When Parenting Doesn’t Come Naturally

tiger parenting chinese immigrant family

When Nori was about a year old, my mom was visiting and kindly offered to put her down for a nap. I was in the other room, but I could hear them reading books, singing songs, and then as she gently closed the door I heard my mom say: “have a good nap, Nori. I love you.”

It struck me. Not as odd or forced, but just…completely foreign sounding to my ears. I’d never heard those three words spoken by my parents before, in any language. Growing up, neither of them said it to any of my siblings—it just wasn’t how we talked with each other. I knew they loved me, but as immigrant parents they showed me it in their own ways.

I was raised in a household characterized by the hallmarks of tiger-parenting, and from reader messages, I know it’s something many of you are familiar with. Hugs and kisses were as rare as a sleepover with friends (aka…they never happened). “Conversations” were mostly one-way lectures or screaming matches that abruptly ended with “don’t talk back!” because your parents are never wrong. There were lots of rules and lots of studying. And by studying, I mean homework assignments made up by my parents, not for school. While my friends were off at the movies, I was at home memorizing my dad’s daily quota of PSAT vocab words.

The way our relationship was, my parents were not the first people I’d go to with any news, good or bad. I couldn’t wait to get out of the house, move to a new city for college, and start carving out my own path. Even later in life, though, I felt like a disappointment by not giving them bragging rights about going to an Ivy league school or becoming a doctor or lawyer like so-and-so’s kid. 

But now, as a mom, I’m finding myself viewing my upbringing through a different lens. And bit by bit, being on the other side has allowed me to slowly work on strengthening my relationship with my parents. The question that’s constantly on my mind, though, is how can I impart the values and work ethic they gave me to my own kids, while allowing my children to feel comfortable expressing their emotions, thoughts, and fears in a way I never was? 

Part of it, I know, is understanding and appreciating where their brand of tough love comes from. They were immigrants who uprooted their lives to come here with all their possessions in two suitcases. They landed in downtown Philadelphia, studied hard during the day, and paid rent working nights at corner stores and the back of restaurants peeling shrimp. While our generation has many non-linear paths to success, in the world they knew there was only one clearly defined path, so everything they did was to prepare me for that. And the bottom line is they did their best. It’s because of all those sacrifices they made, the risks they took, and the ones they didn’t take, I have the privilege of raising my kids here and even musing on this topic.  

A lot of people told me, the moment you become a parent it will all come naturally. “Trust your instinct…You’ll just know what to do.” But for me, it’s something I consciously work on each day. I only know the type of parenting that I grew up with. And while I truly respect my parents for raising me the way they did and am grateful for it, my hope is to find a new balance with my own kids that’s right for who they are and where our lives are now.

A few years back, I spoke these fears and questions out loud and was met with some wonderful advice from readers, which I saved. I find myself often referring back to some of these words, and wanted to pass along the ones that have really resonated with me.

1. Listen to the little things they tell you now, and one day it’ll be the more important things.

I want more than anything to be that safe, trustworthy place for my kid to call or talk to first if something is wrong. Growing up, my fear of being chastised right off the bat would outweigh my desire to tell the truth, or to just share and chat about things in general. As several of you put it, being able to listen to ANY type of news from your child without reacting immediately will go a long way in your relationship with each other. 

This advice also stuck with me, as a lot of times in our busy everyday lives glued to our screens, it’s easy to be dismissive of something small kids are trying to tell you. When to them, in their minds, what they want to let you know is very important. 

And when it comes to how to talk to them in more important situations, I thought this advice was also very helpful: try to see the world through their eyes and then respond as a parent. 

2. Set boundaries, be consistent, and be on the same page as your partner.

As we’re navigating toddler behavior and tantrums, one common thread of almost every piece of parenting advice I’ve read is that toddlers crave boundaries. They may enjoy constantly pushing those boundaries and limits, but at the end of the day, they feel most secure when they know their caregivers are firmly and unwaveringly in charge.

