Why Traditional Asian Parenting Sucks


Growing up in a traditional Asian household, I’ve always lived my life according to what my parents want; partly out of love and respect, but also from fear of being called un-filial. There is scant little that scares an East Asian kid more than being called a shame to the family. We come from societies where our parents come first before everything, even at the expense of our personal happiness. It’s a very different notion from the Western style of parenting, where kids are allowed to make their own choices and leave the nest ASAP to make a life of their own.

To break it down: 

  • Western parents see kids as their responsibility until they grow up;
  • East Asian parents see their kids as, to put it bluntly, ‘property’.  You ‘belong’ to them because they brought you into this world and it is a debt you can never repay.

At least, it feels that way in my house. I feel like a piece of meat because I am rarely allowed to make my own decisions or have my own thoughts without being rejected or criticized for it.

Don’t get me wrong. I know where they’re coming from, and I’m not saying East Asian parents love their children any less for it. It’s just that they are indoctrined with a certain way of thinking, and it is making generations of Asian kids miserable. Because this was the way it has always been with their own parents, and the community around them.

The expectations are usually similar throughout Asian households. Excel in school, get into good college /uni with scholarship, good results, good stable job (along the lines of lawyer, accountant, doctor, engineer) and settle down with a man/woman of similar match. Probably have a couple of grandchildren for them to play with. Then they’ll retire in comfort in their old age. Job done.

But what if the kid grows up and decides that this isn’t the life he/ she wants?

Most East Asian parents’ inability to allow their children to be hurt by being overprotective and overbearing is not doing them or their children any favors. By not allowing them to fall down, the children have never learned to pick themselves up. This is the situation I am faced with now.

I love my parents, but I find that over the years, our relationship has soured. We’ve talked, we’ve screamed at each other over things, but the thorn remains. I feel sad, because we used to be close and it seems like we’ve drifted apart because we can’t understand each other anymore.

When I was younger, I was a very docile child who did everything my parents told me to. Learn piano, sure. Do math homework? Sure. I’ll even give you an A+.

But somewhere along the way, experiences made me change.

And the problem with that is my parents way of interacting with me did not change to match that. They are still stuck in 10-year-old mode, and this is how they deal with me even when I’m a grown-ass woman of 25.

Just recently, I made a big decision for myself to change jobs, because I was unhappy with my current one and I don’t see my prospects here improving. I found a company I liked, did the interview and aced it.

So there I was, all excited and pumped up to tell my parents that I did it – and guess what? The first thing they bombarded me with was disapproval. Cold, hard disapproval. Instead of a “Good job, well done! When are you starting work?” They go – “They’re paying you less?””Why are you leaving this job when you have a good income?””Did you ask for this, that, etc.”

I felt like they didn’t trust that I have a brain to make my own decisions. If these decisions are bad decisions, so be it and I’ll learn my lesson from them. But no, the consummate Asian parent has to butt in ‘for your own good’.

They call it ‘advice’. But the way they convey it isn’t how you deal with things in a mature manner. They are acting like dictators, where their word is law and everything else is wrong.

I feel like I grew up in a household that judges me all the time for who I am. It’s unbearable, and I’ve contemplated many, many times if I should leave  home and strike out on my own. I never got down to it because that would basically be an all-out declaration of un-filialness lol. It gets to a point where I just dgaf anymore. I am done with trying to change their opinions. I’ve talked to them, pleaded with them, screamed at them, over the span of many years, all to no avail. Old habits die hard, they say.

I understand that they are worried about me. When I graduated from high school, everything went ‘downhill’. I did not end up in teaching or accountancy like they wanted me to – instead, I picked Journalism, after having a huge row with them over it. I graduated with first class honors, and landed a job as a writer. Sure, I’m not an accountant like my other high-achieving cousin who migrated to Australia, and my income isn’t stable, and the hours are long and the work is hard and underpaid….but I guess they resigned themselves to the fact that I was going to be a writer, whether they liked it or not.

It wasn’t just my job. They had to butt into my love life too. I had failed relationships – just like everyone else – before I found the right one. And because they didn’t like the one I chose, they disapproved. They  actually told me to break up with my current boyfriend before ‘it gets serious’ because he was ‘too far away’ and he didn’t have prospects. Also it would mean I would be away from the family, and we can’t have that happening, can we?

I know. They’re worried I’ll get hurt. They want to protect me from all the bad and the hurt in the world. But this is not the way, meddling in my life. They’ll always be my parents, but I have to live my own life. I can’t live it for them.

I’ve been craving for understanding and recognition since I was a teenager. I just want my parents to acknowledge that I am my own individual and respect my opinions, as I would theirs if they’d just convey it in a proper manner. I am a very straightforward person and I know who I am – but do they know who I am? 

Since I hit my twenties, I pretty much couldn’t give two shits about being popular or well-liked anymore. I’ve cut out most of the negative people in my life because they’re not helping me grow into a better person. But it seems that the most toxic components that are dragging me down are my own parents. How do you deal with that? I know those people raised in the West will tell me to just cut them out, that my personal happiness is more important’, but I can’t do that. They are still my parents, and I know that deep down inside, I am still a kid raised with Asian values, and I cannot simply turn my back on people who have raised me and cared for me and put me through university.

I am thinking of not having kids. I am just so phobic of ending up like my parents if I ever have children of my own. I love my parents, but I never ever want to be like them.

I just wish my parents could understand. Call me selfish, but I can’t stand being who they want me to be, no matter how good they think it is.  I’d rather just be.. me. 

Anyway, I’m taking on a new job with new responsibilities, and I’ll probably be busy and unable to blog so often.

Til then.

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