Our Guest Today: Robert Zeitlin
How can parents break out of the generational trauma that governs their parenting style?
For a rich discussion of these pressures and my suggestions for parents who want to break out of the generational trauma that governs their parenting style, tune in with positive psychologist Robert Zeitlin and me.
Watch Our Interview
Robert Zeitlin How can parents break out of the generational trauma that governs their parenting style.mp3 – powered by Happy Scribe
Feisworld podcast helps independent creators live their creative and financial freedom. I’m your host, Fei Wu, and I’ll be taking you through a series of interviews with creators from around the world who are living life on their own terms. Each episode is packed with tactics, nuggets you can implement origin stories to make listening productive and enjoyable. We’re not only focused on the more aspirational stories, but relatable ones as well. We also have none interview based miniseries releasing throughout the year to help Deep dove into topics such as freelancing, marketing, even indie filmmaking that would benefit creators like you.
Show notes, lengths and ways to connect with the guests are available on Feisworld.com. Now onto the show. Hi there, this is Fei from Feisworld podcast. I know a lot of you guys are new to this show, so welcome. I always want to first thank all of you for considering spending this time with us, whether it’s five to 10 minutes or hopefully you will listen to the whole thing. It makes me so happy. But if you’re new to face world, you may be wondering, hey, what is this podcast about?
Well, you know, has documented so much of my becoming since I turned 30 years old. So this show has been around since 2014. I feel so privileged to think about the ability that I’m able to do this. That is a privilege because a lot of the people in those world still do not have access to what we consider, you know, in the more developed world as a given Internet access, as somehow, you know, a podcasting service or someone we can hire to help us edit the show, the time that we have on our hands to create such, you know, where to nurture our creative endeavor and just cannot take that for granted.
So before I introduce our guest today, his name is Robert Zeitlin, by the way, he is the author of Laugh More, Yell Less A Guide to Raising Kickass Kids. And this is a stuck at home edition as we’re still living in this pandemic. Again, I think all of us have this creative juice inside of all of us. I mean, there’s no matter where you are in this world, and I don’t care whether somebody has told you when you were little that you are not a creative person or you’re only good at math and science.
And there’s no way that you have the ability to interview other people to try to be an artist, to write a book, whatever that is. I want you to reconsider this. Also, it doesn’t matter what age you’re in. As a 30 year old woman who grew up in China, I really felt like I learned a lot from my own experience. And sometimes I take that for granted, too, because it is such a privilege to grow up in a very different culture.
And there’s so many aspects of being a Chinese person growing up in a very historic part of the world that has given me things that I wouldn’t otherwise have. I wouldn’t have the stories, the experiences to share with my friends. Needless to say that I wouldn’t be able to bring some of my friends from the United States over to China, hosts their stories, you know, go visit the Great Wall, the Forbidden City for the one millionth time with them.
I really begin to enjoy that process more and more as an adult, and especially in the past, I would say five to 10 years or so. You know, speaking of which, this is sort of related to my conversation today with Robert Zeitin. And the title of our conversation was How can parents break out of the generational trauma that governs their parenting style? So as a Chinese person, someone who grew up there until I was 17 years old there saw something so deeply embedded in my thinking.
I understand the tradition. There’s a lot of unlearning that I have conducted on my own in the past 20 years since I have landed here in the U.S., where I still live and work trying to build a life and business around all of that. So there are certain aspects of that will sort of clash. And when I get on a conversation, when I get on the call with my family and friends in China and with my friends, I feel like people have really transformed a lot and people have changed a whole lot, especially from my generation.
Sort of the later work. I don’t know, older millennials, as you would say. It’s just really interesting that we rarely talk about. And because, Robert Zeitlin is a positive psychologist, I found this conversation to be so precious. And for me to be able to bring him on and to speak directly to parenting styles, to what we often refer to as the tiger moms and the struggles that we go through, not just as Asian immigrants, but immigrants as a whole and people of color.
You know, I have a lot of friends who are black and, you know, I feel so privileged to have known them and have them be as part of my life because they have and they had and still have very different struggles than I do. They talk about things such as their parents would tell them that they have to work twice, if not three times as hard, you know, as Caucasians, as people who aren’t considered minority people of color so that they can have a chance.
And I honestly cannot imagine the amount of pressure that they will have on their shoulders. But then, you know, looking at the Asian population, I feel like it’s just a different type of trauma. We’ve always, always been told the same thing as well. But how do you process that as a kid? But how do you even process that as. Furthermore, to teach your children if you’re going to raise one or more than one kids, do you want then to put that baggage on them?
Do you want them to grow up the same way you did? You know, if it’s helpful, then be it. But is it truly helpful or does it become a detriment or actually make people freeze up and not be able to really live their best lives right at the end of the day? Parents want their kids to live the best lives they possibly can. And parents should know that their knowledge is is different. And maybe there’s certain things that the kids, their kids have to make mistakes on their own and to learn from those mistakes.
I think that’s really the hidden gem of what’s going to happen between this conversation of me and Robert. So I hope you share your feedback. If you’re listening it to Anchor, give us a shout out. Send us a message. I love this app because it allows me to connect with my audience right away. Now, if you’re on other apps, you can actually find me on social media everywhere under Feisworld. That is of F-e-i-s-w-o-r-l-d. If you’re not sure about the spelling, simply look at the app you’re listening to and will have the name of the podcast right on there.