3. Don’t compare your kids or label them to others in front of them

This piece of advice hit home – while I know the constant comparisons and talk of accomplishments by “so-and-so’s kid” or even my other siblings were intended to be motivational, for me it did the opposite. Even to this day I’m unsure if I make my parents proud. Yet now that I’m a mother, I find it so easy to slip into the comparison game subtly and subconsciously, even at an early stage (seeing other kids walking sooner, talking sooner, being more social at preschool…). 

Thanks to advice you guys have shared, I’m more aware of not typecasting my kids in front of others (i.e. “oh she’s just shy”), because they’re always listening and might start to believe how you label them, whether or not it’s true. 

4. Apologize when wrong and be okay with showing you’re not perfect

This was mentioned a lot and honestly a very foreign idea to me given my upbringing. I’ve been practicing this with my marriage relationship and making sure to apologize and acknowledge when I’m wrong on both the little and big things! 

5. Don’t let your own expectations of who you want them to be get in the way of supporting who they truly are

While this one is a little less tangible and more long-term, it resonated with me most deeply, and is something I hope to continuously remember throughout this lifelong journey of being a parent.

 

Whether it’s from your experience as a parent or as a child, please feel free to share any advice that has really stuck with you or become part of your parenting journey!

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71 Comments

  1. Alexis wrote:

    My parents weren’t immigrants, but I note many similarities. They grew up in the south under segregation. I don’t remember being held, hugs or hearing “I love you.” The standards were laid out (good grades, stay out of trouble, be obedient) and we were expected to meet them without question. After all, we had it “so much better” than our parents did! Military dad, professional mother (who went back to college after I was born). They were striving for better while struggling with their relationship. I don’t have any children, but I think if I did I’d have to make a conscientious effort to be affectionate and warm. It’s okay if it doesn’t come naturally – as long as you know you need to work at it.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  2. Jan F wrote:

    This is so beautiful. While I’m not a parent, so much of this resonates with me and touches me deeply. I have many nieces and nephews whom I practice these tips with daily. Thank you for you honest and inspiring share.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  3. Joanna G wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    Thanks for sharing! My husband’s parents were also immigrants from Taiwan and he had the same exact upbringing experience. These tips are extremely helpful and a good reminder for us parents. We have a 2.5 year old and a 1 month old, so I appreciate the post and can totally relate.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  4. Emily Tan wrote:

    Thank you for this Jean – you articulate so well the concerns I feel about bringing up my toddler with my Asian Tiger Parented background. There are so many things I value from my upbringing – work ethic, grit, independence and self-sufficiency, but at the same time I want my child to have more support and a softer fall than I had. This has given me good food for thought. =)

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  5. Paulie wrote:

    This is so beautifully written. I was raised differently, yet I can relate to a lot of this. It is true that once you become a parent yourself you see your parents in a whole new light. And you come to appreciate them more. What I would say that I learned most from my parents is that it’s ok to make mistakes. No parent is perfect. I have many sleepless nights thinking about all the mistakes, the wrong things I said, and not being fully present for my kids throughout the day. But, looking back, my parents made a lot of mistakes too. And you know what? I think I turned out just fine in life. That gives me the confidence to let go and tell myself that it’s ok, that my kids need to see that I’m not perfect, but that I also keep trying my best. I think the mistakes we make as parents teaches our kids life’s skills to not be so hard on themselves. When our kids grow up, I just hope they remember most of all how much we loved them (and continue to love them), because I think love always shines through.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  6. Maggie wrote:

    Love this Jean! As an Asian immigrant myself, married to an American with different faith and upbringing, and a new mother of a 4 month old, this resonated with me so much! Love your advice and some of the great comments below (especially the one about noticing kind actions and behavior rather than just focusing on academic accomplishments) One more advice I wanted to add that I read somewhere and loved was “Always praise the kids for their efforts and not the end-results” For example: don’t praise your kid for getting an A, but for putting in their best effort even if that results in a lower grade. This also acknowledges the fact that each kid is different and may not end in excelling in all subjects/fields. It’s the effort they put in that counts.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  7. Rose wrote:

    Hi Jean, long-time reader here.
    I just wanted to share with you and your readers another perspective (and yet another way parents screw up, LOL). It has been so great reading your reflections on parenting, and eye-opening (and healing) reading other people’s comments about their experiences. Thank you for being so open and creating this safe space for people to share and connect.

