How We’re Raised

Issue 12_Art_Features_How We're Raised (Fareeha Tabassum)
Art by Fareeha Tabassum

Stuyvesant students are often praised for their academic success and celebrated for their multitude of accomplishments, but lesser known are the efforts of the parents of the students. Perhaps one of the biggest curiosities at Stuyvesant is what goes on behind the scenes—the diverse family dynamics that contribute to student life.

For sophomore Emily Xu, there has always been an understanding between her and her relatively lenient parents. “I have to say, though, I know they do care about me,” she started off. “But our relationship has never been them controlling everything I do.”

Although Xu’s parents have never berated her about her social or academic life, that’s not to say that they are simply dismissive of her well-being.

In terms of schoolwork, Xu admits that she hasn’t been completely honest with them about her grades. “They’re not very strict about my schoolwork because I just don’t update them on my schoolwork,” Xu said with a laugh. “Like I haven’t shown them my test scores or even my report card yet.”

However, even without the pressure to do well in school that some students get, Xu emphasized that it in no way gives her an incentive to slack off in school.

“I know how to handle my grades,” she said. “They can trust me.”

In terms of her social life, they are more concerned about her safety rather than who she is hanging out with or what she is doing.

“When I first started doing SING!, during one of our really late practices, I told my dad that I was going to come home around 7:30, and he was sort of worried about it. He told me that he was concerned for my academics,” she said. “But I had a talk with him, and I explained that SING! was something really important to me, and I didn’t want all the practices we’ve had so far to go to waste. After that, he understood and was fine with the late practices.”

There are, however, slight parenting discrepancies between her parents. “My dad is semi-strict, but my mom is chill with everything I do,” Xu explained. Xu has to tiptoe around certain issues in front of her dad. Though, he is not completely unreasonable about her wishes. But then again, she added, “They don’t get into disagreements on how to discipline me.”

Sophomore Robin Han’s parents, however, take a different approach. While they don’t micro-manage every step he takes in his life, they do put a significant emphasis on his academic life.

When he gets home from school, his parents make sure he finishes his schoolwork as soon as possible. “They basically watch over every single one of my grades,” Han said.

But this doesn’t mean that they give him free reign. “If I mess a test up, they will go over the entire thing with me, and make me do practice problems based on the questions I got wrong,” he continued. His parents’ efforts to manage his schoolwork greatly contributes to his motivation to study.

Test review is, however, a small part of the journey when compared to test preparation.

“If I have a very important test or competition coming up, about a month before, my dad won’t let me go outside,” Han said, “He wants to know where I am at all times. I have to come home right after school.” Even on weeknights, he would spend one or two hours prepping for a major exam.

But just like Xu, Han’s parents have discrepancies in parenting methods. “It’s mainly my dad,” Han said. “My dad believes in a hands-on approach to learning, but my mom doesn’t think so.” Different from Xu, Han’s parents do often get into disagreements on how to raise him.

This is not to say that Han isn’t appreciative that his parents take the time out to help him in his studies. “I’m not always on top of my game, like I push things off a lot, but my dad is always on the side pushing me,” Han said. “He just wants me to get my homework done, so I get more sleep.”

Nevertheless, Han admits that even though his strict parents do encourage him to study, by this point, he would have the motivation either way. Han believes that in the end, the strict parenting style has instilled in him a sense of routine, and the studying schedules that his dad instilled in him will still be adhered to.

“I feel like if they were more lenient,” Han concluded, “ultimately, nothing would change. I’d get less sleep than I get now, but I’d still do decently well in school.”

The case is different for sophomore Alexander Radu, who admitted that without his parents’ strict parenting methods, he would not be at his current academic standing. Similarly to Robin Han, his parents exhibit polarizing parenting methods.

“My mom is really tough on me,” Radu began. “She looks through all my tests and controls how much I go out and hang with friends.” If he goes out one weekend, for instance, she forces him to stay in and study the entire next weekend.

His mother controlled his choices for as long as Radu can remember. “Like when I was little, I was given two choices—violin or piano. I had to choose,” Radu said. “Even now, I have to practice for at least seven hours a week, and if I can’t practice on weekdays, I have to practice on weekends.”

