Learning to Parent the “Asian-American” Way


What is an “Asian-American” parenting style?

I’ve lived in the suburbs of Houston, TX now for 3 years and if you know anything about the place, it is vastly growing, rapidly diversifying, particularly along the suburban edge. Ethnic tensions are beginning to brew and this coffee aint gonna be sweet. I have seen Korean children routinely get labeled as “ADD” partly because they don’t understand English and thus act out, and partly because, well, Korean immigrants raise their kids differently.

In parting from my more recent immigrant brethren, I’ve been raising my kids in more of the “American” way, praising extroversion, outgoingness, independent thinking, investing and not divesting them of responsibility, and here’s to hoping that we will be differentiated parents enough in the future to let them fly the coop, and give them wings to fly, rather than keep them at home in a state of perpetual adult childishness and unhealthy emotional enmeshment.

But truth be told sometimes the “asian dad” in me just surfaces.

Discipline? Asian dad. Sternness? Asian dad. Gruffness? Asian dad. Dinner table conversation? Asian dad. Homework? Asian dad. Math homework? Asian dad.

And while I find myself often making a conscious effort to be “American dad”, those moments where the asianness in me surfaces I begin to wonder exactly what it means to parent in a distinctly “Asian-American” way. Teach them to use chopsticks? A few Korean words? Is that all? Our Caucasian / Anglo friends and Texans seem to love our company, implicitly, because we’re so “American” (and also implicitly, because we’re not like those Koreans) and truth be told I relish that a bit. But in the end I am left wondering…

I know. Deconstruct me, why don’t you. As if I don’t have a guilt complex enough.

So now I am hearing about this Amy Chua business with her new book “The Triple Package: Why Groups Rise and Fall in America” which I have no desire to read because I despise eugenics on a moral basis but unfortunately am adding to the media machine by blogging about it. But I didn’t hyperlink it, so take that mass media!

If Amy is trying to get the “Asian” in me to come out and shine and be the tiger mom that I am, then I am resisting it. I want to find a unique Asian parenting style that recognizes, appreciates, and honors our heritage but NOT that way. Not by forcing repetitions of Fur Elise on the piano for hours and rapped knuckles if they fail to do so. No way. I hated that then and still hate it now:

Amy Chua In ‘The Triple Package’ Claims Jews and Mormons Produce More Successful People

Chua hijacks the Jewish mother stereotype

Tiger Mom is back with despicable new theory about racial superiority

Sigh. I succumb. Curse you media machine.

Yes, I think it’s despicable. I don’t like it at all. And for the reading public, Asian-Americans are not all on board with her. In fact I think very few are. And probably, chances are, those who are against it are more “Americanized.” “2nd gen.” Is that right?

Then how do you, pray tell, parent the “Asian-American” way?

Published by Wayne Park

Asian-American clergyman thinking about issues of faith, place, race and culture-making in the vast city of Houston, TX

5 thoughts on “Learning to Parent the “Asian-American” Way

  1. I was a little surprised at the denunciation of Prof. Chua by some of the same people, undoubtedly, who would claim to be multiculturalists. Your post on the subject is balanced and fair.

  2. Pingback: World Spinner

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