An immigrant to San Francisco from Guangzhou, Fanny Feng grew up with the Chinese belief that if something is bad, it should be taken away.
Now a 41-year-old mother of an 8-year-old son and a 12-year-old daughter in a new country, Feng found that the cultural practices from her home country weren't translating into effective disciplinary measures here — especially with using modern electronics as toys.
“My kids often played on their iPhones and school became secondary to them, so I would lock away the electronics so they could not find them,” Feng said in Cantonese. “I realized they became more rebellious.”
After attending classes by the Community Youth Center of San Francisco — modeled after the internationally used Strengthening Families Program, a family-skills training program to reduce problem behaviors — Feng instead offered her children an agreement to finish their homework first and then have unlimited access to their electronics.
“They were much more obedient,” she said. “After their homework, they would come back to mom and ask for permission.”
Such techniques are weaved into the second edition of a 1987 parenting book, “Ten Principles on Raising Chinese-American Teens,” by the late Dr. Evelyn Lee, a psychologist who immigrated from Hong Kong.
Like the original, the new version, “We Are All Wizards,” is the only book of its kind in San Francisco specifically for immigrant parents raising Chinese-American children, said Citania Tam, a licensed clinical social worker who served as a consultant for the latest book.
“There are a lot of workbooks in China and mainstream USA. but not about Chinese-American kids,” Tam said. “Immigrant parents and kids that grow up here have language, generational and cultural gaps.”
The gaps have led to mental health issues that aren't widely associated with Asian and Pacific Islander communities in The City, community social workers say. A May report, “Asian and Pacific Islander Health and Wellbeing: A San Francisco Neighborhood Analysis,” by the Asian Pacific Islander Council, cites that Asian-American females ages 15 to 24 and older Chinese women have especially high rates of suicide compared to the overall population.
“There's always been a stigma in the community that people don't talk about [problems]. That is why the Community Youth Center started providing counseling and clinical therapy services six years ago,” said Sarah Wan, executive director for the center, which printed 500 copies of the book with a $5,000 grant.
Copies of the book will be given out for free at an immigrant parent summit at Gordon J. Lau Elementary School on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The parenting tips in the book include topics like surfing the Internet, which Un Un Che, 45, an immigrant from Macau, China, and a mother of four, initially did not know how to address with her children.
“I felt stuck in the middle,” she said in Cantonese. “That I had to let them use the Internet because they use social media to meet friends, but at the same time I don't know how to set the limit and they can become addicted.”