How I Deal With An Extremely Strict Asian Family

July 22, 2018
I'm sure a lot of kids think at some point their parents or family are unreasonable or overbearing. I've had friends even tell me they hated their parents. I won't act like an angel and say I've never said mean things about my family, but it was never to their faces. That would probably put me in a grave.

Asian families are known for being very strict and having the worst consequences for behavior. Now growing up, I've been able to joke around with others about the punishments my mother gave me. I wasn't able to do that before since I grew up mostly in an American town with a tiny Asian population let alone Filipinos.

My mom and father would punish me with spankings or yell at me until I was crying. My American friends told me one time they were scared of my mom because she would yell at me while they were in the house. I stopped having my friends come over and started testing my parents. I thought since my friends could do it, why wasn't I allowed to? None of those times ever ended the way I thought they would.

The punishments got less severe as I got older but the yelling continued. I tried to explain to my parents that spanking your kids doesn't work and only makes the child have issues later in life. I swore that I would never hit my children, so they didn't have to grow up the way I did. My parents seemed to get my message, and they haven't hit me since.

I didn't realize until I went back home that my mother was telling our family every time I did something wrong. My family didn't see me grow up and all they knew about me came from my mother.

My mom's way of describing me felt like I was being pushed into a hole and have no way of getting out. She told our family that I was incapable of doing most things. I was lazy, messy and disrespectful. She made it seem like I couldn't take care of anything without someone's help. So when I traveled back to see my family alone, they were surprised that I was cleaning my clothing, washing my dishes by hand and cooking for myself or a group of people.

What I got was harmless compared to my cousins who grew up in the Philippines. I saw the way the women in my family disciplined the kids since the men were usually more private about it.

My Lola (Grandma) runs our entire family. She says what can't and can happen. Everything must go her way, or none of us can be happy. No one dares to try and talk back to her because she is an elder. You were never supposed to talk back to anyone older than you especially family. Even my mother is terrified of Lola that she has never asked her about anything that could cause a conflict.

No one will directly go to the person they have a problem with. It is said to everyone in our family before the person who is causing the issue is informed. I realized this after my cousin got upset with me for not being grateful for the food I had made one night.

Every wrong decision I made while my Lola was in my house was said to my aunts who then told my mom. It was always about me not cleaning my room or me staying out too late which late was past 9 pm. Whenever my mom said my Lola was upset, I usually just laughed about it because I was supposed to be one of the adults in the house and Lola complaining made no sense to me. I only stayed out late with my cousins since I had no other friends and we never left the phase we lived in.

Now, how do I deal with my very overbearing strict family?

ANSWER: I don't.

Let me explain what I mean by this. For most of my life, I never wanted conflict with any of the family members, but disputes between people who are so close together are unavoidable. I will never be the perfect Asian daughter who was supposed to go off and be a nurse just like the rest of her family members who escaped the Philippines and now send half of their money back home. I know most of the elders are pretty disappointed in me and wish I would listen but I am my own person.

You can't change an entire family dynamic. I've tried to at least explain to the younger ones that they cannot keep trying to make everyone proud if they aren't proud of themselves. They are way too influenced by their older siblings who followed what their parents wanted. I'm the oldest in my family, and since my sister is supposed to follow me, I'm going to be the little difference in her life.

Every family is different from the way they work through things. Some punishments are even more severe for disrespect. I was so scared of being disowned, and I still am afraid. I will still cry and want to give in to what others want for me, but at the end of the day, I want to be happy with myself. I know others are in a similar situation as I am. I know others don't have such an easy answer on how to deal with it. I'm not saying you should go and tell your entire family to screw off while you survive on your own. That's almost impossible.

It's been hard to listen to my family's harsh comments about my behavior. I'm still considered inconsiderate in many ways. I've lost support from some of them. I have to remind myself that this will not last forever and whatever I want that they don't approve, will work out in the end. I will always be my own person and refuse to be a mold of what others want. Things will be tough and will get even tougher as time goes on, but I will always be the only person truly there for me. I hope others realize that as well.

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