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Dr. Wu's ebook - Chapter 3: How Bi-Cultural Environments Can Affect Student Motivation

Updated: Nov 21, 2019

With the ability to finally focus on growing herself, Yuhsien was taking off as a student. Then it happened, her younger brother came to the United States to live with her. Yuhsien’s life was thrown into a new sphere, and at a young age she had to search for the meaning of balance.

Yuhsien took a heavy weight upon her shoulders at just 18 years old as she fully took on the role of raising her brother. During her years in Taiwan she had helped take care of him when he was young, but that was completely different. Her role dramatically shifted from an older sister, to a mother figure. As she was confronted with the task of raising her brother, she began to reflect on the parenting style of her own parents. In creating her own parenting style, she realized that she completely disagreed with their approach. They were quite lenient with their children. They did not push the children to finish their homework, or to do well in school.

However, at this point in Yuhsien’s life, she viewed homework and hard work as non-negotiable. Yuhsien managed everything in her brother’s life. She picked his classes for him and planned his school activities. She was deeply involved in his education, often talking to his teachers about his performance. She became the true definition of a “tiger” sister. In the process, she came to a shocking revelation about herself, she hadn’t let go of the system that almost broke her.

As Yuhsien looks back on those years she realizes that she was extremely demanding, and wanted to see nothing but hard work from her brother. She remembers thinking “You are my brother. If I can do this, then you can do it. If I can get an A, then you can too”. Yuhsien couldn’t comprehend when he struggled, or why he was not succeeding. She found herself getting mad at him for playing video games or doing anything for personal enjoyment. When she saw that he was getting bad grades, she told him that he was only wasting time and money. But the more she pushed, the worse he would do. She was not contributing to his growth, she was in fact inhibiting it.

Now, many years later, Yuhsien is able to step back and see the situation in a different light. She talks about the “cultural DNA” which is deeply ingrained in each of us, even when we do not realize it. As her career and knowledge expanded, she realized that there are many cultures like this. Many of us allow our cultural DNA to dictate our lives, no matter where we are in the world. However she saw the repercussions glaring exceptionally bright from her own community.

“Cultural values are like our DNA, they are extremely hard to change - it’s really hard to change who we are,” Yuhsien shared. What we see as success, and what we desire for our kids stems from something almost beyond us.

As parents and educators, it is crucial that we take time to self-reflect not only on our approach, but also our own motivation and intentions. Shifting our cultural DNA takes a lot, so we must educate ourselves on what is the best route for our children. Are we thinking in a particular way because of our own birth-cultural values? Is that the right value for the current culture we live in? Yuhsien herself began to reflect on the fact that Asian and American cultures are truly very different. It was at this cross-point of cultural DNA that Yuhsien realized that she stood in a very unique position. She was not first generation, yet she was not second generation either. She found herself in a sort of cultural limbo, which she self-describes as “the 1.5 generation”.

“People have different definitions of what being 1.5 generation means. For me, I am a 1.5 generation because I came to the US when I was young. I was not born in this country, but I came young enough that I feel well integrated into the culture. I see myself as bi-cultural, and through the years I have found it as something that helps me connect with both second generation students and their first generation parents”.

She reflected on the fact that some first generation parents came to this country with ingrained values of how life should be, and how they want to raise their child. Her initial approach to her brother’s education stemmed from this same exact lens. However she was quickly faced with her reality: If she wanted to see her brother truly succeed, she had to adjust her approach.

Like many others, Yuhsien was trying to find success in a Western culture with Eastern values, and it wasn’t working. She held strong to the beauty in her culture, yet found inner determination to make a drastic change in her approach to educational and parenting values. The “tiger” parent approach left her brother feeling demotivated. His parent was not getting down on his level, and he was void of a why. When students are not mentally there, “tiger” parents step in to take over, and that is the moment when conflict begins

We have this daunting, yet amazing task to shape how our kids see, approach and interact with their education. When we force, they retreat. When we step in, they just may lose it all.

So what are the true results of overbearing parents? And what harm can come when parents completely take control of a child’s education? Join us in the next chapter, together we will deconstruct the many unintended repercussions that come along with these questions. And more importantly, we will look at detailed practical steps parents can take to see a positive shift in their own outlook, as well as their child’s approach to their own learning.

Catch up on the rest of this series!

Written by Jade Rhoden

Edited by Yuhsien Wu

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