Listen to this story
Yes, you read that correctly, do, argue with your parents.
Over the Songkran break, I was living on an island for a week and a few Thai men in their 50s, who were also the guests at the resort, came to talk to me while we were all drinking at dinner. They said they wanted to talk to me since lunch time, they thought I didn’t look like I belonged there and wanted to know who I was, or what I did for a living.
With several tattoos on my body, and speaking English fluently, with the attitude of not playing by anyone’s rules, I do tend to get this kind of encounter often.
After having told them what I do for a living, they then shared that their kids (who are all around my age) did not know what they wanted to do with their lives, and these guys seemed to have gotten the impression that I do.
So, they asked me for my advice, “how can I teach my children to find their passion and for them to know what to do?”
This question is not unusual at all in Thai society and I’ve heard it many times – whether from the parents, or from the children themselves. It is, very sadly, common for a lot of young Thais to not know what they like.
“Well, how much are you willing to let your kids keep making mistakes?” I asked them back.
It’s like a cultural norm in Thailand that the adults would feel like they know better than the kids, therefore they tend to choose a direction for their children, thinking it is the best and right decision.
This is problematic because it makes the kids get used to being told what or how to think and do. On top of that, Thai education doesn’t teach critical thinking, instead it grooms obedient drones for the state.
The very same parents also keep pressuring the kids to study hard and to get a “stable” job. Most of the time, these “stable” jobs in their eyes are the civil servant, or office workers. Things that they can physically see and put a price on.
And I’m over here picking a career in writing… It’s enough to make a Thai parent cry. I’m a firm believer that you can be successful in any type of career as long as you put your heart to it. Actually, that’s what my mom kept telling me.
I have to give a lot of credit to my parents who let me argue with them, be stubborn and not listen to them. They gave me that space to breathe, explore and keep making mistakes, and through being “ก้าวร้าว” or a “brat”, I learned what I liked or didn’t like.
That’s why I asked those Thai dads at the resort that question, “how much are you willing to let your kids keep making mistakes?” Kids need to learn to have ideas of their own and they can’t do that while the parents are still hovering over them, making the decisions for them.
By arguing with your parents, sharing your opinions, what you like and don’t like with them when they tell you what to do with your life, you learn more about yourself. It is your life, and no one knows about your life better than you. Not even your parents.