Most American-born South Asians would agree that strict parenting is embedded in our culture. From early curfews, to study hours, to monitoring prospective suitors (and in some cases, even selecting them), being a brown in a progressive country like America can be especially hard. Also Read - Tips for New Moms: Five Things Every New Mom Should Know
While American-born parents tend to be more liberal and easy-going when it comes to parenting, American children born to European, Asian and African immigrants share a similar struggle. Indeed, strict parenting is not only found in the South Asian culture, it is incredibly widespread. Immigrants hailing from countries like China, Japan, Korea, Russia, Poland, Kenya and Nigeria, all tend to raise their American children under a strict set of household rules. And that is just the short list—there are many other countries where a strict approach to parenting is as common as a Starbucks is in Manhattan. Also Read - Watch: Parenting Expert, Lahar Bhatnagar on How Much Screen Time is Too Much For Kids
If you have any Asian friends, you have probably heard of the term “tiger mom”—commonly used to describe a Chinese mother who uses extreme and/or harsh and cold methods of discipline, especially as it pertains to academics. According to the Developmental Psychological Association, the term “tiger mom” had not been coined until the publication of Amy Chua’s 2011 book, “Battle Hymn of the Mother.” Chua, a Yale professor with two daughters, wrote about her Chinese heritage and the many ways it influenced her parenting methods. When it was initially published, Chua’s book sparked controversy, garnering both support and criticism of her intense parenting style. Also Read - Mom-to-be Anushka Sharma Looks Super-Adorable as She Flaunts Her Baby Bump in an Beige-Brown Dungaree And Gets a 'Pocketful of Sunshine'
There is a lot to be said about the “tiger mom” phenomenon. Data has consistently shown that Asian and Asian-American students are outperforming their American peers. Experts have long theorized that the academic success of those students may be directly linked to the way in which the children have been raised. Furthermore, there may even be evidence that suggests there is a link between parenting style and the socio-economic condition of the country in which that parent was born.
As of 2015, there are approximately 1.6 billion people living in China, the most populated country in the world. India, the country with the second highest population, has approximately 1.25 billion people. Interestingly, both China and India have particularly high rates of poverty, and as a result, there is more of a competition for resources like money. Could it be that parents emigrating from countries where resources are scarcer are more likely to take a stricter approach to parenting because an education is more valued in their home countries?
Even still, this does not address the question of why some cultures have a stricter approach when it comes to the dating lives of their children. There are many factors that influence one’s approach to raising children. And, another contributing determinant, as many South Asians would agree, is religion.
Poland, for example—though becoming more progressive—is still relatively conservative. In the predominantly Roman Catholic country, abortions are banned unless the pregnancy was a result of rape, or the pregnancy jeopardizes the mother’s health, or the fetus is seriously malformed. Similarly, the divorce rate in Poland (six percent) is significantly lower than other countries like the United States, where more than half of all marriages end in divorce.
“Having kids out of wedlock, getting divorced—those things are just frowned upon by Polish people,” said Klaudia Zalenska, a 24-year-old Polish-American from Queens, New York. “In Poland, marriage isn’t just a legal document binding you to someone else—it is a sacred Catholic sacrament, [and] a promise before God.”
“From the few times I’ve been to Poland as a teenager, it seemed as though casual sex was taboo. Maybe the desire [to have sex] is there, but Polish parents keep their kids on a tight leash. That’s true here, in America, too,” she added. “Many of my Polish friends here were not allowed to date until they turned 18, and even then, the parents had to approve, first. The same went for my Russian and Ukranian friends. It’s definitely safe to say that immigrants from Eastern Europe tend to be more strict with their kids.”
Though there is no real, mathematical way to measure which countries yield the strictest parents, one thing is for certain—you will find strict, old-fashioned parents almost anywhere you go. So, to all my South Asian friends, rest assured that you are not alone. Somewhere out there, there is a second generation kid begging mom to extend a curfew.