And thirdly, last thing I will say is if you want to tune in on these conversations earlier on. Well, we have been basically like streaming all of these conversations raw, uncut, as soon as the conversation is being recorded, when it comes out. So you can follow me on my new YouTube channel under Fei Wu, my full name. And you can also find me on Feisworld, on Facebook, on her Facebook page, my Twitter account and my new YouTube channel.
Feisworld is where you are going to see all these livestream conversations. So thank you so much for listening, for watching. Wherever you are. Know that I’m thinking of you. I appreciate you for being here. So without further ado, please welcome Robert Zeitlin to the Feisworld podcast.
Hey, everyone, this is Fei Wu again, and this is Feisworld podcast, Livestream. For those of you who are tuning in for the first time, I decided that instead of interviewing my lovely guests, learning a whole lot on my own, I spend three or four weeks editing. And I want this conversation to be as immediate, instant and relevant to those of you as soon as possible. So today I welcome Robert Zeitlin, who is a positive psychologist.
I’m so excited to have him here to talk about something like a touchy subject and very provocative. I love it. Which is how can parents and particular immigrants and also people of color break out of the generational trauma that governs their parenting style? I’m an immigrant. Robert is an immigrant, really, from three, four generations ago. We’ll clarify that. But I certainly am more recent and so welcome, Robert. Thank you so much for being here.
I’m so excited.
Thanks for having me. I think this is I mean, let’s let’s point out. Ninety nine percent of us are immigrants, right? So what are we talking about? You know, everybody’s watching. This is watching.
So tell us a bit about yourself. We’ve had the pleasure of working together, being colleagues, but I would love for people to learn more about you and your work.
Oh, thanks so for holding up a piece of my work, which is my recently published updated edition of Book for Parents that things you can turn into the side. You can see it’s not intimidating. It’s not some like it doesn’t have like five pages of geography, all these references. It’s really trying to give parents something inspirational, not shaming. It’s called laugh more or less a guide to Raising Kickass Kids. And it’s my effort as a positive psychologist to bring some of the relevant and really what I think is amazing research into parents labs where they can use it to help raise kickass kids.
That’s awesome, by the way, how long did it take for you to to write this, Robert, do you remember?
Yeah, so depends on which version you’re talking about. So I wrote I wrote a book called Positive Parenting Something Something. And and I sat down with someone I was working with and we just realized it was not working. And so we actually went back to the drawing board. So that whole process probably took a good six months. And then this book came really easily after that. Once you figure out what you’re not doing, gets a little easier. So beginning to end a little under a year to publish that book back in twenty, fifteen, five years ago this April, actually.
And then I just published the updated edition just this April in the middle of the.
Wow, yeah, what a what a timing that is, right, so I think what connected us and before we we dove right into today’s subject and what really hit me is the fact that a lot of the parents if not, I mean, would I would say most of the parents today are facing raising their kids at home. And I’ve heard a lot of challenges from parents with different ages of their children, from very young, four to five years old, to school age kids to teenagers, to college kids who have to return home when they’re freshman or when they’re junior in college.
So, you know, what have you noticed in the community today? Has it made major work easier or harder? Do you see new conversations sparking up or what? What does that look like?
Yeah, I think it’s added pressure on families. I’ll extend you all the way up into the ages like like teenagers and young adults. But I’m going to say even next generation moving back with their families here, experiencing that a little bit. So you have two generations in the house that aren’t used to being there. So I just got off the phone with a grandparent who was like my my child and their family moved back. And now I’m like grandparent and right on top of them.
And they’re parenting right in front of me. And it answers your question. It adds all this pressure in addition to the fact that we can’t go on vacation, go to work, have the breaks that we’re we’re used to having go to a restaurant every now and then. So it just it just amps up the pressure and it creates this this really tough situation. But for me and for a lot of families, an opportunity to actually gain from the challenges.
One way that we met, we’ll get into let us both through this framework. This idea called the beautiful constraint and a beautiful constraint is like, what do you do when you’re boxed into a small area? How do you innovate and do something, not just figure out how to get out of it, but how to transform it. And so I find this this is almost a transformative moment for families that want to embrace this opportunity and do something with it that upper levels their family.
Absolutely. And I posted along with Going Live with you today, I had this realization that this pandemic has become a unique learning experience for me, because as a podcast or as a content creator, sometimes it’s harder to schedule time with people I really want to interview. Everybody’s busy running around. People are often spending a good portion of their time commuting. Now everyone is home and eager to get on the show to teach me. So that has been just so profound.
And, you know, speaking of a learning opportunity, I think, you know, as you mentioned, I’m not the only one. My mom who came over to Boston to visit me, who is stuck with me here, we are really embracing this opportunity. In fact, we’re also looking to build a home for her, for us, something that that she can call her own. But, you know, like with all this said, I’m in my mid to late thirties at this point, I’ve gone through a lot and naturally I started the conversation.
I must say that one thing that hit me is people who are listening to this, they’re going to be people in their twenties, late 20s, 30s. Immigrants who have immigrant parents or have parents were living across the Atlantic Pacific Ocean a thousand miles away. So what can we what should we talk about to kind of ease their mind? What can they learn from this conversation, perhaps?
Well, so, I mean, one big thing that they can learn is that what feels totally overwhelming and like it’s only happening to your family is probably happening next door and it’s probably happening down the street from your your parent in a foreign country, your your siblings who are trying to support them. You’re all the people who are challenged with this. It’s so easy to get judgmental of ourselves and what we’re doing and what we’re not doing. But I don’t say this just as a positive psychologist, but I am going to say, like, it’s more widespread and normal than you think.
