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Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

  • 1.  Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-01-2017 02:30 PM

    Tiger Mom, Amy Chua, implemented a highly authoritarian parenting style in raising her children. Her harsh discipline strategy and strict method received overwhelmingly negative critics. Many media investigated Asian parents' parenting strategies and wondered the secrets of Asian children's excellent academic performance. However, little was discussed regarding Asian children's psychological needs and mental health

    Studies showed the suicide rate among the Asian females was the highest. Asian American and Pacific Islanders children did suffer from generic psychological disorders or syndromes, but parents of Asian children usually suppress or neglect their children's emotional needs. It is much too late when tragedy happens for Asian children. What do you think about the Tiger Mom parenting style and its impact on Asian children's mental health? What are your concerns for Asian children's psychological needs?

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    Shu-Chen Yen

    Cupertino CA

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  • 2.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-02-2017 04:50 PM
    As an early childhood educator, I am concerned about Asian children's well-beings and mental health. Even though Asian children are glowing in their academic achievement, their mental health and psychological needs are overlooked. Asian children are under pressure to perform well on every single subject, yet they may not receive the deserved praises or acknowledgment from their parents. Tiger Mom's authoritarian parenting style did help both of her daughters get accepted to Harvard University, which was a standard definition of "success"; for Chinese parents. However, I would wonder about the mental health part; the social-emotional needs were not met for those tiger cubs! I would like to advocate for Asian parents to redefine "success" which should not be contingent on college admission, and it should be a life-long accomplishment and a sense of happiness!

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    Sandy Baba
    Cupertino, CA
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  • 3.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-03-2017 01:18 PM
    I completely agree about the pressure of Asian community and needing to constantly perform.  The importance of holistic education (which includes socio-emotional) is not given much importance within the community.  As an early childhood educator , I have taken this issue very seriously and have applied it within my professional and personal life. I have been fortunate enough to have parents who truly believes in importance of individual identity and ways to support within their own community, with some reservations. However, it is crucial to inform, educate, and support this particular community about importance of socio-emotional development.

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    Ankit Shah
    Educational Academy for Boys and Girls
    Columbus OH
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  • 4.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-05-2017 01:31 PM
    Dear Ankit,
    Thank you so much for your response! Well said! You are very luck to have parents who are willing to be educated and accommodate their parenting style as well as attend to their children's social-emotional development and psychological needs! I totally agree with you that as ECE educators, we need to "inform, educate, and support this particular community" about the importance of children's social-emotional development! We need more teachers to be aware of the issue and assist children and parents learning how to deal with this specific needs in the Asian population! Thank you for you work!

    Best,
    Shu-Chen

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    Shu-Chen Jenny Yen
    Associate Professor
    California State University, Fullerton
    Fullerton, CA
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  • 5.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-04-2017 11:19 AM
    Hi,

    I work in a Chinese immersion program (preschool and kindergarten), so this discussion caught my eye. I think that in order to advocate for our students' mental health, we are better off focusing on specific incidences in which we can educate parents about how children grow and develop. Focusing on this issue as a problem of Asian parents might unnecessarily put parents on the defensive and also ignores the fact that parents of all backgrounds sometime have unreasonable expectations for their children. For example, a family in our school (not of Asian background) took their son to a well-known learning center that focuses on reading and math. The center told the parents that their son was below average in math skills, an example of which was that he could not add 35+16. The child is 4, turning 5 soon. There is a lot to talk about in a case like this, including the pressure the parents were perhaps putting on their child to be "above average" in math. There are a lot of next steps that could be taken, not least of which would be discussing the child's progress in numeracy in his regular program, sharing of developmental norms, sharing of the math curriculum (i.e. that sort of addition would not be covered until 1st grade in most schools). I believe that a lot parental pressure can be offset but a better understanding of child development. A lack of information can lead to unreasonable (or even impossible) expectations. Being proactive about educating parents is a great strategy to help us advocate for children, not matter what their background is.

    Lastly, I read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, and I have to say that I believe many readers missed the humor in it! Amy Chua spends a lot of time making fun of herself in the book :). In the end, she really respects her daughter for standing up to her.