    I come from a Russian and Hungarian Jewish background on my mom’s side and a Southern/Appalachian background on my dad’s side. My parents seemed to think that I didn’t need encouragement anymore once I reached the teen years and didn’t seem to care at all when I excelled in school or any of my hobbies. Because I wasn’t an adult yet, nothing that happened to me was interesting or important. After my dad tried and failed to change careers after getting a second master’s degree, he even said, “Don’t bother studying and making good grades.” I freaked out watching him fail professionally, and I am still struggling in my late 30s to be less intimidated by the “real world” and have the courage to try and believe I am good enough to do any of the job descriptions I see. I learned that adults were unreliable and didn’t have their sh*t together enough to pay attention to me, AND that I wasn’t good enough to expect any attention or help from them. Fortunately, I have a wonderful, loving partner now. Maybe someday we will be parents, too, and we will certainly do it differently!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
    • Christina wrote:

      I can fully relate to this! Thank you for sharing!

      Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  8. Jen wrote:

    WOW. I feel as if I could’ve written this myself. I’m first generation Chinese and I still get angry thinking back at how I was raised and I try every single day to do it differently for my kids. I want to show them the love, support and encouragement I never was. I think I’ve hugged and kissed my kids more in their short lives than I ever was! I appreciate the sacrifices my parents made but wish there was more caring and love from them. Thanks again for sharing. I never comment on posts but this one struck such a chord with me I just had to. You’re definitely not alone in your feelings!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  9. Yui wrote:

    Such a beautifully vulnerable post! I can definitely relate. I came home from school in 1st grade and asked my mom if she loved me, because at school they were telling us that our parents loved us. I couldn’t believe it because my mom had never uttered those words to me before. Her answer was, “If you get straight A’s, I love you” – it still slightly stings (although I know she didnt mean it and did love me) and I know my American friends were shocked to hear this, but as a child of a Japanese immigrant, it felt normal.

    And how eye opening to see others share their tales of growing up in a non Tiger mama household but share similar experiences. Thank you Jean for your helpful and honest post, and bringing all of us together!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  10. Ashton wrote:

    This is such a great post.

    Growing up, I didn’t butt heads with my parents often, and I was lucky to be able to go to my mom with anything and everything and not be afraid of being judged or having a punishment thrown at me before I’d even explained. That’s something that I’m trying to recreate with my own daughter.

    That said, I don’t think my parents ever apologized to me about anything they had done. They would explain their reasoning behind their actions, but never say the words ‘I’m sorry.’ Now that my daughter is 6 and really starting to find her own voice, I’m having to remind myself to take a breath first so that I can hopefully avoid those type situations.

    I’ve also been fighting a battle of sorts with my parents over extra-curricular activities. They really really want her to play some type of sport, but my kid is not sporty at all. They keep trying to tell me that we won’t know unless she tries it, but I know my kid. She has an above-average love of art, so we’re looking for ways to foster that and help it grow. And if she decides later on that she wants to try softball, then we’ll do that, too.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  11. Laura wrote:

    Thank you so much for this! I read it while feeding my 10-week old daughter. While my parents were not immigrants, I was raised in an intensely religious environment and that guided their parenting. My daughter will be raised differently than I was, so my parenting will be something I need to consciously think about. I appreciated this post so much!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  12. Kathy wrote:

    Beautiful post Jean! You are an awesome Mama. I’m expecting baby girl #2, in a multiracial/multifaith family and greatly appreciate this post. Also raised by immigrant parents and ultimately, we carve our path and find our harmony with parenting. Sending love!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  13. Jengy wrote:

    <3

    My husband is an immigrant and like your parents, and doesn't say "I love you" to me, and hasn't ever.

    We're talking about our daughter at my 7 months of pregnancy, and I'm slowly warming him to the idea that "I love yous" are OK. I'm trying to explain to him that, while I'm at adult and that I understand he loves me despite the words being absent, our daughter is still forming and won't understand that, and I'm encouraging him to express the words when he feels comfortable.