And sometimes the answer is connecting with people, you know, getting onto a platform like this and talking about it so that you can find the support that you need because you’re probably not alone in this as much as you feel.
Yeah, I mean, because you’re right here, Robert, I feel like there’s an opportunity for people to either maybe you have your ebooks, you have your short book. They’re just there’s a lot that this book applies, even though it doesn’t say pandemic on top of it. But there’s a lot of learning as I read it, thinking that, well, I mean, I wish selfishly, I wish like we grew up as Chinese immigrants or just Chinese living in China.
I wish our parents could have a happy. A book like this and you know, we talk about tiger moms, I love your earlier post from this morning, the blog post, which you shared on your Facebook. And I hope that you’ll put that on your website as well as some point. You talk about the concept of Tiger mom and I immediately think Tiger mom. Plus just a generational pressure, pressure. As an immigrant living in the US and the pandemic, I feel like it just everything together.
Is it just a lot for any family to take? So to break that down and and to take step by step, I mean, maybe we should take a couple of steps back, because I think people don’t realize that that you two are an immigrant and of Jewish descent. Could you maybe talk about like, why do you even care about helping us and resolving this issue and joining me today? Sure.
So when I say I’m an immigrant, I’m not saying that I’m first generation here like you are saying that my grandparents and great grandparents came here to America looking for opportunity and looking to escape violence like so many people. Like I said, almost everyone we’re talking to is coming here not not easily. And some of us, unfortunately, were brought here for for slave labor. And so there’s there’s so many stories. And when I say I’m an immigrant and obviously walking down the street, I can pass this way.
But I say I’m a Jewish American because my culture, my heritage shaped how I was parented, how I was raised, the messages that I received and the messages that we translated to our kids to you know, we’ve gotten a little pushback. Our kids are grown now. I wrote the book and dedicated them. They’re not not not. They’re not. Take us kids now. They’re grown adults. But a little bit of like you made us really scared at times.
You made us really cautious. And why is that? Because we had handed down to us, you know, in some ways you can call it generational trauma of growing up with families that have been through a lot that escape the Holocaust, did escape the pogroms in Russia, specifically my dad’s family. They’d survived the depression here. They’d survive hard times trying to build businesses and make lives for themselves. And all those lessons sort of compound as we were talking about how it impacts on an immigrant family and parenting style, it all comes down.
One of the messages I grew up with was never forget because the brutal atrocities that happen in Europe to Jews was something that we were we’re trained to keep an eye on and keep a focus on. This history could repeat itself and this whole cautious mindset is something I grew up with.
Yeah. And I was nodding because a lot of what you described, I feel like not only I still that like I remember at least seeing a version of that from my family. But also I must say that I see so much of that in on the people who are close to me, to my heart. And I remember coming here when I was 17, getting ready for college, even though I didn’t realize most Chinese kids and realized they got two months to prepare for English and math.
We had thought, this is crazy. We have the college exam comes around summer time like it would be in China. Right. It’s a very senior college start this summer for the college starts. It comes at the end of your senior year. You get the results in a week. And we all showed up, said our parents are really only had money for one year of high school and we knew that was important. So we got here and we didn’t realize the SAT kicked in October 1st or October 15, something like that.
I remember feeling and there’s nobody said Fay’s going to go to Harvard, not one person remotely. Imagine me going to Harvard. I knew I wasn’t going, but I remember the sense of, like, her life probably not going to be that great. You know, she’s not really the Harvard Stanford material. But when you were growing up, was there that expectation academically to say, you know, a minus is the Asian if you really have to execute flawlessly?
Yeah. So I’d say I’d say we were a couple of generations from that then a must be and a pressure because I shared a story with you briefly and we can talk about it more but like. Yeah, like the pressure on colleges and admissions for Asian and Asian-American students is the kind of pressure that the Jewish and Jewish American students faced a century before. So I imagine my great grandparents pressuring my grandparents to get the A or else or else anything else is an F.
The way it played out for me is this just high, high a huge expectation of you will go to college, you will become a. You will make a career. One of my Jewish colleagues in the medical profession, his parents were both doctors said growing up, my parents said I could be anything I wanted as long as it’s a doctor and yeah, any specialty within the medical field. So those kind of pressures about becoming a professional, about achieving college, the expectation that you’re going to go to college, you’re going to go to a good college, all these what I consider in the book and what I talk about now, all this sort of fear based parenting that we’re going to somehow guarantee our kids a safe future, which now, whether you’re first generation or fourth generation, the world is different.
The world is not only flatter. And a century ago, you might not have come here and established the life you had, but also your mom coming here and living for a couple of years and then going back and now coming back. Like all this fluidity of borders changes everything. And also, obviously, as we’ve seen, especially in the pandemic, the future is really not written and things are happening really fast. So I think that pertains that’s something that parents need to take into consideration when they’re balancing all those cultural pressures that we may or may not know we’re putting on our kids with like what we think could be guaranteeing them a safe future.
Like the safe future is a different thing than we might imagine.
Yeah, I would love to dove deep into that. And I don’t know who’s watching who will be watching this afterward. But I just for a moment, I just want to thank you for this opportunity for me to express myself, because I don’t think I really had an opportunity to talk with really anyone public about this. I’ve written in my blog post and even felt guilty at times to say, you know, how many of my how many people in my audience are really like Asian Americans are really immigrants.