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    Mary Field
    San Antonio TX
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  • 6.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-05-2017 02:16 PM
    Dear Mary,
    Thank you for your thoughtful response and a great example illustrating issues/pressures parents face today! I LOVE your point that it is universal and not necessary for Asian parents only.  Today American children are facing unprecedented pressure for college application, and parents are receiving "peer pressure" from other parents as well! It is a competition for both parents and children! Unfortunately, Asian parents tend to focus more on academic achievement than parents in other cultures. Studies showed that Asian parents tended to suppress "negative emotion" for their children, and most of the children reported that their parents did mot allow them to show negative emotion (e.g., anger, sadness, and fear).  However, as human being, we all have this primary emotion such as fear, anger, and sorrow. Many Asian parents (including myself) are not used to discuss emotion with their children, and we are not a good model to show children how to cope with their emotional needs.

    I read the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother as well. I am glad you enjoyed her book. I think she is brave enough to share her parenting style! I am impressed with her dedication and time spending on her daughters' education. I respect her parenting style but do not agree with her style! As an ECE educator with Chinese background, I understand and respect her style but would not want my children to go through the experiences she described!

    Julie Lythcott-Haims wrote her book on How to Raise Successful Children-Without Over-parenting, you can find her talk at overparenting julie ted talk - Yahoo Search Results Yahoo Video Search Results. You may find her talk interesting!

    Thank you so much for joining us for this discussion, and I appreciate your insights!

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    Shu-Chen Jenny Yen
    Associate Professor
    California State University, Fullerton
    Fullerton, CA
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  • 7.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-05-2017 01:13 PM

    Hi All,

    Thanks, Shu-Chen, for staring this discussion. As an Asian American, past educator and a current doctoral student in mental health, this conversation is one close to my heart.

    I agree with what many others have already said. I strongly believe that more parents need to be aware of social emotional needs and development in young children. However, as I have spent a few years doing this, I believe it is much more necessary to show rather than tell parents. In one previous experience, I attempted to educate parents in Beijing about social emotional learning, but to no avail. Many parents, especially more highly educated ones, could spew the "correct" answers of what children needed but also admitted their practice did not align with their philosophy. In other words, it is not the lack of knowledge that keeps them from practicing.  Many are fearful of "losing" at the starting line by investing time into soft skills instead of precocious academic achievements their children's peers were learning. For them to take the risk of going against the societal trend takes tremendous amounts of courage and support from others. However, for families I have worked with to boost children's social emotional skills and consequently factors such as self-esteem, the parents are able to tangibly experience the benefits of SEL for their child and many have found courage to focus more on their child's social emotional needs. The question as educators is how do we help parents experience the fruits that intentional social emotional teaching/learning can bring and build an environment where they have the courage to invest in soft skills.

    As for the concept of tiger mothering, I have very mixed feelings. First, studies have shown that the prevalence of "tiger parenting" is not as prevalent as the public assumes it is. Second, there has been some academic debate on whether our current constructs of authoritative/authoritarian/permissive, which are based on mostly White, middle-class populations and only describes parenting from the dimensions of warmth and demandingness (and sometimes autonomy), accurately portrays parenting of other including ethnic minority cultures.

    One of my past professors who sits on Harvard's committee for mental health for their students once told me that, through her experience, she has found two kinds of tiger mothers: one who builds rapport with their children and one who does not. It's the ones who do not build that rapport,  who don't "cushion the hard ground for when they fall" as she often mentioned, that may contribute to the aggravation of mental health problems in Asian Americans rather than simply tiger mothering itself. 

    It's a complicated issue and I'm glad we're discussing this. I'm looking forward to reading more individual's thoughts on this.



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    Cheng Qian
    Palo Alto CA
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  • 8.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-05-2017 03:45 PM
    Dear Cheng,

    Thank you so much for chiming in for this conversation! This topic is also close to my heart because I have witnessed too many suicides in the Asian community. In Palo Alto area, particularly, the CDC had to investigate the suicide cluster. See the link below http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Why-are-Palo-Alto-s-kids-killing-themselves-6270854.php.

    As an ECE consultant, I worked with many parents with their children's mental health issues and psychological needs. I can't agree with you anymore that the "simply inform approach" is not sufficient! More have to be done! But how? From your experience, you noticed that "For them (parents) to take the risk of going against the societal trend takes tremendous amounts of courage and support from others." It is the "culture frame" that we are against to, and it is not easy for parents to think and act differently!

    As an ECE educator and a mom for two children, I sometimes second-doubt myself and question if I should send my children to the Academy Center for supplementing Math, Debate, Writing, and more. Why? Because everyone in my children's classes is doing it! Luckily, I can receive "reassurance" from my colleagues and am able to keep a balance on my children's cognitive and social-emotional development!

