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Asian Lecturing: The Wrong Love Language

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Source: National Alliance on Mental Health

Traditional Asian parents love to lecture their children both when they’re minors but also well into adulthood.  My clients bristle, complain, and shake their heads in frustration when relaying how their parents make it a point to tell them how to live their lives.

Parents will lecture their children on topics such as how to succeed in school or their professions, how to date, how to improve their marriages, how to be a “better” person but also mundane aspects of life such as how to be “healthier” (e.g. what you should be eating, how you should be sleeping/resting, etc.)

The lecturing mentality is a long-standing part of Asian collectivist cultures.  Due to the generational priority of hierarchy, elders are given esteem and placed in a position of power and authority to dispense advice and counsel regardless of whether it’s welcomed or not.  Consequently, grandparents, uncles, aunts, parents, have habitually used this to assert authority and control over their children as another means of fostering obedience.

But children, regardless of ethnic culture do not respond well to lecturing.  Sure, they may acquiesce and nod their heads in agreement but without active listening and inquisitiveness on a parent’s part, lecturing will be viewed as another form of scolding, blaming, and in some instances shaming.  

I work with many adult Asian clients who complain about the degree of invasiveness their parents still have in their lives.  The parents are hung up on still maintaining control over their children’s lives that they don’t know that relationships are about fostering mutual trust, sharing, and vulnerability.  Nobody likes to feel inferior to another person yet this common dynamic of Asian lecturing continues the dysfunction.

Once in a while when I get to address this issue with the parent, they have a hard time hearing what is desired from their children.  They become defensive stating it’s their form of “love” and they are simply dispensing similar knowledge given to them when they were young.  When I ask the children if the lecturing feels like love, they unequivocally say “No!”  Instead, they view their parents as scolding, nagging, and lacking faith and trust in their own abilities.  Moreover, the parents come off as placing themselves on a pedestal above reproach, which lacks empathy or sensitivity to their children’s needs.

So how do you know if you’re lecturing instead of being loving?  Here are a few areas to keep in mind: 

·       You tell your child what they should be doing

·       You keep on talking without wanting any input from your children 

·       You use threats

·       You feel if they simply “listened”, your child’s problems will go away

·       You are perceived as self-righteous and view your beliefs are the “right” and the only way

Not only does lecturing not work, but the relational impact is that it also strips children of their ability to think through and address their own issues.  In more extreme cases, it can lead to dependency on parents or others to give them the “right” answers and inculcates a belief that the children can’t even trust their own judgment in life.

Clinically, I’ve seen adult Asians who haven’t developed this trust in themselves due to life-long lecturing from their parents.  As a result, they become dependent and lean on others to help them with big decisions in their lives but this eventually backfires because those relationships are a continuation of the “lecture/listen to me” mode.  It breeds resentment on both sides when the “lecturer” friend feels betrayed when their advice isn’t adhered to and animosity by the “listener” side when they don’t want to make their own decisions and think on their own.

Therapy can be helpful to disentangle the web of dependency while also fostering a sense of autonomy and trust in self so the individual knows regardless of the outcome, they can learn and grow from their newfound autonomy and decision-making.

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