Parenting Without Expecting A Return on Investment

For the purpose of this post and blog, I use “Chinese” or “Asian” the same way Amy Chua, the original Tiger Mother, uses them—in broad sweeping strokes. Not all Chinese people are “Chinese.”  And not all “Chinese” are Chinese. You could be Nigerian, Russian, Korean, or even Taiwanese. 😁


The Chinese are nothing if not supremely practical in relationships. Built on a framework of reciprocity and mutuality, relationships are always viewed through the lens of ROI (Return On Investment).

Careful note is taken of how much hong bao money is received so it can be reciprocated accordingly.

A favor is given with the expectation that the recipient will return the favor at a future date.

A person is only considered a potential spouse if they can provide a steady income and a home.

Never is this truer than when it comes to the relationship between parent and child. Parents often treat children as investments with an expected return.

I take care of you now. You take care of me when I get older.

I’m paying for your college tuition, so you’d better make something of yourself.

I gave up everything so you could pursue the American dream.

Such relational economics work well when children dutifully meet parental expectations.

But what happens when they don’t?

I can recount too many stories of those who incurred the fiery wrath or the icy silence of their parents when they dared to forge their own way—pursuing a career their parents deemed unworthy, marrying someone their parents considered unsuitable, pretty much doing anything that went against their parents’ wishes.

With so many conditions attached, it’s no wonder that such parental “investment” becomes a tool of manipulation instead of a means of empowerment; a burden that saddles children down instead of wings that help them fly.

Many of us who are untigering need to dismantle this transactional view of relationships. Whether with our parents or with our children, we need to refuse to engage in conditional expressions of love–

love that is only given with the thought of what is owed;

love that is only offered when something can be personally gained.

No.

True love invests with no expectation of a return on investment.

True love compels us to invest in our children for their sake, not ours. We give because we see their potential, sacrifice because we desire their thriving, provide because want to empower them to achieve their goals…

not because we need them to stroke our egos, scratch our backs, or give us face.

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True love invests with no expectation of a return on investment.

Parenting without expecting a return means that we give freely, love unconditionally, and respect the choices that our kids make.

The beautiful irony of this unconditional kind of parenting?

We ultimately end up with the most valuable ROI of all: our children’s trust, love, and flourishing…

no strings attached.


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