“Perfect Chinese Son” to “Backpacking Bum”

Watch Jonathan’s TEDx talk, enjoy the Su Family photo album. and listen to our interview below.



The Su Family on their last day of quarantine in Hong Kong!

When you visit their robust website, you can tell that they are living their lives THEIR way, not necessarily the way they were brought up by their parents to. But they have been able to balance the best of the East and West to parent their three amazing children.

Authentic (and brutally honest), Jonathan and Annie share their experiences in our podcast, touching on numerous Sandwich Parenting Topics, such as:

  • Generational Difference: Their parents grew up during in World War II and lived with chaos, war and starvation. Their parenting mentality was all about how to survive, to be safe, and to provide for the family.  Jonathan and Annie had to move from survival mode to a focus on living with meaning.
  • Education: For Asians, education is important and its costs are usually all covered by parents.  The Sus did not want to have the kids graduate with debt, but also wanted them to develop a sense of responsibility. As they did not want their kids to feel like they were getting handouts, they developed a graduated educational cost covering system. This is such a good idea, I’m going to copy them! Listen to the interview to hear about this awesomely thoughtful system. Pro skills!
  • Cultural Differences: Annie was parented with a Confucian mindset, which includes a top-down approach where elders (even strangers) “feel entitled” to tell us what to do, what to think, and how to look.  Learning a Western approach to disagree was difficult for her.
  • Mental Health Issues: Annie had to go through counselling to learn how to push back and encourage elders to mind their own business.  Simultaneously, in a typical Sandwich Parenting situation, she recognizes that her former parenting style may have caused her kids problems, but now she’s able to say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know better. Yes, my life choices or mistakes may have negatively impacted you, but what are we going to do now? Let’s figure it out.”
  • Meeting parental expectations: Jonathan did everything the Chinese immigrant parents want for their son. He had made his parents very happy with his model education, career, marriage, and even two kids (one boy, one girl)… Then, at age 30, “he became a bum picking up trash with the street children in Kunming” when he decided to pursue a more meaningful life for him and his family.

Their Key Message:

Don’t be confined by your culture or environment.  Be creative in finding and pursuing your passion and helping your kids find and pursue theirs.

Jonathan Su’s TEDx Talk at Yunnan University 2018.

Su Family Photo Gallery

Published by Sherry Yuan Hunter

Sherry Yuan Hunter is a certified trauma recovery coach and certified parenting coach. Taiwan-born American-Canadian Chinese, married, working mother of two, Sherry identifies as a Sandwich Parent, Third Culture Kid, an untigering Mom, and recovering shouldaholic. Based in Toronto, Canada, Sherry has been working in student success programs at University of Toronto for 20 years, supporting students, young professionals, new managers, working moms, and new immigrants to success.

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