My goal was to interview at least four Asian mothers (see below why I chose Asian families), and I have the honor of dialoguing with four Asian daughters. To my surprise, the results of the interviews were exactly what I expected.
For the last couple of years, there have been many dialogues, articles, etc. written about Asian parenting. Why, you wonder? Because although Asian parenting seems to be in total contrast with how Europeans or White Americans raise their children, Asian children have academically been successful, and seem to respect and value family and family values more so than their European counterparts.
I was curious about these phenomena, so I ended up interviewing four Asian women, all graduate students, (two from India, one from Pakistan, and the last from China, all second generation immigrants) about their experiences growing up and how parenting and culture played a role. Interestingly enough, everyone seemed to be on the same page.
I had to ask about the Western perception that Asian parents lack warmth and empathy toward their children. All of these women laughed. All of them, and I mean all of them, didn’t believe that their parents lacked warmth. They instinctually understood that the way their parents treated them was a manifestation of care and empathy. As angry and as frustrating as having strict parents could be, they knew that their parents were acting in their best interest. Yes, sometimes they wanted parental relationships like their Western counterparts. They wanted more lenient and less intrusive parents, but they ultimately realized that in the long run, their Western counterparts were not better off or any happier then they were.
Then we discussed the concept of the extended family. How did they feel about having to “contend” with the judgment of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and competition with siblings, cousins, etc. since they lived in a country where the nuclear family is boss? Everyone was on the same page about friction existing among and within their family structures, but they valued their families because having a strong familial base determines how other families in the community treat you and hold you in esteem. The Chinese student bluntly told me that she “hated” two of her cousins, one male and one female, “but they are family and I have to tolerate them and protect them”.
Finally, I wanted to know how they were going to raise their children, with more Western values or traditions or with more Eastern values and traditions? All of them had problems answering this question. They revered their Eastern heritage, but they were now Americans. Again, all of them wanted the best of both worlds. As the student from Pakistan said “I want to give my child the best.
If using a little bit of both cultures is how I’m going to get the best, then I will take what I need from both cultures.” One Indian student said that it depends on who she marries. If she marries a Westerner, then her parenting style will most likely be more Western than Eastern. However, if she marries an Easterner, her parenting style will more so reflect Eastern culture and values.
My conclusions: culture is relevant, and diverse cultures in the U.S. are the bedrock of America itself. It is good to know about people and why they live the way they live, why they pray the way they pray, and why they love the way they love, but all of that isn’t going to guarantee or formulate a magic pill or solution for effective parenting, success, and happiness. Ultimately we are all individuals, and as such, we have the desire to be loved and respected and to succeed, but we also need others. Instead of trying to find a magic potion, let’s learn to value and respect our children. No matter where you are from or what you do, don’t judge your children, but love them; don’t try to hinder them, but give them the values and the foundation needed to soar and succeed in every environment. On that note, I commend all women who are care takers of how they amazingly balance the power of love and logic!
From my Heart to Yours,
Dr. Dilshad Dayani