    Thank you for sharing this insight. I'm Latina and we're nosy about other cultures and love to hear about them. 😀 it can be difficult looking back at challenges that became gifts, because they still make you remember suffering… It's nice, though, that something of a fondness for these experiences can often help us cope, though.

    You're doing great, and I loved the honesty of this article.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  14. Gwen Kennedy wrote:

    Jean, this post just brightened my morning. Thank you. My mom raised me very similarly (not an immigrant, but second generation Irish from Southie). In many ways, due to our upbringing (very much a tiger mama dictatorship) , both my brother and I chose to not have kids rather than repeat the way we were parented. (I found out this when we got to know each other as adult siblings, not kids.) It was only way we knew and scarred us both. Of course, now we realize we could do things differently but that ship seems to have sailed. You are an inspiration for being so thoughtful in your parenting and marriage. Your mom must be *so* very proud of who you are and what you have accomplished (whether or not they know how to show it, as I wonder the same)! It is always refreshing and edifying to read these musings by you. Thank you! 🙂

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  15. Jennifer Pollio wrote:

    Thank you Jean <3

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  16. Lucy wrote:

    Thank you for this, Jean! As a 1.5 gen immigrant I was tiger parented by parents who were ridiculously strict and also incredibly loving, in their own way. As I’ve grown and matured I’m better able to see why they did what they did, and how our world lenses are different. I also have a very different situation as they were raising me on SNAP benefits, below the poverty line, paycheck to paycheck, so that I could have a comfortable life – and I do. My husband and I have terminal graduate degrees and I made more my first year out of undergrad than my dad did when he finally got his PhD.

    For those of us who are on the journey of healing our childhood wounds and looking for help as we parent our children, I’d recommend looking at RIE Parenting, positive discipline, and the Montessori method. All of these have helped reframe my own mindset and responses. The book Hunt Gather Parent also helps to encourage more ease (and less emphasis on outward success). Other great books have been mentioned like No Drama Discipline. There is a YouTube channel I love called Hapa Family which is a mixed race couple who use Montessori and positive discipline.

    Finally, for those of us with kids – I HIGHLY recommend the book “I am Human” by Susan Verde. It literally had me in tears the first time I read it to my baby – if I had been told these words growing up, what a different truth I would’ve lived. Thankful for the chance to always change and always learn. Big hugs to you, Jean, and all your followers!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  17. Belinda wrote:

    Long time reader, first time commenter here. I just wanted to give words of appreciation and support. I started reading your blog since your pre-marital and mom days and I love your blog’s transformation into lifestyle and especially pregnancy and motherhood (while looking fabulous!). It is so genuine yet positive, keep up the good work!

    I am a first time mom, my son is around Nori’s age and I am first generation Canadian Chinese. Your article struck a chord with me because I have the same struggles in terms of preserving the values my parents taught me while modernizing my parenting style. The fact that you’re aware and approaching it thoughtfully already makes you a fantastic mom (whether your mom or other moms thinks you are or not). Please keep sharing your journey with the world, it is a kind one and we really could use more of that in this world.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  18. Katie H wrote:

    Thank you for sharing this Jean! I too was raised in a very strict home and couldn’t wait to leave for college. My relationship with my parents is still shaky at times and we are not as close but I still try to do what I can. Being a parent now, my husband and I also found parenting to not come as easy. Everything you said I completely agree with and resonated with me. But the one thing that I believe many parents should really listen to is the comparison comment specifically towards our kids. Especially if family members start to make comments, to also respectfully be quick to shut them down and talk to them later. I became hyper aware of comments like this with our son and I am very thankful for others to stand up about this. Every child is different and just because they act one way now, does not mean they will be that way their whole life. Anyway! Thank you for being real and genuine!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
    • Anna D wrote:

      The comparison is what I’m starting to worry about especially because i have twins and I’ve become conscious of it. Any tips on what to say to shut it down quickly and respectfully? Especially starting with the grandparents and unfortunately they are hard of hearing sometimes so I don’t want to feel like I’m yelling at them..