I mean, this is so irrelevant and unrelatable, like, am I being selfish? But then I realize that there are people reaching out to me to say, oh, my God, thank you for writing about this. So there’s like I think about my quote, it’s not exactly trauma, but there’s something that’s so relatable. When I think about when I first came here on two thousand, you know, at my high school Fryeburg Academy, we had to wait in line to use that one phone like a physical, not a cell phone, you know, whatever wired phone to call our parents.
There’s a line of students, international students waiting. And on top of that, because we’re living in Maine, we had to find phone cards to call them, which we could not purchase online. And there was no online. There’s never you know, you can’t really buy them online. And there’s you got this one credit card or whatever. You got your 20 bucks and you’re afraid they’re going to be scammed. So you go to these local stores in Maine.
I would go and I remember what’s so painful about it is we were the rich kids. I remember Japanese Korean kids were much wealthier. So the Chinese kids at the time, 20 years ago, we weren’t financially seen as who we are today. But I remember flipping over the ice to remember these moments, flipping over the phone cards and see the ready to call. China is the highest among any other country, which means where the poorest students with a 20 dollar phone card.
We better plan what we want to say to our parents. And believe it or not, I did. I would have a script. I’ll be like, I got five minutes. I got to say, I totally believe this is my script, mom. Yep. Yep. OK, this is what happened. All right. Can you hear me? And I’m going to finish what. OK, everybody, OK, healthy are a check. And you know, that’s, that’s the that’s stuff one.
And it it, it’s so funny to talk about it, but it’s crazy. And the second hardest thing I would say for people who are watching this and you’re now probably actively experiencing this because of the pandemic. But as you’re watching, when you’re I was at the Beijing airport for twenty years, for the good fifteen years, I just remember there’s a security, right. You got your tickets, you check in your luggage and there’s a security. It’s that security gate.
Fifteen to one hundred. And you walk and I will turn around and look at my parents for like that one last time. And then you go down the escalator. Oh my God. It’s just like I can just cry now thinking about it just so hard. So there there it is your future and there’s an escalator going down. I just, I just just that moment so black and white. It was so emotional. I think that’s how I developed my acid reflux.
But I’m sure I’m sure I can only imagine. This is this is Fé in two thousand. Right. Nineteen ninety nine.
Two thousand. I would say the airport situation is probably from twenty twenty fifteen.
Yeah. Well yeah it was really hard at the beginning.
And and the journeys that it’s just symbolic of, the journeys that that we all took to get here, some some easier than others, some big ocean liner, some by plane, some unfortunately, by slave ships, some like there’s so many stories that get us here and getting to our point. And by the way, I would have bookmarked something you said before. We’ll come back to it. But getting to our point, you know, the the the the entry process to America I don’t think was easy for anyone.
In fact, we say ninety nine percent, but let’s put one hundred percent, like the entry process of all of us to the Native Americans who are here was also traumatizing. So everyone has gone through generations and generations of trauma to get to this point. And if we don’t think that it’s somewhere in that parenting style that we got and that we’re passing on to our kids, we probably need to look at it a little harder.
Yeah, for sure. You have interacted with big variety of parents and even very recently, as of today, you know, what are some of the things that you feel like that will actually you’ve experienced that will be helpful to perhaps parents who have lived through trauma immigrant parents? Because I find that that sometimes maybe it’s easier to hear from you than to hear from me. You know, like what are some of the the breaking points where people can actually sit and listen and to to process this as opposed to just blocking it off to say I know better and step away sort of thing.
But when I sat down to write a book to translate what I knew about mindfulness and positive psychology for parents, because I felt like it was all this research that really wasn’t wasn’t attainable, but I wanted to bring it down and make it simple. I ended up with seven ways you can start raising kickass kids. But if we’re going to boil it down and we’re going to pick sort of the highlight of they all get to the idea of laughing more and yelling less.
But the highlight really is and the tipping point for me, honestly, was getting from being a knee jerk reactive parent to finding some way to slow down. The process of what happened to me and how I reacted, if they’re right there and they’re just tipping each other, then there’s no room for any kind of decision. There’s no room for any kind of processing. There’s no room for you to use your strength, your cognitive strength, your emotional intelligence.
And if you can create a gap, slow down a little. So there’s a gap between what happens and what you how you respond. Then you start to gain some power and some choice in the matter. And I think that’s the critical piece. How does that pertain to immigrant families? How does it pertain to anyone? It pertains because this this what happens and this connection, this moment, this place here is full of all this generational loading, all this stuff we observe growing up, all the stuff that was handed down to us, all these caution flags, all these warnings, all these pressures.
And if we can start to create a little bit of a gap there, then we can start to have more control over those things as opposed to having them control us.
What are some of the parents? What can some of the things parents start to experiment and try? Because I can if I were to imagine to speculate a bit, if there is, let’s say, a Chinese mom watching our video to say maybe this speaks to me, maybe I could try something different today. And, you know, that experience, that journey of all of a sudden being super nice to your kids, all of a sudden not yelling at them.
Your kids send something dramatic happening and the kids might overreact to. So what would be like a journey that you can maybe kind of nurture the parents a little bit to help them prepare for what might happen as they begin to change their approach? Sure.
