Jane's Mental Health Source Page

One of the Web's Oldest Personal Mental Health Sites [Est. 1998]

Tiger Mothers: An Asian Adult Child’s Guide to Reclaiming Your Self


I actually wrote this article in 2006 when I titled it, “An Asian Adult Child’s Guide to Reclaiming Your Own Mind”. In light of the recent “Chinese Mothers are Superior” article, I thought I’d share how ANY adult children who have been programmed for self-hatred can begin to reclaim themselves as human beings.

If you are like how I used to be, you have the mind of a well-trained, obedient Asian child trapped in the body of an adult (“Adult Child”).

You probably did really well in school and/or went to a really great college and/or have a respectable career (Traditional Asian favorites: Doctor, Lawyer, or Engineer.) You also have lived a good miserable decade – if not more – of your adult life. You look very successful on the outside and feel empty on the inside. You make good money and a live a poor life. You are connected to the right answers to all the test questions and disconnected from the real answers in your heart.

I thought it would be helpful to introduce a short guide for the Asian Adult Child to try something different. As you would expect from me, this is a practical guide, with real tips that you can use immediately. This is also a short guide, because 1) of my short attention span and 2) stuff that works usually doesn’t get too complicated.

Tip #1 – Practice Saying “No” to the Following:

  • When a parent asks, “What are you going to be when you grow up? A Doctor? Lawyer? Engineer?” (assuming your passion is to build houses)
  • When a parent asks, “Why don’t you just try doing this job / marrying this person for a few years and you may grow into it / him or her?” (assuming you don’t like the arranged marriage or an arranged career)

Tip #2 – Practice Saying “Yes” to the Following:

  • When a parent asks, “Don’t you know how much we have sacrificed for you, by bringing you to/giving birth to you here in America?” (especially if your answer is the silent retreat to guilt)
  • When a parent says, “Are you out to …break my heart / disappoint our ancestors / give your mother a heart attack / make us lose face with our friends?” (especially if your answer is the silent retreat to guilt)

Tip #3 – Practice Saying “I don’t know” to the Following:

  • When a parent asks, “How are you going to make a living doing that?” (even if you do know and are dying to justify the question with your answer)
  • When a parent asks, “How can you waste all those years we / you invested in your education by doing something completely unrelated?”

Bonus Tip – Practice Agreeing to the Following:

  • “You are an embarrassment to the {insert surname} family!”
  • “Why can’t you be more like {someone else’s name, usually an annoying sibling or relative}?” (bite your tongue from responding with, “because I’ve got parents like you.”)
  • “If I had known you’d turn out like this, I’d have never brought you to America / given birth to you!” (remember, your empathy is very important for this agreement, therefore, show empathy)

There you have it. Practical advice to help your parents lower their expectations, give up on you as a means to live their unfulfilled dreams, thereby freeing you to explore what you really want out of your own life.

Now, go live the life you want to live.

Related… (and a 2011 update) – This post is, in many ways, part of a long journey of me writing a book that I’ve wanted to write for 9 years but wasn’t ready to write it or knew who I was writing it for. To read about it, go to “About This Book” for The Youngest Light.

Written by Jane Chin

January 12th, 2011 at 8:55 am