      Posted 9.13.21 Reply
  19. Cynthia Brown wrote:

    Jean – as the mother of two really great grown up girls, I can tell you that the advice you shared above is SPOT ON and words we lived by. I’ll add one more that’s related to the “boundaries” part you shared. Some one very wise told me to look at the rules and control portion of parenting like an upside down pyramid. When they are small, you need to control more, for just the reasons you articulated….it helps them feel safe. However, you can start teaching them how to make their own choices by presenting them with no more than two options to choose from in a given situation. Goes like this….”would you like to wear the blue dress, or the pink tights outfit today?” As they grow more capable, the pyramid of choice and control grows larger. But not before they are ready to handle it. It’s a bit tricky, but if you pair greater choice/control along with greater responsibility, it works to form people who can function in the world properly.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
    • Anonymous wrote:

      Love this! Thank you 🙂

      Posted 7.19.21 Reply
    • Monique wrote:

      Great advice!

      Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  20. Janene wrote:

    This is beautiful and genuine. I am saving these words!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  21. Anonymous wrote:

    Very good information! I am 62 not raised by immigrant parents. I was never told ” I love you.” I think it was a style that parenting was before now and I chose to always say if to my girls!!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  22. Janet wrote:

    Wow, growing up as a second generation Korean, I completely relate to your experiences. What I didn’t expect was the part about disappoinment to our parents not giving them bragging rights, and wondering whether we make them proud today. I thought that was unique to my experience and didn’t realize that others shared that feeling. My two kids are high schoolers, and I can definitely say that they’ve grown up with a very different experience than I did. They are both smarter than I am and get better grades than I did and I am so proud of them. In fact I’ll be taking my daughter to Boston to look at schools this weekend and I’ll be using your Boston visitor’s guide! Thank you so much for writing this article. You are so beautiful, inside and out!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  23. Nancy Visgatis wrote:

    thanks for sharing . You’re vulnerability and transparency are appreciated .

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  24. Jessa L wrote:

    I grew up a lot like you. Not as strict and my parents didn’t have as tough of a time making ends meet as yours did when she came to America from the Philippines in the 80s, but it was similar. I have children close to the same age as yours and have been struggling with my relationship with my parents the past year or so as I realize more about the respectful parenting approach I want to raise my children with, and with the reparenting I am trying to do with myself. I wonder, did you ever talk to your parents about how you feel about the way you were raised? If so, how did it go and do you have tips? I’ve tried in the past only to end, again, in a screaming match (which I can’t believe is still happening at 35). Do they act the same way (sort of behaviorist) with your children now? If so, does it trigger you and, if so, how do you deal with it? I hope these aren’t too personal of questions. Thanks for opening up and for all that you do!

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
    • Lucy wrote:

      Just wanted to pop on and respond to the question about talking about parenting styles with ones parents… while you may want to do it for closure or understanding, this is a really hard convo to have if your parents aren’t open to it as it can sound like you’re blaming them for things going wrong or telling them that their methods were bad. Ultimately they were working with the toolkit they had been given and likely were trying to do better, but we can only do what we can do given our prior experiences and current situation. An example would be my family, which was incredibly strict a la Jean’s. Yet my parents are so proud that they raised me with much more love and care than they experienced – they were beaten and verbally abused, in poverty – and so for them their parenting was a triumph.

      My parents are more open to talking about the past and willing to admit they were wrong, but I also don’t dwell on it much in our relationship. They have grown and my job is to keep moving forward (whether that is reparenting or keeping emotional tabs on myself) so that my children are in a better place.

      I am not saying to ignore the past, but truly what is your desired outcome? It sounds like there is hurt on your side and they feel attacked on their side when this topic is brought up (bc of the screaming matches you mentioned). Do you need them to humble themselves and admit fault or can you take the lessons and move on yourself? My opinion is to spend your precious energy on what you can mold – your own self, releasing your own trauma from the past, and strengthening your relationship with your children.

      Big love. Lucy

      Posted 7.19.21 Reply
      • Anna D wrote:

        Jessa – your post totally struck a chord, thank you for sharing. I experienced something very similar as a new mom.

