The price of being an Asian kid

Written last January 25, 2006 from the Raven Archives:

I just love talking to my good friend, YHS.

Since she has taught kids in both in the States and here in Taipei, she’s able to see the best and worst of both worlds.

Frankly speaking, she’s very frustrated about the educational system here, and is even more frustrated because kids’ education is something that she’s very passionate about, and she feels helpless in doing something about it.

Here in Asia (particularly in Taipei),” she said as she began her tirade, “People here like to criticize and bring their kids down. They don’t really point out what kids are doing right. Instead, they are quick to point out what you’re doing wrong. That’s not good for kids!”

I agree.

From my experience, my own father uses negative reinforcement to encourage us to do better. For example, he’d say, “Look at so-and-so’s daughter. She is the dean’s lister of blah-blah school. How can you not be like her? It’s an embarrassment because my daughter cannot be as good as so-and-so’s daughter, and so-and-so isn’t even at par to dad.

Oooh, my dad LOVES to compare us to other friends’ kids. It’s like keeping up with the Joneses, but using kids’ achievement to see who is the better parent.

It’s interesting. My friend Dan teaches English in another school and he can’t help but notice such a trend. He said, “It’s crazy. Parents here don’t really ask how their kids can do better. Instead, they ask, ‘How can my kid perform better than the other kids?'”

We seem to live in a culture that love to compare.

When we’re young, we look at our classmates to see who has a better/newer bag, pencil case or higher allowance.

As we get older, we compare to see who has the better/richer boyfriend, better-looking car, etc.

And as we become parents, we love to compare our kids to other people’s kids.

When will this ever end?

It seems that children are pawns to increase a parents’ status in life. 🙁
In addition, Asian parents don’t really know how to efficiently boost up their children’s confidence.

YHS told me that back in the States, parents teach their kids to have that “can-do” attitude. “You can do it! You’re great!” they’ll cheer.

But here, parents would tend to ask kids why they are not as good as the other kids. And if you’re the best, they’ll just grunt and assume a demeanor as if that such achievement is expected as a good son/daughter.

For example, if I do something right, my father wouldn’t really say to my face, “Good job Raven! I’m so proud of you!” He may grudgingly offer praise, but most likely keep quiet as if this type of performance is expected from a daughter of Raven’s dad.

He will make sure his friends know what I’ve accomplished though. My mom tells me that he cannot help but boast of my achievements to any listening friend, and I’ve been elected in a position of power, we can be assured that my picture and writeup will be published in the Chinese newspaper the next day, just in case the rest of the Fil-Chi community haven’t yet discovered what his daughter have accomplished.

Whereas I’d rather keep a low-profile and not toot my own horn, my father would do this. Of course, we’d want everyone to know, right? Then again, what is an achievement if nobody knows about it?

It seems that here in Asia, praise and acclaim comes more from the outside than the inside. It’s not really an achievement until other people find out and credit you for it.

Quite a difference from the US where people encourage you to be your own man and make your own destiny…
I also get the feeling that parental love here is conditional.

They love you IF….

There’s always the IF attached. Strings. Carrot and the stick.

I know for example that my parents love me.

But that’s because I’ve never given them any reason not to love me.

At school, I’ve always managed to get good grades. I was president of one of the biggest organizations. And even now in Taipei, I’ve done quite well and is head of another popular organization. Oh, and my father thinks I go home by 9:30PM every evening, and is as good girl as any daughter of his can be.

Who couldn’t love a kid like that?

But in the back of my mind, I feel that my father cannot accept it if he knew the real me. For example, would he still love me if he knew I was sometimes partying up till the wee hours of the morning? Would he still love me if he knew that I’ve dated a Japanese guy before? Would he still love me if he knew that I make mistakes?

It’s easy to love a perfect child.

But knowing my father, I knew that it would be very difficult for him to accept anything that does not live up to his standard of a perfect son/daughter. IIf I do not live up to his standard, he would actually feel betrayed because it reflects that he is a dad who cannot even teach his kids how to behave.

And how would other people see him? *Always goes back to what other people think*

But what if I disobey him? What if I do what I want and he finds out about it? Will he still love me?

Yes, he probably would. In his heart, he loves me. But he will not express it. Instead, he will express extreme disappointment and would even disown me if necessary.

Love here seem to be conditional. It’s given when parents think we deserve it (that is, if we please them). How I would love it if love is unconditional though… where you’re still loved and accepted even when you make mistakes.

However, I don’t think that’s possible with our parents. It’s the culture we live in, accept it. The only thing we can change is ourselves, and we can only change how we raise our kids.


I told YHS that Asia has a cookie-cutter culture when it comes to kids.

There’s only one cookie cutter, and every child has to fit the same mold. If there are excess edges, that has to be trimmed. It’s only accepted, if it’s perfect and fits the cookie cutter. Otherwise, they throw you to the side.

Asia doesn’t really embrace differences. Instead, it encourages people to fit in one single mold.

For example, kids here are expected to do well in school. They have to be in the honor roll and have good grades. Even if you aren’t too academically-inclined, you are still forced to keep up with other students because that’s how good kids are raised. Asian parents share the same standard — good kids are those who are smart and get good grades.

They don’t really pay attention to the details. What if the kids suck in academics but can draw well? Do we encourage that child to continue developing his/her talent?

Most parents won’t unless they see enormous future potential. They think, “An artist cannot make lots of money. Study business instead.

There are limited standards of success, and either you fulfill that standard and is successful, or falls short and is a failure.

No wonder Asian kids commit suicide more readily… there’s just too much parental and societal pressure to fit one mold that they go crazy if they can’t live up to it.


I still have much to say but I’ll save it for later. Maybe you can also share your experience in living in an Asian household. Till then!

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4 thoughts on “The price of being an Asian kid

  1. From the perspective of someone living in the US currently, I could say that constant praise and encouragement have their drawbacks as well. Kids here are too complacent and unmotivated. They’re used to being cuddled even if they’re complete failures. Don’t want to go to college? Sure, no problem. Be your own man and do what you want. 10 years later, they’re still living in the basement of their parent’s house. A little kick in the rear is not too bad sometimes.

  2. Hi, I too grew up in Taipei. I agree with a lot of stuff you said and too feel the same way about all these socially/parental imposed values onto us Asian kids. I’m 31 now and only recently (within the past 2 years) have started examining myself and peeling away like an onion all these baggages. The western kids had it easy! For Asian kids, confidence and all that good stuff had to be learned later in life… so not fair. =)

  3. I know Asian kids bully non-Asians and mixed race Asians and tell them how stupid, spoiled, and lazy they are and act like they are superior to non and mixed race Asians. Asian kids I know for experience are mean to non-Asians and mixed race Asians because of their parents and Asian men also verbally and physically abuse their wives or girlfriends, especially when they are raised by strict parents who control their daughter-in-laws. This is why Asian, non-Asian and mixed race Asian women have bad experiences with Asian men because Asian men are like their strict parents. They’re tiger husbands and tiger boyfriends.

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