Child of Authoritarian Parents

If you were to describe yourself in a few words what would they be? For everyone different words come to mind. To me an Asian American is probably the most significant thing about me. With being an Asian American, all of the stereotypes that follow me are that I am smart, must get straight As, and have a strict upbringing. All of these stereotypes mold our personality but other things mold our personality, like parenting style. If you had indulgent parents that let your do anything you wanted then your personality as an adult could be impulsive and spoiled. The same goes for authoritarian parents, who demanding and not responsive. As an Asian American child I was bought up in an authoritarian household and this led me to be insecure and have low self-esteem. Though strict parenting is mostly found in Asian parents it varies from person to person. Not all authoritarian parenting techniques are bad, if the parent were demanding and showed loved toward the child then the child’s personality could be different as an adult.

One example of an authoritarian parent with an insecure child is the movie 21 and Over. It is about an Asian American guy name Jeff, who just wants to have fun for his 21st birthday but his strict father restricts him in order for him to be prepare for his medical school interview. All throughout the movie there are stereotypes of Asian Americans such as wanting to be doctors, being a straight A student, not being able to speak properly, and having bad vision. The father in the movie has the personality of being a jerk towards everyone and does not like anyone inferior to his son to be hanging out with him. The father believes that anything the son doesn’t do when ordered is an embarrassment like “don’t embarrass me” (Lucas).  The son’s attitude towards his father is basically scared of him. In the movie whenever there is interaction between Jeff and his father, Jeff looks scared the whole time talking to his father. One of the revelations Jeff confesses to his friends is that how he just cannot tell the truth to his father and how the pressure his father puts on him made him so stress that he tried to kill himself. At the end of the movie though Jeff decides that he never wanted to go to medical school and this was so significant because it was the first time he made a decision for himself. It seems like throughout his life decisions were made for him. Standing up to his father was such an important part of the movie because it seems like the message of the movie was if you have someone controlling your life and you do not like it then you should stand up for yourself. Also to follow your dreams and not someone else’s. This is also important in the Asian American community because most children do not stand up to their parents since they are scared and know the consequences if they do. When Jeff finally does stand up to his father, instead of embracing for the brave move he made, the father verbally abuses him.

The father has the personality of an authoritarian parent because he has high expectations and strict. The reason behind why most Asian parents are authoritarian because they are immigrants and most grew up in harsh conditions. They come out wanting the best for the children, hence why they have high expectations. They do not want their children to suffer the same consequences as them, so they expect them to do well. Jeff’s father exhibits this but he does not do it in a loving way. Instead it is do it my way or else. Jeff’s father doesn’t like his son to hang out with people inferior to his son because just like everyone else, Asian parents have stereotypes about American kids. They believe they are trouble makers because they do not agree with the way their parents raise them. Parents are scared their child would be influence by American children and act out in a way they cannot control. Asian parents also believe that when their child does something that is not considered normal to them, then it would embarrass them.  I can relate to Jeff because being raise by authoritarian parents you are scared of them. The reason why this is a big deal is because you’ve always hear stories of how much your parents suffer, so when you do something to disobey them you feel bad because of what they have done for you. Children of Asian parents are constantly under pressure and when they tell their parents about this, the parents do not believe it is a big deal. It is rare for child of an authoritarian parent to stand up to them, so they are still constantly in that fear. Fear then turns to more mental issues for the future. When a child does stand up to their parents, it is a big part of the parent to understand what they are going through and changed their attitudes towards their children, unlike Jeff’s father. If a parent had the same reaction as Jeff’s father, then the child could end up being an insecure adult because they could never stand up to anyone.

Another movie that shows the effects of authoritarian parents on the child is the Joy Luck Club. The movie talks about the relationship between immigrant mothers and their American daughters. The main focus is how the mothers have high hopes for their daughters and when their daughters are adults they suffer through anxiety and the fear of failing from their mothers. “Well, it hurts, because every time you hoped for something I couldn’t deliver, it hurt. It hurt me, Mommy. And no matter what you hope for, I’ll never be more than what I am. And you never see that, what I really am” (Wang). One of the adult children criticizes her own mother for not being able to live up to the expectations and how she knows her mother is disappointed in her. “Only two kinds of daughter: obedient or follow-own-mind. Only one kind of daughter could live in this house: obedient kind” (Wang). One thing the mothers hope for is that their daughter will be anything they wanted and follow their dreams for them. When someone has too many high hopes for you it can mean loss of interest. If the daughter disobeyed them, the mothers believe the daughters were just being ignorant of their hopes and dreams. Most parents compete with each other with a friendly game of tennis but for Asian parents competing for them is with their children. Their daughters are the mothers’ gateway of showing off. The mothers in this movie believed that any little mistake was a big deal and would blame it on their daughter, never realizing it could their fault also. Throughout the movie the mothers are always criticizing their daughters and when the daughters stand up for themselves, the mothers have a comeback to criticize them. “She was ashamed, so ashamed to be my daughter” (Wang). It seems like the daughter can never please the mother and always feel ashamed because of it. Unlike in 21 and Over, the mothers understand their daughters conflicts and learn to understand each other so they can bond.