        Lucy – thank you so much for your reply and articulating that. In my case, both ended up happening. I had 2 meltdowns and I was the only one screaming in the screaming match. They were totally gracious and admitted fault and I also i struggled to move forward but I definitely broke their hearts and I wish I did it differently.

        Posted 9.13.21 Reply
  25. Lauren wrote:

    Hi Jean, thank you for writing and posting this! I also have a little one that’s almost 2.5, and one of my greatest fears while I was pregnant was how to parent a little girl when growing up my own relationship with my mom was so strained. I’m a first gen American, and it’s been hard to be conscious about creating a different parenting relationship than the one I grew up with! This post really resonated with me deeply! Xo

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  26. Ashley B wrote:

    Thank you for sharing! This post really hit home.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  27. Skye wrote:

    I come from Filipino background, and we’re always told to hide or to be quiet when there are guests or other people around. Or not talk back, boys don’t cry, etc. Perhaps this has made me the type of individual who finds it hard to speak my mind, or to talk to people in general. So I’m doing the opposite, I allow my child to talk to guests with respect, leaving him sometimes to be himself with them. These guests are of course friends. I allow him to speak back to me when he has something to say, even when he disagree with me. But always reminding him to be polite in his manner. I allow him to cry when he is hurt emotionally and physically wherever we are.
    Glad to say he is someone so eloquent with his feelings with other people and mature in dealing with anyone of different ages.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  28. LAWYER MOM wrote:

    Such a wonderful post that resonates with many of us who grew up in an Asian household. I still catch myself falling into my parent’s old patterns despite my promise to be different – particularly when faced with a willful three-year-old and a mountain of looming deadlines. It’s heartbreaking because I don’t want my kids to equate subservience or control with love, which can damage their perspective on relationships later on (it certainly did mine), Thank you for this reminder to always consciously do better.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  29. Tiffany wrote:

    As a majority of others have already mentioned. This post resonated with me so much. I am a mother to two beautiful girls, both under 6. My mom and dad were both emotionally unavailable. Now that I have my own kids, I don’t want them to grow up the same way. Now I intentionally hug, hold and tell them I love them.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  30. An IT Auditor wrote:

    From a child’s perspective, raised in a strict military home: please make sure to comment on a child’s good qualities. Ex: Nori is kind and patient with her little brother; Rio is gentle with small animals. So many times growing up I heard only “she got the top score in national standardized tests” or “she played her piano recital with no mistakes”. I never heard “she is so gentle with horses and calms them down so well” or “she is so gentle she can pick up any ladybug or butterfly or moth without them flying away in panic” or “she is really good at communicating with her siblings.” You know, positive character traits that don’t immediately translate to worldly achievements. The only good things I heard about myself were the ones that aligned with my parents dream. I didn’t hear about the good things that were who I was. I think that every one of us needs to be reminded of the good that we do that isn’t just in service to a material achievement. As a side note: when riding and training horses, I would tell them “you are a good girl” or “you are a good boy.” I noticed that their frustration would melt away and that they would be calm again, even if they had been frustrated with learning something a moment before. I think that sometimes we (children and animals included) need to be reminded that we are good too, and we do good things outside of material achievements. I hope to practice this if I have children of my own one day 💞

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  31. Lucy C wrote:

    Thank you for writing and sharing this post! I related to every single word!! You just inspired me to pickup where I left off in my “blog” to my kids that I started when I first became a mom. Thank you so very much for sharing.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  32. Tina wrote:

    The beginning of this post made me laugh — not bc it was funny or entertaining but simply bc it’s so spot on. My closest friends and I are all 1st gen Chinese immigrants and have always talked about how our parents’ parenting style have affected us in good and bad ways.

    I don’t have kids, so I won’t give advice, but I couldn’t resist dropping a comment to say that your own experiences really resonated with me, especially about the parts about never hearing the words “I love you” and never going to your parents first with news.

    Like you, as I got older, I better understand why my parents are how they are and appreciate the work they put into raising me. But I do often wonder how I might do it differently if I one day have kids. It would be nice not to have such a huge chasm between parent and child.

