Facebook says, “Asian parents are harsh!”

Other times, the methods of Asian parenting considers a norm is already considered “abuse” in Western parenting.

When it comes to parenting, people always have something to say. And in most cases, a lot of studies have shown that Asian parenting styles are often authoritarian and therefore have a negative outcome (Ang & Goh, 2006). Especially here in the Philippines, the parenting styles here are often perceived with having less warmth than most parenting styles. They are also seen to be more strict and also swift in delivering punishment if their demands are not immediately met.

However, this is not to justify punishment or harsh parenting. In the current social setting, yelling or scolding your child can often be seen as “harsh” and “unnecessary” especially in disciplining a child. However, the older generation would justify this as a means of “learning” and that it would get the point across better. Commonly referred to as “tough love”, parents are under the assumption that using tough love will make their children stronger.

Tough Love: Where did it come from?

The idea of tough love according to Pieper & Pieper’s (1992) study was based on the pessimistic and pragmatic approach when child development went “awry”. It often deals with the idea of: “I would rather lose my child’s love for me than lose him/er/they altogether”. The underlying premise found for this concept was that “true parental love is the unwavering refusal to be manipulated by one’s children” (Pieper & Pieper, 1992).

Unfortunately, the concept of tough love stems from the negative view of human nature. It comes from three different views:

  • Both normal and abnormal children are driven to manipulate their parents to gratify their forbidden desires.
  • Parents must forever be skeptical about their child’s motives, even if the motives are positive and benign.
  • Parents must be vigilant in their child’s behaviors to monitor them and make sure they are doing what they [the parents] believe is ultimately correct.

The problem however with tough love is two things. The first is that it neglects the child’s capacity of agency. Agency is defined as a child’s ability to make decisions for themselves and also have experiences that are specifically their own. The second is that it forces the parent into a position where it must be a constant “power play” between them and the child in which they must constantly assert their dominance and authority while forcing them to achieve a sense of perfection that does not exist. If it did exist, they may as well not be human.

However, there is a fine line between two: hostile psychological control and tough love (Fung & Lau, 2012). However, in Fung & Lau (2012) study, the culture would moderate when the adolescent/child would perceive the parent’s behavior as either hostile psychological control or “tough love”.

We found that relational induction and psychological control were positively correlated for both cultural groups. However, culture moderated this relationship, such that the positive association between psychological control and relational induction was significantly stronger for EA families compared with HK families

Fung, J., & Lau, A. S. (2012)

But it’s also precisely because of this fine line that society finds itself facing climbing rates of suicide, a decline of mental health, and also a series of dysfunctional family relationships.

So, what in the world is going on?

Asian Parenting vs Western Parenting

One of the biggest differences between both Asian and Western parenting is the level of involvement. In Western parenting, dictating to your child what they should do is considered unacceptable and can be perceived as controlling. However, Asian parents often find themselves making choices for their children and being more involved in their lives. And the more involved they are, the more they love them (Chao, 1994).

This comes from the cultural differences between individualism and collectivism. Individualism, as termed, has society value that one must focus more on themselves rather than others. They are to focus on enhancing themselves. It also recognizes the agency that occurs in each individual as they all have their own narrative. However, the issue with a drastic and radical form of individualism is that it can drive an individual to become extremely ambitious to a fault and possibly apathetic to people’s feelings.

On the other hand, collectivism focuses on the collective. It focuses on society as a whole. Each individual is therefore considered a part of a unit which then will reflect the beliefs they all collectively believe in. Asian cultures subscribe to this. Their beliefs are reflected based on the social institutions (i.e. church, school, and etc.) they go to. They think often in the lines of, “how can I contribute to society?” While it appears altruistic, a radical form of collectivism may evolve into psychological abuse and control in which the parent will often use others as a means to humiliate and “guilt trip” the child.

So, are Asian parents too harsh on their children?

Maybe by Western standards, yes. But there also has to be a balance. Often times, Filipino parents like to assert their dominance and place extreme importance with respect to the hierarchies in the family. Children are not allowed to express their thoughts and children who do are often called bastos or pasaway because it may be deviant on what they think. Also, Filipino parents believe that their child’s deviant thought (i.e. being more accepting of homosexuals) may cause the rest of their social institutions to look at them negatively which will result in being shunned and excluded. And like any human being, Filipinos desire two things: to be right and to be liked.

However, this is not justifying that parents must always be hard on their children. On the contrary, parents must be more mindful of how they speak and handle their children. Not every child is wired the same way. Sometimes, tough love just don’t cut it because it makes a child feel less confident in themselves. There’s also being too nice in which some children just need someone to put their foot down.

So, a balance is needed. But know that not every parent has to be perfect because at the end of the day, your child won’t remember what you told them. But they will remember what you did.


Ang, R. P., & Goh, D. H. (2006). Authoritarian parenting style in Asian societies: A cluster-analytic investigation. Contemporary family therapy28(1), 131-151.

Chao, R. K. (1994). Beyond parental control and authoritarian parenting style: Understanding Chinese parenting through the cultural notion of training. Child development65(4), 1111-1119.

Fung, J., & Lau, A. S. (2012). Tough love or hostile domination? Psychological control and relational induction in cultural context. Journal of Family Psychology26(6), 966.

Pieper, M. H., & Pieper, W. J. (1992). It’s Not Tough, It’s Tender Love: Problem Teens Need Compassion that the” Tough-Love” Approach to Child-Rearing Doesn’t Offer Them. Child Welfare71(4), 369-377.

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