There are so many parenting books that tell people how to have a certain type of child. Parents are told not to hurt a child’s self-esteem, but at the same time, not to coddle the child too much. Other parenting experts advise to be strict and accept nothing less than an “A” in all subjects. Yet, is it possible to parent in such a scripted manner and is it okay to trust an “expert” simply because of the degrees he or she holds? What is the fascination with having a high achieving child and why does it seem like parents are taking their child’s achievements personally?
Lisa and Jake are Korean-Americans who dated for three-years before getting married. Because Lisa’s parents did not approve of Jake, they tried to change Lisa’s decision by bribing her with money, a new condominium, a new car, and even paying off her student loans. A month before the wedding, Lisa’s mother tried to bribe her one last time, but when Lisa refused, her mother grabbed a butcher knife, started hitting her with a broom stick, and began to scream how they would both physically die, if she decided to go through with the marriage. Her mother did this not because she believed Jake was a bad guy who lacked character or was not intelligent, but because she thought Lisa was “marrying down” since Jake came from an economically poor family and did not have a graduate degree. If Lisa married Jake, the mom felt it would reflect badly on her own life and would destroy everything she had sacrificed for her daughter to be successful in the future.
In the Asian culture, parents have control over the lives of their children. Because many parents are immigrants who sacrificed their lives to give their children opportunities in America, their intentions for wanting to exert control over their child’s schedule, musically abilities, and future are genuine. Yet, in the article titled, “Paper Tigers,” Wesley Yang asked, “What happens to all the Asian-American overachievers when the test-taking ends?” He posed the question to address whether Asian-Americans were taking over in the world. Asian parents raised their children with Asian values, so they could become doctors, lawyers, and engineers. So, did listening to their parents, bring success to the children? If I look around at my church and friends, I have many friends who are in these professions, but they are in their early 20s and late 30s, and still have a codependent relationship with their parents. Every decision must be thoroughly discussed with their parents for approval because they do not feel capable of making the right decision. They also lack healthy boundaries with their parents and struggle to have an identity outside of their family. Instead of living as content adults who are making above average incomes and are in a professional field, they lack self-confidence and happiness because their whole life was measured by medals and test scores.
When I talk to different moms in Asian-American churches or who home school their kids, I hear their struggles of wanting a successful and happy child. So, from the time their child is an infant, they will buy the best diapers, make all their baby food with organic products, teach baby sign-language, and enroll the child in various activities for socialization. The measure of good parenting is not about giving your kids material items or things that you did not have as a child. It is about loving and supporting your child by looking at how he was made as an extraordinary and unique individual by God.
The future can seem daunting, but becoming control driven because of our fears and always asking the “what-if” questions can cause a child to develop high anxiety and stress, and it can lead to low self-confidence, lack of energy, and emptiness inside when they get older. If we want to be better models to our children, we have to understand the difference between being an intentional mom and a controlling mom.
As moms, we need to be cautious that our fears do not dominate our lives. Instead, we need to live by faith, so we can see a deeper sense of purpose and God’s blessings in the lives of our children. For challenges are not something to fear, but are opportunities to see God work since God is always bigger than anything our children will face. A mom of faith believes that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). Thus, she knows that she can be the biggest hindrance to her children.