So I say in the book, laughing more and yelling, this is something you can do. You can do it right now. You can close up your laptop, close up your computer, put down the book, go and hang with your kids and laugh and enjoy yourself. But it’s not going to be an ongoing thing unless you actually begin to change what your intentions are and what your beliefs underneath are. So one thing that you can do, a simple thing you can do to begin and this was actually my last blog post on my site.
And you’re right, that Tigerman piece I wrote this morning will be a blog post in the next couple of days. I’m on my website, but the last was like, what’s the easiest, simple way to start positive parenting? And here it is. There are twenty four different character strengths in the book that you held up there. There’s a there’s a book that has twenty four different words on it, like forgiveness and gratitude and, and curiosity and creativity.
I call them superpower’s as you say, hope. Judgment. So on the other side there are twenty four characteristics that underlie the positive, the research in positive psychology. And my hint, my tip, my idea for parents that want to start this is to take one of them and start to practice them on a regular basis. Let’s take an example. Gratitude. If you want to practice gratitude a regular basis, you can go around and say thank you more as you interact with people.
But my idea actually, to make it a daily habit is at the end of the day, I have a pad of paper posted by your bedside and just get in the habit of writing down three things that you’re grateful for today. And that’s not something you need to keep track of. In fact, you can roll it up and throw it out. It doesn’t matter. It’s the habit of starting to do that on a regular basis. And in the blog post, I lead them through also the other steps of life.
Once you start doing that on the regular basis, you start to look around for things that you might be grateful for. Oh, I need to remember that. It’s sort of like you take a picture of something in your mind so you can use later. And that’s a way to exercise gratitude and exercising any of those twenty four characteristics like gratitude can lead you down that road to start laughing more than once and selfishly again. Because I feel like man, I wish I really felt like I wish I met you, especially my mid twenties.
I thought I was going through a lot of I feel like in my thirty seven years I have gone through many different phases, possibly faster than some of the other immigrants, such as in my early twenties when I was twenty four, my dad was diagnosed with cancer in China, stage three four. At the time my mom called me, cried, and I was just at the beginning of my career and it was so hard for me to explain this.
I couldn’t find any relatable stories because all my friends were just playing snowboarding. Nobody had a sick parent. And so that was really traumatic. And that’s when I personally, for the first time in my life, seek out help from a psychologist. I was so helpful. And so I do want to talk about psychology real quick and kind of fast forward now. I’m raising my mom. So like at my age is a little bit faster, too.
I definitely get to that. But if you right now, people from around the world are dealing with all kinds of illnesses, not just covid-19, but other things are also happening. And what we. Be your advice, kind of put you on a spot if you know, if an immigrant family are dealing with the situation with their loved ones here in the US, perhaps, but not living together or possibly worse, which is that, you know, immigrant students and workers here in the US are dealing with that while their parents are home in China and Japan somewhere else, thousands of miles away.
So that’s that’s a really, really tough situation, obviously. I mean, I think as soon as we start to feel the effects now that it’s not a month or two months or three months, but we’re starting to see the longer term effects of being separated physically from the ones we love. The idea of people being ill and us not being able to be with them is just heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking. And every time I hear from a medical professional who talks about being the person to hold the iPhone so their family can be connected with someone as they’re on a ventilator or they’re in the hospital, it’s like how how how can how can anyone possibly deal with this?
And so as a psychologist or as a positive psychologist, I have to say, you know, I think allowing yourself the space to like to manage all the feelings that come with that. And again, like you asked before, I answered before being connected with people finding ways to to to to heal the problems with your siblings or reach out to your cousins or take advantage of the village is always there. But you might have sort of like broken down a little bit.
But this is a time when we need to come together in our families and our communities to support each other, especially when we’re dealing with something as unimaginable as not being able to be in contact or physically with someone who’s ill.
Mm hmm. And thank you for for sharing that, because it just hearing that it’s very comforting because we often feel so alone. And I think what really triggered me to think about that question is, again, communication, because a lot of people think about I know we generalize and calling them tiger moms. And when you think of a tiger mom, you think of a Chinese woman. But it could be it could be Japanese, could be Korean, could be Vietnamese.
Right. And what people don’t realize that that somebody at my age could be raising I don’t have children, but I could be raising a young child and I could be a tiger mom at the age of thirty seven. But what people don’t realize that is my parents age. The next generation, the generation before me are also very much the tiger parents and in many cases honestly much worse. Like I feel like that this quote unquote Wall Street Journal tiger mom, my generation is already getting better, but it’s just the generation before us really is struggling big time in terms of communication.
So what do you think we as kids can do? You know, maybe me and people who are younger than me in their twenties, like, what can we do to not reverse that effect, but to kind of do our part, know, maybe to maybe we can initiate something on this card to kind of rescue our relationships with our parents. Like, have you seen that reverse effect? And do you coach the next generation to say this is how you overcome that trauma?
Yes, not just I mean, the way we start out, like, how do you overcome the trauma in your own parenting style so you don’t pass it down? Yeah. Yeah. How do you also deal with your parents and grandparents who have. Have that style or have lived through that style. One of the one of the character strengths on there is actually forgiveness. And so the power of being able to take perspective and recognize a start thinking. The first time I learned about sort of a tiger mom sort of persona was through Amy Tan’s novels.
And so, like starting to think about the generational conversations that can happen, whether whether you’re in a Chinese family or any other immigrant family, because recognizing your grandparents experience stuff that made them who they were and they were also passing down the things that they thought were the safest and the wisest ways to raise the next generation. We’re all just trying to make sure the next generation is OK. So maybe one thing that you can do that kind of reverses the stream a little bit is to take the work that you’re doing on yourself and come back to the thing that I said we bookmark before.