    You did an exemplary explanation for the authoritarian parenting style! Yes, Diana Baumrind's work focused on the White population, and it may not be the perfect description for the particular Asian parenting style! However, in the current stage, we do not have a better term to describe the unique parenting style.

    I love and appreciated your comment on differentiating two kinds of Tiger Mom style! I totally agree with you! Also, in the USA, Ruth Chao's studies revealed that Chinese American children and adolescents are usually acculturated to the mainstream American culture faster than their immigrant parents. Such generational acculturation differences are stressful for both children and parents. Parents indeed may not know how to deal with their American children!

    Parents in Beijing, Taipei, Hong Kong, or Palo Alto are facing similar but different pressure! It is not easy to change the culture frame for parents, but slowly I am sure we can make a difference! Thank you!


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    Shu-Chen Jenny Yen
    Associate Professor
    California State University, Fullerton
    Fullerton, CA
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  • 9.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-05-2017 04:54 PM
    Thank you all for having this discussion! I agree it is a complicated issue and that not all Asian parents have the same teaching values. Through my work in the San Francisco Bay Area and the US, I've come to know many low income Asian parents and grandparents who work long hours to make ends meet and are struggling to find time to take care of their children. Many of them are trying to learn about the US education system to help their children yet they don't know where to find the resources.

    As an educator and Asian myself, I continue to find ways to debunk the model minority myth that not all Asian are successful in order to find resources for the most neediest. I appreciate Amy's book where she shared her view on parenting, yet she is just one parent, there are many Asian in the US, more than 17,320,856* of us representing different ancestral origins, class, gender, generation, and sexual orientation. I remind myself to stay open-minded and continue to find ways to engage the low income parents who are raising young children in the US...

    I look forward to hearing more of your thoughts on this!

    Best,
    Sandy

    *2010 United States Census

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    Sandy Baba
    California
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  • 10.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-06-2017 10:39 AM

    I have to say again that I am so glad to see this conversation continuing!

    I truly appreciate everyone's thoughts, recommendations, and suggestions in regards to there are so many different type of lens that we can look at this from. For an example, someone earlier in this post mentioned that its not just the Asian community that is dealing with this. That is absolutely correct!! I do believe that parents in this day and age, due to various factors (such as technology) & being constantly available has made this much more challenging, in my opinion. Parents are constantly under pressure from their own communities, whether that is local, cultural, or socioeconomical. I believe the entire parental community needs to change, in my opinion. I would like to share a few examples with all of you.

    1) I have a son (who is bi-racial), that gets compared academically with other children on a regular basis, whether that is intentional or unintentional. My wife (partner) and I are both educators. We truly believe that we need to provide our children variety of academic as well as experiential/co-curricular opportunities or someone might say "exposure" to help him find his own way to "who he is".  My wife and I grew up in a household where individual identities and true capabilities were bit overlooked, unintentionally. We definitely do not want that happening with our own children. However, we constantly feel the pressure from our local and cultural communities what our son should do and not do. Quite exhausting to be honest!

    2) My wife and I have also have a daughter (who is also bi-racial) that gets compared in regards to "what she should do as she develops and matures". Our daughter will only be turning 2 this August, and our family is already feeling the pressure. Parents in our local as well as cultural communities have already begun to ask, "When will you be putting her in balle? How about gymnastics? Indian classical dancing?" In order to feel any sense of belonging within our own communities, its very difficult to "not blend in". So, for time sake, we say you know we're looking into it. What my wife and I have realized in this journey is that we feel so much pressure!! Yet, we know we have to do what is "right" for our children, especially coming from ECE background.

    As you can see, my family and I come from variety of lenses. Our family understands, specifically my wife and I, what is best for our children, yet we continue to feel pressure from our own communities. Any thoughts and/or suggestions???



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    Ankit Shah
    Educational Academy for Boys and Girls
    Columbus OH
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  • 11.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-08-2017 12:22 PM
    Dear Ankit,
    Thank you for sharing your experience and concern! We teach our children how to deal with peer pressure, but we constantly battle with peer pressure from parents! Your post brought a smile to my face because I went through what you described before!

    My advice is simple! Trust yourself and seek "reassurance" from your ECE colleagues! My son attended a gifted program and when the Common Core Math Curriculum about to roll out, 34 students out of 35 in his class all registered in an expensive supplement math class. My son was anxious and kept asking me "mom, when are you going to register me for that? I don't want to fall behind." I finally wrote to his teacher and asked for her candid advice. The teacher was straightforward and suggested that if my son wanted a social experience, then he could attend that class. Otherwise, she would suggest me to spend the money somewhere else! I shared the teacher's comments with my son; then he was in ease of not attending the class.