Like Han, Radu prefers these restrictions to his complete independence. “Of course, when I was little, I really wanted my mom to change and not be as strict,” Radu said. “But now, I actually think her strictness helped me improve academically and pushed me to continue pursuing piano.”

Without his mother constantly hovering over him, Radu admits that he would slack off. He wouldn’t study for tests and definitely wouldn’t practice seven hours a week on the piano. “She keeps me in check,” Radu said.

But this does not mean that Radu completely listens to his mother either. “Sometimes, I’d be able to sneak in a bad grade,” he said. “But if she catches me, there’d be really bad consequences.”

Radu believes that his mom’s strict parenting method is, in part, due to her equally strict upbringing. “She grew up in a household with very strict standards, considering both her parents were doctors,” Radu said.“This idea that in order to do well academically, the parents need to be strict runs in the family.”

Radu’s father, by contrast, is very lenient for the same reason. “He doesn’t restrict me that much because he grew up in a different kind of household,” Radu said.

But Radu has another theory—that this may also be connected with their races. “My dad is Caucasian, and my mom is Chinese,” he said. “While I don’t think that their parenting is stereotypical, they do have different priorities.”

While his mother pushes for his academic success, his father wants him to go outside and play a sport. “I think, however, I would raise my children similarly to how my parents raised me.” Radu mentioned. “I would develop a sports hobby for them by getting them lessons, and after middle school, advise them to focus more on academics.”

“Even though I would get frustrated at my parents sometimes, in the end, I think their different parenting methods really cancel each other out,” Radu said.

For senior Shirley Chan, however, her time at Stuyvesant has changed her parents’ parenting techniques. They’re neither strict nor lenient; they’re, simply, realistic.

“I would consider my parents in the middle,” Chan said. “They’ve just accepted who I am as a student and what type of grades I typically get and have just pushed me to try harder instead of setting up idealistic guidelines.” Compared to elementary school, however, this was a huge change. Her parents don’t expect her to fail or get below an eighty on a test, but at the same time, the consequences of her doing so are not severe.

“[The transition] started slowly in freshmen year,” Chan said. Straight out of middle school, she retained the mindset that she can get good grades without trying hard or studying. However, her dismal first report card gave her a reality check.

“My parents were angry at first,” she said. “But despite my best efforts, obviously paired with procrastination, I still stuck around a mediocre grade range.” But luckily, they understood.

“As my parents saw more and more report cards,” Chan continued, “I’d like to think they saw that I wasn’t as good in academics like they perceived in middle school and let go of their Ivy League and 95 average expectations.”

Chan’s parents saw that Stuyvesant was a hard school and knew that even strict parenting methods cannot change the fact that she was doing the best she could.

The best Chan did, however, was not what she could do. “I slacked quite a bit without the looming threat of my parents being extremely angry from a grade,” Chan admitted. She wanted to both enjoy her life as a high school student and do decent in school.

As for Chan’s social life, however, her parents have always been more lenient. Not only do they always let her hang out with her friends, but even when Chan breaks curfew, they are understanding.

For instance, there was one case last year when Chan’s coworkers at her summertime job wanted to hang out together at Dave and Busters. Chan went, stayed until 12:30 in the morning, and didn’t get home until over an hour later. “But my mom even offered to drive me home and didn’t complain about the time,” Chan said.

Reflecting upon her parents influence on her overall, Chan explained, “Ultimately, them being more lenient let me have more respect for them, as they weren’t imposing ridiculously high expectations.”

Had they proposed that perfect Ivy-League GPA or rules on how long she could hang out with her friends, perhaps Chan wouldn’t have listened to them in the first place. Chan said, “I’m glad they learned to accept reality.”

In all these cases, there is a congenial relationship between the children and the parents, regardless of how strict or how lenient the parents are. Part of the reason is because having been together for so long, parents need to use a discipline method that both caters to their desires and is accepted without too much dissent from their kids. Everyone is raised differently, because each family functions in a way that only works for them.

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