Oh, let’s do that. Yeah. Take the work that you’re doing on yourself and do what you’re doing with your mom, which is actually showing her how strongly you have evolved and landed at thirty seven that you don’t necessarily need. I’m sure she’s going to walk in with addition any minute she’s you know, she always does. In every Lifestream, every meeting is like hiding herself, tripping over my cameras.
Yet she’s cooking for you, she’s providing for you, she’s doing what she can and representing that you’re OK to her and and allowing her some peace of mind. I think that’s that’s the hard part about being so distant from our relatives. They’re so worried about us and they’re worried about us in an old school way. But there’s a new school way that we’re functioning and we’re actually managing things and we’re dealing with new challenges, but like reassuring them maybe, and also forgiving and understanding that they’re coming from a place that was them doing the best that they could and and just sort of maybe supporting them a little bit.
Going back to one thing that I wrote in the post, which is we’re responsible for and we’re also responsible to our ancestors. And so, like, how do we balance those two things?
Wow. What, by the way, was at the book, Mark? Is. Yeah, you say you’ve bookmarked the topic, haven’t come back to the subject of the book, Mark, you’re holding up now. My topic was you talking about how difficult it was for you to write about yourself and how you were being selfish and it wasn’t relevant. And I remember back to when I started to write the book and I started to look around it like I could talk about all these theories, or it would be much more interesting to people than the sound selfish and sort of self-centered.
It’d be much more interesting to people to hear about what I’ve experienced, to talk about myself. And I thought, no, I can’t talk about myself, just like you said. But that’s that’s really uncomfortable. And and it doesn’t feel safe. It’s totally something my parents and grandparents wouldn’t do. They would say, no, no, no, don’t tell people yourself. They can use it against you or something like that.
Yeah, I know your family, not about your family and yourself.
Don’t talk about your family. My my daughter still jokes about the book that I told stories about her. I didn’t sort of get her consent, but like, I think there’s something you put on the microphone for over 20 years. Right.
Another you don’t want. Oh, my God. You’re right. Because I was a yeah, it was a D.J. when I was 16. I was like 20 years old.
If you weren’t talking about yourself at 60 and how you’re still struggling to talk about yourself. But I think this challenge of talking about ourselves is sort of borne out of that generational trauma that like like don’t don’t put your stuff out there that’s unsafe. On the other hand, we both know and this is what I want to bookmark, we both know from our experience and we have one experience in common that led us here. There was a crossroads where we both went through the same personal development program with Seth Godin, the old MBA, which required us not only to write answers to questions, but to publish them on the web where everyone could see everything that we were writing.
Right. And this idea of getting past the idea of writing about myself, recognizing that people aren’t tuning in to this live or this recording to find out about me, they’re looking to find out about the things about you and about me that that resonate with them, that inspire them. They’re looking for themselves in the mirror. They’re looking for a way to connect with your immigrant experience, your entrepreneurial experience, the challenges that you’ve gotten through, the list I could make for you and I don’t know everything about you is immense.
The things that you’ve managed and succeeded are things that people can learn from. And that’s why it’s important for you to share yourself. And that’s why I chose to get over myself and put some of my own stories in the book.
Yeah, and that’s incredible. I hope more people will choose to share something about themselves. I say that which is go live for fifteen, thirty seconds every day on Instagram live. Say a few things. Who cares that disappears after twenty four hours anyway. Or I love what you Robert had been doing and I see Michael Ryan doing the same thing which is our long. He’s a long, you know, very heartfelt stories right there on your Facebook profiles.
Sure. Try that. Some people may or may not care, but the people who do find it helpful are going to tune in. And once it becomes a habit, just like Seth Godin writes every single day, when you stop writing, people will be like something’s missing, you know? And I find that journey to be so fascinating. So there’s one area because, again, I’m a certain age and I know that our generation are now all growing up.
You know, the in our immigrants from the early two thousand are now in they’re either in their thirties or the next wave. Twenty ten immigrants are now in their twenties. Fascinating that I must ask, the second category of these traumatic experiences for our parents or possibly for their parents is the fact that they truly, sincerely believe that their children have absolutely chosen the terrible and the wrong partners. Life partners, terrible decision like the sky’s falling you and things that they’re so embarrassed to admit, things like they’re too old, they’re too poor guys.
I’m taking the hit here because I’m admitting the truth. They are. They’re not handsome enough. They’re not tall enough. These things people like whispering. They never share this. But it’s like you as an as an immigrant person, walk back to your family. You have to, like, heads down. Once that’s done, do you have children? How many children you have, which schools your children there are going to write. It follows you through like.
So if we just talk about partner, because I think we can talk about this probably for the next 18 hours. What do you say? How how do you help these families and parents understand that, you know, the choices are really their children’s and not theirs so hard?
Actually, I was just watching a show last night. So Queer Eye is the. This season was actually filmed in Philadelphia, and I’m so proud of all the different stories are telling, and the last one was actually about a Mexican family that has a shop in the oldest farmer’s market in the country, in the Italian market. And one thing was the family was estranged from the oldest daughter who had moved out before she was married. And this caused all this rift.
But the the. Norms, the rules, let’s call them that you grew up with the unstated rules, the rules that I grew up with, this idea that if I didn’t marry someone Jewish and raise my kids Jewish, that I was somehow betraying like I was like and this is going to sound totally dramatic, but Jews are going to get to get this right that Hitler eliminated two thirds of the Jews in Europe. And by doing that, we were continuing that work like we were threatening the continuation of our of our culture.
