ABC: The cons of controlling parents


Credit: Elizabeth Zhong

In the latest installment of ABC: American Born Chinese, reporter Jonathan Zhang analyzes how effective a controlling parenting style can be.

From a young age, my desk and home have felt like a prison. Even house arrest couldn’t possibly be this bad, I once thought to myself. I can still remember those afternoons after school, weekends and summers spent watching my friends zoom around on their bikes outside my house or just hanging out and enjoying each other’s company.

Filled with the desire for me to succeed academically, my parents forced extra homework upon me and rules to keep me from “wasting my time.” They argued that when I grew up, I would appreciate every minute that I spent studying and regret every minute that I spent playing.

I would argue to my parents that my friends were playing and that I was doing well in school. Why couldn’t I play with them? Their answer remained the same: “You’re different. They’re white.”

And what makes this so wrong is that it’s not just my relationship with my parents that’s like this. Countless Asian friends of mine have this unhealthy relationship experience. There are just so many high achieving Asian-American students that do well academically and only so many that each college can accept while maintaining ethnic diversity.

The only reprieve that I had from my endless hours of studying were the occasional sports practices that I participated in. But those activities can’t be considered free time. I longed to spend time hanging out with my friends. Kids aren’t made to spend hours studying. They’re full of energy and need something to use it up on whether that’s biking or playing video games.

More importantly, when kids are told that they can’t do something, what do they do? That’s right, the complete opposite. For me, this meant video games or watching television. Occasionally, I would get caught and suffer the consequences. However, instead of learning from my mistakes, I would look for ways to avoid getting caught, and, eventually, I got really good at it.

There’s also this feeling of annoyance whenever you’re forced to do something even if you were already going to do it. Take the classic example of wanting to do the dishes and then having someone tell you that you have to wash the dishes. Suddenly, the last thing you now want to do is wash the dishes. In my case, this meant I hated doing my homework and never did it of my own accord.

There are times when I wonder: if my parents hadn’t forced me to do homework all the time, would I have a better work ethic? Would my attitude towards homework be different?

Thinking back, all I have is regret. I regret that my parents wouldn’t let me spend time outside with my friends. I regret that I feel like I wasted the greater majority of my childhood away. I regret that feeling that something was stolen from me that I can’t take back.

It makes me especially mad that I spent so much time when I was so young doing homework. Who cares if I do well in elementary school? In fact, who cares about doing well in middle school and high school?

Time is something that can’t be taken back, so we shouldn’t waste it. One’s youth is something that should be valued because you can do more without the restraints of poor health or work or providing for a family. Knowing that our time is finite means that there is something to be said about each day that goes by. More importantly, it means that we should use this time to do what we won’t be able to do in the future.

Now I’m not saying that you should neglect your academics and just have fun. What’s important is finding that delicate balance between doing what makes you happy and what needs to be done. In other words, when it’s time to have fun, play hard, and when it’s time to study, study hard. Use your time wisely and to the fullest. Carpe Diem.

A phrase that became really important to me was something that I learned in my Latin class. I feel like it helps convey the lesson that I’ve learned over the years.

“The sun is able to fall and rise. When that brief light has fallen for us, we must sleep a never-ending night.”