When Your Success Is Your Parent’s Success

Growing up in Korea, I’ve heard from different adults in my life that a child’s success is their parent’s success: if a child misbehaved, they would blame the parents rather than the misbehaving child; if a child did well in school, had great talent, they would attribute that to the intelligence and talents of the parents of that child.

Whenever I acted up, I looked guiltily at my parents because I knew they would hear an earful from some nosy busy body that they had failed as my parents because of my behavior. When I did well in school, I knew my parents were getting praised from their friends and older relatives. Although my parents rarely voiced their need for me to be a certain way so that they can be deemed successes in the eyes of their peers and our relatives, I felt the pressure and I blamed the culture.

Some things don’t change. Kim Yuna is quite an accomplished figure skater, and her mother has made sure that Yuna’s knack for figure skating was channeled properly so that it could reach world class status. Other Asian mothers are following suit and doing whatever they can to ensure their child’s success: Spelling Bee winner, Kavya Shivashankar’s win is attributed to her upbringing of being drilled on spelling by her parents.

When is a parent’s love and devotion to a child’s success too much? While I am definitely behind parents encouraging a child’s dream, talents, and aspirations, I’m not behind obsessive parents who push the child regardless of what the child may want.

What will become of kids who feel the pressure, the obsession, the need parents have to see them achieve the impossible so that they can be seen as having achieved it themselves? While I know — and hope — that love motives parents to desire the world for their children, when does the love for the child turn into love for their own acclaim and success?

(Flickr photo credit: aloshbennett)

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About jee

[NEW: View my profile on My 8Asians!] Jee has been a happy resident of the often too sunny So Cal since her family emigrated here from S. Korea in 1986. She enjoys all things food related, especially the eating part. She is a borderline introvert who loves adventures and spontaneity.
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