And that kind of pressure and that kind of talk hovered over me as I started to look around and date and start to think about who I want. But it’s not just who you wanted to do fall in love with. And this idea that love can play a factor in this in this generation obviously changes the whole game. Right. And I think the movie is called Meet the Patels. I highly suggest it. Ravi Patel, he’s an actor and a comedian and he documents his parents pressure on him to find an Indian bride.
And behind the scenes of the whole documentary I’m Going to give it away is his relationship with an American woman whom he loves and who eventually they get they get around to having some sort of peace with that guy. Oh, you did fantastic.
It is so engaging. It’s different than what I thought was how it would be. This is like an older design, a brand new movie, because I watch this maybe a couple of years ago. Or a year ago.
Few years ago.
Yeah. Yeah. And it’s just so fascinating to me.
And it is out there and single. She’s actually the filmmaker, the documentarian. She she documented him going back to India for a process where he’s supposed to meet. And there’s a whole network here in America. And whether you’re Chinese, whether you’re Indian, whether you’re Jewish, whether you’re Italian, the idea that you’d bring home someone other than the the the cardboard cutout model of what your parents told you and expect to walk in the door is almost universal.
And and I’d say unfortunately, and I think Brothy gets to it really in that film The X Factor, that was not. Was not as big an allowance in their generation that it is ours is love is the idea that not only do you make your own path in life, but that you fall in love with who you are, who you’re going to fall in love with.
Yeah, and what’s really hard for a lot of people I know my generation before or after is the fact that, yes, our parents raised us, as is Tiger parents, in different various versions from my parents. But it’s not about learning the piano or getting straight A’s, but it was something else. Right. And is the fact that I really love my parents and I want them to be happy. I know they sacrificed so much for me to be here.
They could have a huge retirement cushion. Yet my mom spent every single penny to support me educationally and to stay on top of that. International students do not we did not get scholarships easily or at all. So I feel like we’re really the foundation of the US economy to a certain degree. And with that said, it’s like you find someone, it doesn’t matter who. And your mom is incredibly sad. I mean, we’re talking about, you know, crying.
I hurt my my friend’s parents. Mom threatened to jump off the building, threaten to like literally they use words like suicide. I’ll kill myself. I’ll never come see your children, you know, and it just it it just incredible and it’s incredibly hurtful. I mean, we joke about it now. It it was hurtful for me for a good 10, 15 years. In fact, I admittedly say that it took so much energy out of me out of if I could use that energy to focus on creative work like I have been in the past thirty five years and be comfortable at work.
You know, you carry that guilt, that pressure when your parents trying to threaten to kill themselves because you fall in love with the wrong person and you go to work, that’s a different work for you.
It’s not just different work, but but it’s it’s it’s so it’s so contradictory to the values that she raised us that she supported, that she told the story about only having a year’s worth of of tuition and her finding some way to still manage to continue to send you to college like. Sure. She’s she’s worked she’s worked herself to the bone to get you into this position where you could do this you this idea that you could somehow discount all of that and now start spending energy like leaking out energy, worrying about whether she’s she’s really suicidal or she’s just trying to pressure you or what what the heck is going on when you simply made this choice?
And it’s and it’s such a generational communication gap between this makes total sense to her and it makes zero sense to you. And what makes total sense to you makes zero sense to her. There couldn’t be a bigger gap if you tried.
Yeah, exactly. And that is so hard that we, you know, as immigrant students, whenever especially when I speak about this to a woman and often with a man, was a Chinese guy. And it’s just we will die laughing. But we knew deep inside that we had to go back to real life and actually deal with it, you know, and I, I, I don’t know how why I started this, but thank you for for breaking that down for me.
And what what would you say if a parent is smart enough to say, I’m going to talk to Robert, maybe it’s not about a relationship issue. We’re using this as an example, like to talk to you to actually feel better to to regain that relationship, because honestly, to be honest with you, like, if I could have those ten, 15 years back with my mom, I’ll do anything because we were best friends and we couldn’t be anymore.
And then she even tell me that I regret sending you here. I regret the decision I made. You shouldn’t have, you know. So for me to do, I feel like now she’s approaching seventies. And I said, my mom’s in perfect health. I hope I have another twenty, thirty years with her. But we all have a number. I feel like, you know, part of me is like me and I already left China when I was 17.
I lost so many years with my parents. My dad’s gone and now I look back. It’s like we spend some crappy years struggling with this. I wouldn’t share anything with her. I couldn’t tell her where I was. What I was doing my way are about what I was learning because she was only interested in one answer is that you have broken up with someone, you have found the perfect guy. And guess what? I realized there was that guy doesn’t exist.
You know, that was the that was the deal breaker right. There is like I wish the hard that person doesn’t exist.
That’s the hard part. And and that it’s that it’s all about checking off a single box. You know, it’s not about your happiness, your health, your wellness. It’s not about like I think about my my friends who have decided as far as single women to have children and start their own families without necessarily finding a mate and the stress that they’re under this one. A friend of mine said that unfortunately, her her pregnancy didn’t last the first time around, but she realized how much stress she was under and how much it was what you call a fear based pregnancy.
