everything "perfectly" was that I was given a ton of autonomy.  

So I also started dating, got piercings, dyed my hair, got tattoos, did the whole under-aged drinking and clubbing thing, stayed out late, had boyfriends sleep over, didn't tell my parents where I was all the time etc.

Through all that, my parents knew I had my head on straight. They trusted that I would always do the right thing. And so they didn't worry too much about me even when I didn't come home for 5 days, having slept over at my boyfriend's.  

And because I had proven to my parents I was responsible, I became an incredibly entitled kid who gave them a ton of attitude. I was the worst offender in talking back to my parents. I disrespected them often, much more than my sisters did.  

I honestly felt that they couldn't criticize a single thing about me because I had everything under control. They couldn't say shit since I was doing everything they wanted. I exceeded their expectations. What more could they want from me?  So I abused that right.

I remember one day when my dad was vacuuming the house and I was trying to watch TV. I couldn't hear what was on TV so I told my dad to "Fuck Off!"
Yes - I said the F word to my parents. Not just once, but multiple times. 

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I was a horrible, bratty and angry daughter even though I got straight A's. As mentioned in a previous post and Huffington Post article, my relationship with them has changed

Let's jump forward 15 years. I have a daughter. You know the saying, "Taste of your own medicine"?. So I'm scared. And honestly, I don't know how it's going to be when she gets older. 

I don't know if I will be stressing over her grades. I don't know how I will react when she starts dating, drinking or piercing her body parts. Parenting is basically uncertainty times a million, especially with observing Firsts. You can try and do everything right but you really don't know what the effort is going towards until it's too late and they're all grown up. 

So there's not much I can control except to love and parent her as best as I can. And of course, I will keep writing, to track my memories and tell my stories to her when that time comes. 

So Readers, what are your childhood stories? Were your parents stereotypically strict? Are you a parent of a young child yourself? How are you capturing those stories so you can tell them to your children later on?

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  1. Ask for help when you need it, and when it is offered to you, try and take it even when you don't think you need it, because it will recharge you for the next few hours if not days. It used to take a village to raise a child, so why do we try to do it all on our own? double jogging stroller review


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