    Posted 7.19.21 Reply
  33. Natalie wrote:

    Thank you so much for sharing these pieces of advices and information. I’ve been your fan since 20 and now I’m almost 30 and craving my own family and children. I’ll save these for when/if the time comes but I just want to say I’m so grateful to hear and resonate with your growing up story. Thank you so much for sharing your parenting journey and advices, I also shared them with my family and friends who have young children and we are all so glad to have come across your blog.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  34. So much of my parenting now is characterized by discovery. I always understood the philosophical reasons behind why my parents parented the way they did but I didn’t, until the past two years, understand the harm that some of that wrought: I never knew that handling your emotions meant to actually feel them and that they were valid. I just learned to always do what was “right” and to suppress all emotions and opinions because that’s how a good daughter behaves. Now, with our two, my partner and I both want to do it differently. We want to maintain values and boundaries and impart work ethic and all the same things we learned but we want to do it in a way that’s healthier emotionally than just being told to do it our way because we said so. We want our kids to practice critical thinking and stand up for themselves and that has to start at home. We want them to value themselves and know they are more than their jobs, and that has to start at home too.
    There’s a lot to learn now and we’re committed to trying to do it well even if it’s much harder to be understanding and thoughtful and open than it is to just lay down the law and refuse to give way. I understand why parents of the earlier generation did that but we don’t have to repeat the pattern.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  35. Sarena wrote:

    All of this just resonated with me. Thankfully there are now so many resources that are available to us. I began my parenting almost mirroring what I know- the authoritarian type. Thankfully I’ve learned from books like the 5 Love Languages of Children, The Whole Brain Child, No Drama Discipline, Shepherding a Child’s Heart, to name a few have helped tremendously. Along with other tips like, to diminish sibling rivalry when kids ask, “Who’s your favorite child?” I typically respond with, “You’re my favorite 12 year old, my favorite 9 year old, & my favorite 7 year old. And I love each of you so much!” Simple words yet so profound… a tip I learned from someone on the internet. Lastly, I try to remember being a kid at their age and what I would have loved to hear my parents say or do. Just like what Mr. Rogers said when asked about an advice for parents about their kids, he responded with, “Remember your childhood.” ❤️

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  36. Abigail E wrote:

    Oh my goodness. Your upbringing resonates so much to me. Growing up in an Asian home, I had similar experiences and still struggle with it today. It really had an impact on my decision to not have children. You are amazing and doing a great job!

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  37. Emily wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    Not sure if you remember me, but we ran into you briefly in Vancouver on the street and ended up staying in the same building. I have a son around Nori’s age and expecting a daughter in December.

    I’ve never had a blog post resonate with me so hard, so much that I am leaving my first comment ever on a blog. You could have written my autobiography, except substitute Houston for Philadelphia and “boxset of monotone guy teaching college math concepts” for PSAT flashcards. That was my birthday gift when I was in middle school, no joke.

    Your thoughts about parenting are the exact reason why I started seeking therapy with a culturally-aware therapist, as I was worried about many things, including over-correcting my parenting style to be too lenient. Over my sessions, I realized that like many Asian-Americans that are the product of tiger parenting and emotionally unavailable parents, I had a lot of trauma that I never acknowledged or dealt with I am still sorting through.

    I am thankful that we have access to resources that our parents did not have the opportunity to have and live in a cultural place and time where we can seek help and advice. I’m heartened to see your relationship now with your parents and their loving relationship with your children despite the history, and hope the same for myself. Thank you for writing this.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  38. Nana wrote:

    Being your silent follower for so long since I was an international student, just want to say thank you for this post. I am married for 3 years and thinking about having a baby. I wonder that I can be friend with my child or the one they can share any news first. Although I am grateful for what my parents prepared for me, there are moments I feel hurt when thinking about their words and acts in the past. I would love to see more posts about parenthood from you. Thank you <3

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  39. Rachael wrote:

    Excellent post. Being a child of Asian immigrants, I related to this so much. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you sharing this. Thank you, Jean!