And the second time around, when she found herself pregnant again, she’s like, I don’t care what I’m I don’t care what it’s going, what it’s going to take. But this is going to be a joy based pregnancy. This kid is going to marinate in joy and happiness and love and not fear and stress and anxiety. And so when I think about parents not realizing the impact that they’re having on their kids, not just pressuring them to make a single choice, but also the impact on the relationship, the lost years, I think what you just said is is terribly poignant and and should be almost an instruction manual for any parent that’s doing this with their kids.
It’s like you don’t realize the time they do. They do realize and it’s a sacrifice they’re making because they think that it’s it’s the most critical thing that could ever happen. And they need to, like, throw everything away besides like we don’t as as this year is proving. Unfortunately, for so many that have become ill and and struggled with the illness and survived, not to mention that have passed away, we don’t have all the time in the world.
We can’t actually start to just throw it away like that. We just don’t know what’s coming next. And we need to be more thoughtful in our relationships. I know thoughtful isn’t really capturing it for those parents, but I think there’s a meeting of the minds where there’s more than one factor going on, which is that you find the perfect, suitable suitor.
Yeah, I’m very lucky as I’m speaking about this. I couldn’t for 10, 15 years, but I can finally speak up because my mom and I are in such a great place. I am so privileged. Lucky to say that, because if you had a gun to my face, I years ago, I would tell you that this day will never come. I mean, I literally thought about it and it’s through a life of her own transformation and learning that, to be honest, I think she reached this point with my support.
But ultimately, it was her choice to realize that truth. Unfortunately, through some of her own failed relationships, she realized that maybe, maybe my daughter knows a bit more than I do. I mean, she really admitted that. So I’m lucky. And I my heart goes out to people who are watching this and still are living in the trauma. I hope that you will consider again, I listed Robert’s website down below. I think you have provided it a lot of not just comfort, but strategic tactics for people to actually approach this step by step.
This is, from what I learned, working with a psychologist. This is not a, you know, a Chinese approach of going to the library or going to the bookstore. I can get the most popular famous authors book and you’re all set. If you study a really well, you really need a partner. You need a partner, you need a thinking partner through this all to to rescue you and your relationship with your two most important people in your life.
So, yeah, if I could say one last thing, I think change we’re talking about change and we’re talking about not just behavior change. We’re talking about sort of change from the inside out. And that’s always hard. It’s not there’s no recipe. Like you said, it’s not in the best selling book. It’s it’s something that takes some work. It could you could use a partner, but you need to approach it in a way that is recognizing this is this is getting off the track that you’re on, that you’ve been set on for generations, like we’re talking about, is not an easy move.
There’s a lot of forces that are keeping you on that track. And so if you really want to veer onto a different track or change or choose your life, it takes a lot of internal work. And I think beginning with the psychologist is a really effective way. When I started parenting, I thought I want to be a different parent than I grew up with. And then I didn’t realize how hard that was because the automatic messages just start coming down the line, you know, just start acting like your own mom and dad.
But getting off that track I found really required some hard work. And working with a psychologist or doing some introspective work is really an important piece.
Lovatt, thank you so much for your time. Robert, I really we both look forward to this conversation. I’m glad we’re able to do this. And I’ve taken you a little bit all over the place. But they’re just I feel like there’s so many variations. It is like a kaleidoscope situation is not just singly that person, that woman looking that way from China. I know we are all at different phases of the situation. And so what is a good way for people to reach out to you, to contact you if they want to learn more and hear from you some on social media, you provide the links.
My website is is the probably best way. Robert Zeitlin Dotcom on Facebook. Like you said, I’m posting longer posts like Michael has been doing for a long time to give him credit and the. What about Tiger Moms will be a blog, blog post on my Web site with the next couple days.
Great. Thank you so much for joining me, Robert. I hope we’ll continue this this conversation in one form or another. And I’m so excited for the work you’re doing. And I hope your message, your book, your teaching in many different forms will reach many more of the immigrant families, in particular the Asian families. So thank you so much. Thanks. Bye bye, guys. Going to stop live now by. That’s it, we’re off air, so that was so fun, I was oh, I know.
Sorry, I was a little older. I got so excited. I was. Oh it’s cool. Oh, man. I realize it’s. Wow. Like I realized the kids can benefit from so much from this. I realize that we live the people who lived through the trauma can also learn from you, possibly so that they don’t repeat that mistake and that that is very unfortunate. So.
They say this is so much fun. It reminded me actually a little of the improv, which is like. I, I, I took a couple of classes of improv, but like when they were there are new people like me who are super nervous and like, you need to get off. I’m sorry.
Oh, no, I’m good. I’m good. I have a clean humping on a noon, but I can always put them in the waiting room if he does appear.
Yeah, it’ll just take a minute. There was a woman that was in most of my classes named Emily and she is so effing talented. Yeah, you’re Emily in the store and it was such a pleasure to be on stage with her because I knew no matter what crazy stuff I would do and throw out if she could handle it and throw it back and turn it into something that confidence walking in this conversation with you. And it didn’t matter where we went, it was going to be great.
Oh, thank you so much for saying that.
This episode of the First World podcast is brought to you by First World LLC, our marketing service agency created for independent creators and businesses. We offer website development, video production, marketing, mentorship to people who want to tell better stories, level up and create a profitable brand. These were a podcast team. Our chief editor and producer, Herman Silvio’s associate producer, Adam Lefort, social media and content manager, Rosta de Leon, transcript editor Allena Almodovar. And lastly, myself, the creator and host of Face World.
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