    It is not easy to against the crowd! But if you know you are right, stick with your decision! Your children will benefit from your action! You will be the best role model to show your children how to deal with peer pressure! Hope this helps!

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    Shu-Chen Jenny Yen
    Associate Professor
    California State University, Fullerton
    Fullerton, CA
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  • 12.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-08-2017 12:15 PM
    Dear Sandy,
    Thank you for pointing out the truth and sharing your working experience with the low-income Asian population! Yes, we should not overlook the overall population, and not all Asians are the same! If parents are struggling to earn a living for working long hours, they may not have the time to take care their children's needs in different aspects. They may not know the education system, and with the language barrier, they may not be able to do what we expect them to do. So perhaps it is an unrealistic expectation for parents to attend to their children's social-emotional needs?

    Your post also makes me ponder the issue of equality vs. equity. The low-income Asian children are struggling to survive in the school system, yet the stereotype of Asian portrait them to be successful, their pressure is enormous. They do not have the "highly educated tiger mom or wolf dad" to help them practice piano, violin, math, debate, etc., but they are expected to be the high achievers. How do we ensure equity before we can provide equality for this particular population? What do you think?


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    Shu-Chen Jenny Yen
    Associate Professor
    California State University, Fullerton
    Fullerton, CA
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  • 13.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-09-2017 12:38 PM
    Dear all,
    One article appeared in the Huffington Post yesterday coincided with our discussion. The article titled "Asian-Americans Have Highest Poverty Rate In NYC, But Stereotypes Make The Issue Invisible." The article corresponds well with Sandy's post, and I thought you might be interested. You can read the article at
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/asian-american-poverty-nyc_us_58ff7f40e4b0c46f0782a5b6.

    Happy reading on a Tuesday morning! I would like to hear your thoughts.

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    Shu-Chen Jenny Yen
    NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council
    Associate Professor
    California State University, Fullerton
    Fullerton, CA
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  • 14.  RE: Asian Parents' Authoritarian Parenting Style and Asian American Children's Mental Health

    Posted 05-09-2017 03:59 PM

    Dear all, and thank you for the article Shu-Chen!

    Studies have shown that poor Asian Americans are more than any other racial/ethnic group disproportionately concentrated in metro areas with some of the most expensive housing markets.  About half of poor Asian Americans living in poverty live in just 10 cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, San Jose, Houston, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Boston and Seattle.The Asian ethnic groups with the most people in poverty in 2010 were Chinese Americans, with 449,356 people living in poverty.

    This is the quote I often use from Elaine Ng, former ED of the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center. I use this quote to share with colleagues the model minority myth issue facing low income Asian communities:

    "..the high poverty rate of Asian Americans is masked by the bimodality of the Asian American population's demographics. At one end of the spectrum are the majority: the high-need, low-skilled, low-income, and poorly educated immigrants who come for economic opportunities and family reunification. At the other end are the minority: highly educated, high-skilled, and moderate- to high-income immigrants who come for academic and economic opportunities. This bimodal construction fuels the Asian "model minority" myth while concealing the poverty and risk for a large number of Asian immigrants."

    Fortunately, in these past 2-3 years, national family support agencies and foundations such as Be Strong Families, Abriendo Puertas / Opening Doors, Robin Hood Foundation have stepped up to support the research and development of pilot family engagement models for the low-income Asian communities. The overarching goal is to support Asian family's acculturation process and lead to an increased understanding of the American educational system that the families and the children may be better able to successfully navigate and bridge transitions between home cultures, school cultures, and various school systems. The work has just started and more support is needed as the needs from the low-income Asian communities are often invisible.

    I would like to share with you all a 10 minute 2016 PBS documentary, "Home is a Hotel", a story of Huan Di and her daughter Jessica living in a San Francisco Chinatown single room occupancy (SRO), an 8ft x 10ft room single with no kitchen or bathroom.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niOhb3WqL10&t=159s

    With more understanding of the low-income Asian communities, we, as educators, can help parents and children like Huan Di and Jessica thrive in their school and community. 

    Please keep your ideas coming!



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    Best regards,

    Sandy Baba, Ph.D
    NAEYC Asian Interest Forum Co-Facilitator
    Education Researcher, Community Advocate,
    California AEYC Diversity Committee Member
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