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  40. Julia W wrote:

    Love this reflection and relate to the comparison struggles- still ongoing unfortunately. It does get internalized and carry with you through the years, so I’m glad you’re working through that in raising Nori and Rio <3 On the affection, as I've grown, I found that I'd actively initiate the hugs and "I love you"s and then they start coming around to it and incorporating it into their language and actions!!

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  41. Amry wrote:

    I strongly related to your words and it’s helpful to know that I’m not alone in trying to balance how my parents raised me with my own parenting style. Thank you so much for sharing Jean.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  42. Carla wrote:

    The Five Love Languages is a book I both loved reading as a teen and have recommended many times since. You’ll not only understand your own needs better, but also see where your spouse and children differ in what they need, too.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  43. Erica wrote:

    Wow this really resonated with me as a have a 10 day old baby boy and my parents are living with us for a month to help out. I love and appreciate my parents but it definitely took awhile to truly be able to appreciate all that they do as I felt like they were too tiger on me all through out my childhood. Thanks for sharing !!

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  44. Anonymous wrote:

    I have followed you for a long time and as a teacher and a four time grandparent (so far) ❤️myself I think you are doing a wonderful job.
    You are thoughtful and intentional in raising your sweet children. 🙏

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  45. Allison wrote:

    Hi Jean,

    What a lovely post to read. I’m a longtime reader of your blog—I used to sneak onto your website during class in high school. 🙂 I’m a few years younger than you though; I just turned 25 and don’t have kids yet.

    I was raised by strict Chinese parents and could relate to so much of this! The constant comparisons, the disappointment that I didn’t do better, etc. I’m now a PhD student and joke to my parents that they should’ve been clearer about the kind of doctor they wanted me to be. Now that I’m a few years out of college I can somewhat appreciate and see where they were coming from. They just wanted the best for me and went about it in the only way they knew how. Although I don’t think their methods were the best, I have to admit they instilled some pretty great values in me. I have similarly wondered how I’ll teach my (future) kids these values without, um, traumatizing them.

    I was wondering if you have advice for raising practical children without dashing more creative dreams? I think I’ve read before that your parents disapproved of you studying fashion in college (and you didn’t), and yet here you are today. I would love to hear you thoughts on this.

    Thanks so much!

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  46. HaVy wrote:

    I absolutely loved this post. Thanks for taking the time to share it. I think I need to print this out and put it on the wall so I can remember

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  47. Kate K wrote:

    I have a similar relationship with my mom, we didnt really express our love for each other verbally. I am pregnant with my first child and that’s one thing I will make sure my kids get to hear often. I am thankful for having a very loving partner which I have been used to say affectionate things daily. I appreciated a steady routine (aka doing homework right after school then having my play time) that I plan to do the same with my kids.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  48. Janki DePalma wrote:

    I feel I could write a whole blog post on this topic. Heck, just hearing the free use of “I love you” being given to my kids from my mom (I rarely heard it- maybe a handful of times).
    I’ve been really enjoying reading Brene Brown esp Gifts of Imperfection and Rising Strong. Both help open up the emotions that we all carry and look at how we can identify and move with them. So important because most of us Asian American kids didn’t have a space for negative emotions or mental health.
    I struggle with seeing my kids as an extension of me. I’ve realized now that what high school and (soon) college my son attends (the one who was in KG when I found you), is not a reflection on me. And success comes in many terms. I’ve seen first hand engineers who got in the field to make their moms happy and hate it.
    One of the weirdest parts of parenting is realizing that your parent was trying his best, like you are and yet made mistakes. And you also realize that your parent loves you the same way you love your child- that’s a humbling feeling.
    Take care!

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  49. Maureen wrote:

    Thanks for sharing Jean! I am struggling with learning how to step-parent. A lot of the time it feels like I end up with a lot of the tough parts of parenting without the warm fuzzy moments my soon to be husband gets. We’ll figure it out over time and I agree that being on the same page with my partner is key.

    Posted 7.18.21 Reply
  50. Anne wrote:

    Read to your children at every age/stage. It encourages language development, imagination and creativity, physical closeness, unplugging from technology, and sets an example for life-long readers/learners.

    Posted 6.20.21 Reply

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