The mothers in the film were born and raised in China and grew up a certain way. Respect is a big part of their culture and so they expect their daughters to have the same respect back. Stereotypes of Asian parents being strict parents are based on their real experiences growing up. It is just the way their culture was bought up. This is why authoritarian parenting isn’t necessary a bad thing in their eyes because it is just their value of their culture and in the end they take the time to understand what is going on with their children, in order to have a healthy relationship with them.

Another mother who believed authoritarian parenting style is affective is Amy Chua. Amy Chua is basically known for writing the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which is basically about how her strict upbringing of her children is what contributed to their success. Amy herself grew up with authoritarian parents but their parenting style had “high expectations but coupled with love” which is how she wanted to raise her children (Tiger Mom). Some of the rules she had for her children were not being able to go to sleepovers, watch television, and cannot get a grade less than an A. She had these strict rules because she was overprotective. Though these rules seem extreme to most American families, Amy believed they were not bad at all. The reason behind all these actions was because Amy was not a first generation Asian American. She believed our generations of kids are declining because they are comfortable with the benefits of middle class. A lot of people think authoritarian parenting is bad but no one understands where it all comes from. People from Asian countries grew up and certain way and they do not want the second generation to grow up the “American” way. Most Asians believe the American way of raising children is letting them do mostly anything and have no boundaries. When Asian parents see this, they assume that the children would disobey them and ignore their rules. That is why authoritarian parenting is so common in Asian parents and if they did it the way Amy did of being loving but strict then the outcomes of the children would be fine. Even the oldest daughter of Amy, Sophia said that “she was not oppressed by their mother and that I’ve lived by whole life at 110% thanks to my mother” (Stadtmiller).

These were just some examples of how authoritarian parenting had a positive impact on the second generation but when authoritarian parenting has no love in it, than some children can end up with mental health problems. A studied done by Adachi et al. believed that adult guidance is important for the developmental stage of children. If you did have a great adult role model during your childhood, then the welfare of your future would not be so great. “Parenting authority becomes relevant when infants began walking and remains critical into late adolescence” (Adachi et al). The study also concluded how mothers are more likely to be authoritarian than fathers, which could be true since most of the data I found were between mothers and daughters. “This could be because mothers spend more time caring for the children then fathers” (Adachi et al.). Asian parents cannot be there for their children as much because since they are immigrants they work a lot in order to provide for their children. When children do not have that one on one time with their parents, it means they did not have warm parenting in their lives and “warm parenting influenced low depression and anxiety and high self-esteem” (Adachi et al.).

Why I think it is important to embrace love into your parenting style is because my parents never did. I can relate to every movie and study I have found because my parents were very strict growing up and were never there when I was younger. I believed that even though they were strict that I can handle that but only if they coupled their high expectations for me with love, then I would not end up the way I am. It is important for parents everywhere to see how the effects of their parenting style have such an impact on their children’s mental health. If parents just showed love towards their children even if they are strict, then maybe the health of your children would be alright.

21 & Over. Dir Jon Lucas. Prod. Scott Moore, David Hoberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Todd

Lieberman.Relativity Media Distribution, Inc., 2013. Need to Know: Tiger Mom responds to uproar. Youtube. 18 June

2011. Web. 16 Feb 2014

The Joy Luck Club. Dir. Wayne Wang. Prod. Wayne Wang, Amy Tan, and Ronald Bass. By

Amy Tan and Ronald Bass. Perf. Tsai Chin, Kiều Chinh, Lisa Lu, and France Nuyen. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc., 1993.

“The Tiger Cub Speaks.” The New Yorker. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014.

Uji, M., Sakamoto, A., Adachi, K., & Kitamura, T. (2014). The Impact of authoritative,

Authoritarian, and Permissive Parenting Styles on Children’s Later Mental Health in Japan Focusing on Parent and Child Gender. Journal of Child & Family Stuies, 23(2), 293-302. Doi:10.1007/s10826-013-9740-3


2 thoughts on “Child of Authoritarian Parents

  1. Hi Lalyssa,
    I really liked your essay, especially about the part about how having extremely strict and demanding parents can have ill effects on a child’s mental health. I can relate to your situation, since my parents were also very traditional and strict during my childhood. Grades were all that mattered to them and they often complained and compared me to their friend’s kids and their achievements. I suppose this is due to their own upbringing and their parents parenting style. Do you feel your parents are also strict because of the way they were bought up? or is it more to do with culture and has progressed over the years?

    I feel there should be a mix of both authority and love for a proper upbringing, which I think your essay states very well. I also think how you compared 21 and over and Joy Luck Club. Its interesting to see how the mother finally understands the conflicts between them and comes to an understanding, where as 21 and over has a different ending.

    Eastern culture is very different, and respect for elders is a much bigger part of cultures in the east. For example in school we never called the teacher by their first names, we always called them Ma’am or Sir, is that something that happens in China too? Overall I can relate to your essay and I feel a lot of people can, and it was a pleasure reading it.

    • Hello Lalyssa,

      I really enjoyed reading your essay. It was well formatted and there was a great introduction that hooked your reader. It was interesting how you compared your two artifacts, which points out different situations. I agree when you said “If parents just showed love towards their children even if they are strict, then maybe the health of your children would be alright”. I personally think that showing love to your children is really important for them, you need to show them that you love them and care of them even if you are a strict parent.
      Great essay.
      -Alejandra H

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